ADEN TRIP APRIL 2006
Top of Observation Hill
The planning of this trip was spurred on by an overwhelming desire to revisit those places that held such good memories for us throughout the years. All came to fruition when we left Chicago and flew first to Frankfurt then on to Sanaa finally arriving at the familiar Aden airport last encountered some 35 years ago. We had arrived!
Following a "memorable" night's stay in Sanaa, we flew down to Aden arriving at 8:30am. At the Airport we hailed a cab and headed for the Sheraton Hotel in Gold Mohur. The cab was probably new when the British withdrew in 1967! When our driver heard we were British he could not have been friendlier. The route to Gold Mohur was via the new Maalla ring road and through a road tunnel bored into Shamsan. Along the way we passed through many new business and housing developments. After a good breakfast, swim and shower, we rented a car with driver and set off for Little Aden. The driver took us through a second tunnel connecting Gold Mohur bay with Tawahi. This tunnel, which replaces the single lane road built on piers on the side of the mountain, connects with Tarshyne bay. We headed round the bend and past the former Cable & Wireless building for our first glimpse of Government House and Little Ben now restored to full working order.
Our first stop was the Prince of Wales Pier. The building has been renovated and still greets the small number of travelers who arrive by sea. The walls are decorated with display cases showing photos of the passenger ships which visited Aden in the 1960's.
The next stop was Steamer Point where we found the Crescent to be almost unrecognizable. All the stores we remembered, such as Bhicajee Cowajee's, Melody Corner, etc., had closed down when the communists took over in the 1980's. In recent times, Queen Victoria's statue has been returned from Khormaksar and resides, once more, in the Crescent Gardens.
We travelled through Maalla straight, which is remarkably unchanged, and onto the causeway which has been widened into a dual carriageway. On either side of the causeway are new developments. There is a new Aden Harbour development, which is a major container port, situated on reclaimed land. On the salt pan side is a new road paralleling the pans with rows of homes. A little further on from the Sheikh Othman roundabout, the Little Aden road splits into two. The old road takes you by Al Ittihad and the Aden University, on through Hiswa with its fields of antennas and eventually links up with the new road past the Russian-built power station. The new bypass road takes you closer to the shoreline, which is now a nature conservancy, past the power station and into Little Aden. All the empty areas that we remembered as children have been developed. Wedge Hill and the land surrounding the stables is a housing area. The golf club and the 12 hole course remain but sadly are not used anymore. The land in between the two parallel roads, leading to Marine drive, has been extensively developed. It was not that easy to get our bearings as all the garden walls have been increased in height from 4ft to 10ft - probably for security reasons. However, we did manage to locate our old house, albeit a little worse for wear, still with the same family who moved in when we moved out all those years ago! Later on in the trip, we were invited into the garden and house by the present owner.
As we toured around Ghadir we were amazed by the houses which have been built on Marine Drive and on the roads paralleling the drive. Every piece of available land has been urbanized. Some houses are four stories in height commanding impressive views of the bay.
We then headed for Bandar Sheikh. Incidentally, Oxygen Corner continues to live up to its name! The flare is still the focal point for Little Aden. The drawing offices, where our father worked for 10 years, have been demolished leaving just the concrete bases. The tomb of the local saint, which sat to the rear of the buildings, has also been removed. A number of houses have been erected on the former conversions area on the cliff top road overlooking the original beach. Their wooden Alpine style seems a little incongruous for Aden! After a photo-taking session, we drove on through Silent Valley and into Bir Fuqum. We stopped at the cemetery in Silent Valley and were amazed by the number of servicemen buried there along with several civilians. It must be said that the mountainous backdrop lends a special reverence to their final resting place. The graves appear to be regularly tended.
After passing through a security check point staffed by an AK47 toting guard, we drove through Falaise camp. The area is very dilapidated and apparently lacking any permanent residents. However, the church and the clock tower are still standing.
We drove up to the GM?s house which looks in need of some paint. (If you read this "Caroline", your house could also do with some renovation!) There is now a road starting at Bir Fuqum which heads North, via the coast, to Sanaa.
The rest of our time in Aden was spent exploring Steamer Point, having coffee in the Crescent Hotel and proudly being shown the Queen"s bedroom (Queen Elizabeth II stayed there sometime during the 50?s) and it looked untouched since her stay! We gate-crashed the BP Club house in Bureikha where we were treated as "celebrities" and asked many questions as to what functions the club had laid on in our day. The club"s interior is like a time capsule with the same furniture and floor tiles we remembered from our teenage years.
We climbed Observation Hill. Phew!!! The view from the top, after climbing the 750 steps, was well worth the heart attack sensation at the 500th step! There has been extensive hotel construction at the bottom of the hill and on Shark Island (yet to be finished). From Shark Island, when completed, there will be a cable car lift to the top of Observation Hill.
We spent time shopping in Crater. The centre of Crater remains unchanged but the access roads from Maalla and Khormaksar are undergoing reconstruction.
During time spent at the hotel business centre updating the website, we were introduced to Mohammed Ali Salem. Mohammed is the grandson of Salem Ali Abdo who was the owner of the Aden Bus service that we used, on a daily basis, to travel to the Isthmus school. Sadly the family lost the business during the communist regime in Aden. Mohammed was in Aden, with his son, attending to the burial of his father, Ali Salem Ali, who had passed away in Egypt but wished to be buried with his father in Aden. Mohammed recalled his childhood when, during the troubles, the British troops had given him rides home in their jeeps. He was kept hidden away down by the soldiers? feet in the event of any attacks. We thank his son, Rami, for his advice with our uploading problems.
The people we encountered on our trip were very friendly and utterly delighted that we had come back to Aden. Everyone spoke favourably of the British and pointed out what they had done for the country. Never, at any time, did we feel a lack of security in any of the places we visited. Would we go back? Yes - without hesitation and intend to do so whenever the opportunity arises. It is also one of the least expensive places to visit. A car and driver is £55.00 ($100.00) per day. Hotel rooms are £41.00 ($75.00). Food in the hotel was inexpensive and catered for the western tastes. If you are interested in receiving further information on our trip, please feel free to contact us at the following e-mail addresses:
Roffensian@comcast.net (Jonathan Wilkins)
Andrew.Wilkins@comcast.net (Andrew Wilkins)
Finally, we would like to thank Dermot Tippins for his invaluable advice and encouragement when we started planning this trip. Thanks Dermot!!
Andrew and Jonathan Wilkins
Pictures of the trip can be found at the following page : Aden April 2006 Photo Gallery