Aidan made his first trip to Aden in September 2007. In the party was his father Jackie Degg, Don Stephenson and Jonathan Wilkins
My experience of Aden
Hi, Iím Aidan Degg (you may know my dad, Jackie) and I just thought Iíd share my thoughts on the recent trip to Aden that my dad, Jonathan, Don and myself took in September. Iím not sure if my account will be of much use for the purposes of reminiscing to anyone who was there in the 50ís and 60ís and 70ís as two weeks in Aden now will, of course, differ a bit from spending a childhood there 40 odd years ago. However, both myself and the good Mr. Wilkins thought that the perspective of someone (even as addled as me!) who had never been there would be of interest to anyone who might consider going back but was unsure.
Perhaps the first thing I should do is dispel the notion that the place is dangerous for westerners. In my entire time there the people were nothing but friendly and bent over backwards to accommodate us (especially that guy who came out of nowhere and held my hand for about 5 blocks!). I admit that the first couple of days there, I was a little intimidated by the fact that we attracted a lot of looks, but you have to realize that the sight of westerners is pretty rare over there now and, once you realize that they are not angry but curious about you, you feel really at ease. Especially as about 70% of the people say ďhelloĒ to you and seem genuinely pleased to see you. We even took a trip into Crater, at night, and the fact that Iím typing this shows they donít string us up from the walls anymore! I can honestly say the most dangerous thing about Aden was the tap water. You might want to avoid ice in your drinks, if you know what I mean! (thereís plenty of bottled water). The local childrenís grasp of English is also somewhat interesting, and Iíd like to find out where they learned some of the more choice words they used when buttering us up in the hopes of a bit of money!
Far from being dangerous, it is, if anything, a bit sad to see a country thatís so pro-west (particularly pro-British) and has such a great deal of potential, and yet is in poverty. Having a quick chat with some of the people (and theyíre more than willing to do that, I can tell you!) sets you right on a few things. Suffice to say, you donít get the full picture of whatís going on there through the news. The average Yemeni has more pressing concerns like feeding his family than worrying too much about westerners. Just ask Abdullah, our driver. He gets the equivalent of around £2.50 a day, and thatís IF thereís work for him. If not heís got to sit in the office without pay. If anything the locals will be delighted you visit, if only because it means someoneís putting a bit of money into the place.]
My actual experience of Aden is, of course, different to my dad and the guys. I had no previous memories. Talks with Don and Jonathan revealed that a lot HAS changed, but also, much has stayed the same. For me it was both amusing and, dare I say it, heartwarming (but I stress the fact that guy grabbed MY hand, not the other way about!) to see the guys, and particularly my dad, recognize something from the past and revert to almost childlike joy and tell each other stories about the place or thing. I feel like I understand my dad a bit better having experienced a place that was so important to him. Aden was his childhood home and, in many ways, his home (I mean this in the sense of where his roots are). And I got the feeling that Don and Jonathan were similarly affected by the place. I definitely learned a lot about the guys (perhaps a bit too much!) especially when we had a few drinks during our nightly sundowners.
Aside from a bit of a litter problem (particularly on Ghadir beach) I have to say that Aden is absolutely beautiful. Being an intrinsically lazy person, I havenít got round to putting my pics onto disc yet, but when I do Iíll post them and you can have a bit of a look at what the place is like now. Even with my limited camera skills, thereís a couple of gooduns and, Iím not ashamed to say, thatís wholly down to the scenery which is stunning. I feel I should also point out that the surroundings of the cemetery in Silent Valley are incredible and the place is kept pristine. I took a few pictures in there and if anyone has any relatives there, or knows someone who does, let me know and Iíll be happy to send them the photos.
I had a great time. My thanks to Jonathan and Don for being excellent holiday companions and, for what its worth, my advice would be for Godís sake get over there if only to get it out of your system. If youíve ever been curious about going but, for whatever reason, decided not to, all I can say is donít be swayed by doom merchants or current world politics and find out for yourself. Oh, and you officially have to climb Observation Hill if you do go!
Aidan Degg 2007