24 November, 2012

Hadhramout Tourism and Vacations: a guide and things to do in Hadhramout ...

Getting to Hadhramaut: Mainly by plane or road. A few airlines serve Mukalla, the Capital and largest city in Hadhramawt; or serve Seiyoun the second largest city. Three airlines serve Mukalla: Yemenia, Felix Airlines and African Express Airways fly to and from Mukalla's Riyan airport; and only two - Yemenia and Felix Airlines fly to and from Seiyoun's airport. Yemenia and Felix Airlines fly from Riyan to/from several destinations; while African Express Airways flies only from Nairobi and Dubai, via Mukalla. You can travel to Hadhramaut via Sana'a, Yemen's capital city and then from there travel by road, or preferably by air. As flight schedules are regularly changed, it is best you refer to these airlines' offices or travel agencies before planning your trip. Those living in neighboring countries, in the Arabian Peninsular, easily get an entry visa to  enter Yemen through its northern border with Saudi Arabia, or its eastern border with Oman.

Al Mukalla
Any foreigner traveling to Hadhramout, needs a Yemeni entry visa. Travelers from most Arab and some foreign countries may get an entry visa at the port of arrival. Passports and visas are required for travel to Yemen. Visas may be obtained at Yemeni Embassies abroad; all travelers to Yemen can also potentially obtain entry visas at ports of entry. Yemeni law requires that all foreigners traveling in Yemen obtain exit visas before leaving the country. In certain situations, however, foreigners are required to obtain exit visas from the Immigration and Passport Authority headquarters in Sanaa. These cases may include, but are not limited to, foreigners who have overstayed the validity date of their visa. It is best to check with a Yemeni embassy or your country's foreign affairs department before traveling to Yemen, if you are not sure of the visa requirements for Yemen.

Once in Mukalla or Seiyoun in Wadi Hadhramaut or Sana'a, it is easy getting through the immigration and customs procedure. Immediately after clearing with immigration/customs - claim your baggage. Once outside the airport, there are many taxis. These taxis very rarely use meters and its is best to agree on what you have to pay with the driver - before using the taxi. From Riyan Airport to Mukalla town can cost you any thing from the equivalent of 10 US$ to 20 US$; and from Seiyoun Airport to the center of the city, would cost you the equivalent of about 3 US$ to 5 US$.

Accommodation: Finding a decent hotel at an affordable price is easy. In both Mukalla and Seiyoun, and there surrounding towns, there are many hotels and a few furnished apartments. The main hotels in Mukalla are: the Hadhramout, the Ramada, the Al Bustan, Ryboon City, Mog Hotel, Al Khail Hotel, Arsh Belgees Hotel, Al Amoudi Hotel and a few more others.The main hotels in Seiyoun are: Al Hawata Palace Hotel, Palace Hotel, Nakheel Hotel, Salaam Hotel, BMC Hotel, Seiyoun Hotel, Samara, Ryboon Hotel, Samah Hotel and some others.  For furnished apartments, you have to look around for what is suitable for you.

Communications: Once in Mukalla or Seiyoun, getting a local SIM card is pretty easy. You can easily get SIM cards for any of these at about the equivalent of 1$ per SIM card: Yemen Mobile, MTN or SabaFon. You must provide an identity paper before being sold the SIM card. Very few hotels provide Internet service in Mukalla or Seiyoun. There are several Internet cafes in both cities - check and ask for where to find the best. You can also easily get an Internet connection from Barqnet when in Mukalla - once in their office (which is, from the sea, on your left, near the second blue bridge), you can find out their charges.

Social scene: Islam completely dominates and shapes all the social activities and places in Hadhramawt. Respect Muslim social customs and code of dress.

Where to eat: wherever you are in Hadhramout, you will find many small places to eat. They may not be that clean, but many of them provide very tasty meals made from fresh products. For lunch - most eating places provide mainly rice, some bread and chicken or fish or lamb (lamb is more expensive); for supper, most restaurants provide mainly bread and foul (fava beans/broad beans) or beans or chicken or fried eggs or fried lamb liver/meat and very rarely, fish.

What to do: in Mukalla, the best attractions are: the sea, the Old Town, the old Sultan's Palace and Al Ghuweizy. In Seiyoun, the best attractions are: its old part in the center of the town and the old Sultan's Palace; and nearby Tarim and Shibam. If you can, it is very much worth the effort to visit and see the spectacular Wadi Do'an.

Safety: all urban centers in Hadhramout are much safer than let's say Mexico City or New York or Vancouver or Milan or London or Shanghai or Mumbai or Bangkok or Johannesburg or Kiev or Moscow or the many other developed cities of the world.

Random facts: In Hadhramout, as poor as Yemen is, in  all major urban areas - all households have electricity and piped water; all households use gas for cooking; almost every household has satellite dish(s) providing TV viewing from over 1,000 channels mainly from ArabSat or NileSat (most hotels provide the same channels); and there are many, too many, SUVs. More facts: most public transport, yellow striped, minibuses are Toyotas. It is very normal to see goats crossing streets in any part of cities.

Travel Tips:(1) There are few ATMs (automated teller machines) in Hadhramout - even in Mukalla or Seiyoun, so be sure to have hard currency, preferably Yemeni Riyals or Saudi Riyals or US Dollars. If carrying US Dolars make sure you have them in100 and 50 notes; few places, if any, accept 1 or 5 or 10 or 20 Dollar notes. Also make sure your US Dollar notes look new, and preferably printed after 2005 (from 2006 onward). (2) There are many mosquitoes in Mukalla, but, reportedly, they are not malaria carrying. Still, it would be advisable to take malaria prophylactics at least two weeks before your trip to Hadhramaut; note - some distance west of Mukalla, mosquitoes are malaria carrying and deadly. Also try to get a typhoid vaccine before traveling to Hadhramawt. (3) The quickest and cheapest way to get around both Mukalla and Seiyoun is by taxi, which may charge you between 300 and 1,000 Yemeni Riyals (the equivalent of about 1.5 to 5 US Dollars) per trip. (4) Most hotels have portable, bottled water, but if traveling outside the main cities be sure to carry bottled water. And most shops, even in the remotest of places, sell portable, bottled water.

The best kept secret of Hadhramout: Socotra! One of the most magical and most wonderful place on Earth. It is one of a kind experience to visit this Island. Find out about the attractions and how to get to Socotra from Wikitravel's complete travel guide to the Island. Both Yemenia and Felix Airways have flights from Riyan to Socotra and back - check with both for schedules.

+ List of hotels in Mukalla
+ List of furnished apartments in Mukalla
+ List of car rentals in Mukalla

* Note: the above lists may not be up-o-date.