14 May, 2007

What replaced Camels and Donkeys as 'Wheels Of Choice' in Hadhramout?

Years back, here in Hadhramaut like in most parts of Arabia, camels were the main and most important means for transport and travel; they were on top of the transport industry. Camels can endure extremes in temperatures, both cold and hot; heat primarily. Donkeys were the other means; for short distance transportation. In the late 1800s and early in the last century, a few people had autos; but, still beasts provided the primary means for travel and transportation. To these days, many people in rural areas, still use camels and donkeys; like these women, pictured below, in Wady Hadhramout.

From 1882 to 1967, Hadhramout was annexed by, the then - South Yemen, under a loose British protectorate, called the Aden Protectorate. With the British in, Bedfords, Land Rovers and other British made vehicles, began replacing camels and donkeys for transport. Since the British left (were forcefully removed) - other 'wheels' started entering Hadhrami markets: Russian (Soviet) made were tried - notably Kraz, Maz and Ladas. At the same time, 'Japanese made' - were slowly but certainly becoming the most preferred. And it is the 'Japanese made' that are now, still, the most preferred and the most widely used for the transportation of people and goods around Hadhramout.

Toyota is on track to pass General Motors this year as the world's No. 1 auto company. That is what is now being predicted. Here in Hadhramout, Toyota is already No. 1. It has been so, now, for many years. In some of the remotest parts and some of the most difficult of terrains, Toyotas can be found. The SUVs, Land Cruisers, in particular. From the latest models, to some of the oldest ones; like the one pictured above. In urban areas, the latest models of Corollas, Camrys and the Land Cruiser SUVs rule the streets, roads and highways; in the villages, it is the Hiluxs and Hiaces that can be found and seen every where; for the rough terrains - 4x4 Land Cruisers. There is no doubt now, that Toyotas are excellent autos. Probably: the best. They have to be. They are now not only being used as status symbols in many urban areas, but Toyotas are the most widely used vehicles, in most of the World's most difficult terrains. Wherever one looks, on any part of the Globe - if autos are there, certainly Toyotas will be there too; the more difficult and demanding the job or terrain, the more the presence of Toyotas.

And what do Hadhramis prefer for long hauls? Amazingly, the most common and most widely used large trucks on the roads, here in Hadhramout, for long distance transportation of goods are: Isuzus. The old models: the 1970s to 1980s models. Like the ones shown above and below. The latest models of Volvo, Mercedes -Benz, Toyota and Nissan trucks are widely used, but it is the Isuzus that are the most preferred and are the trucks of choice for most indigenous Hadhramis; Bedouins in particular. Many times, I have asked people around - "why the old Isuzus?" The answers vary, but means the same: through experience, they say, the old Isuzus serve them best. As do Toyotas. And as did and still do - camels and donkeys.