To Market on the Spice Road
by Micah Albert
Photographer Micah Albert was captivated by the souks of Old Sana'a. We're glad he decided to share what he saw. A reader story.
SANA'A, Yemen – Yemen is a mystical country, and at the heart of its capital, Sana'a, lies Old Sana'a, a special place where you want to live in the moment. It's sensory overload — a constant commotion of sights, sounds, and smells that transport you to another time. There's nothing else like it.
The souks are a discordance of shop owners' calls, billowing silks, walls of olive soap, mountains of dates, overflowing bags of cardamom, and burning frankincense — this is the real farmers market. From the vaulted stone ceilings, shafts of filtered sunlight beam down on the crowds. Six hours spent in this ancient city, and I didn't see one Westerner.
The smell of baking bread fills the air and the scent of spices tickle my nose. Alleys twist and turn in every direction to picturesque mosques, murmuring madrassas, and tucked-away khans. These merchants' quarters have offered shelter to traders traveling the Spice Road since the Middle Ages.
Today I made every attempt to capture this city that I love. I went as slow as possible and down the most narrow of paths. Stuck my head in doors to see what was inside. Played soccer with kids in an alleyway wide enough for two donkeys to pass. Had tea with total strangers. Made new friends. Stopped, sat, and wrote — something I rarely do. I looked for beautiful light and waited to capture it.
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