Pool party at Saleh’s

The first time I met Ali Abdullah Saleh, I had recently emerged from the ocean. I was unkempt, hair damp and tangled, legs unshaven. It was last December, and Yemen’s president was visiting the island of Socotra, off Yemen’s southern coast. The president invited the handful of tourists on the beach to sit with him ...

CHRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images
CHRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images
CHRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images

The first time I met Ali Abdullah Saleh, I had recently emerged from the ocean. I was unkempt, hair damp and tangled, legs unshaven. It was last December, and Yemen's president was visiting the island of Socotra, off Yemen's southern coast. The president invited the handful of tourists on the beach to sit with him in a three-walled hut overlooking the sea. We exchanged a few banal phrases, mostly about how lovely the island was, and later ate young goat and rice with Saleh and his entourage.

Most of the world knows Saleh through news reports -- as the man with a keen understanding of carrot-and-stick politics and an uncanny ability to navigate the country's factional, tribal currents. But with the president's return uncertain after he departed to Saudi Arabia on June 4 to seek treatment for shrapnel wounds sustained in a rocket attack, I keep returning to a tense hour that I spent with the long-serving dictator this January.

Read more.

The first time I met Ali Abdullah Saleh, I had recently emerged from the ocean. I was unkempt, hair damp and tangled, legs unshaven. It was last December, and Yemen’s president was visiting the island of Socotra, off Yemen’s southern coast. The president invited the handful of tourists on the beach to sit with him in a three-walled hut overlooking the sea. We exchanged a few banal phrases, mostly about how lovely the island was, and later ate young goat and rice with Saleh and his entourage.

Most of the world knows Saleh through news reports — as the man with a keen understanding of carrot-and-stick politics and an uncanny ability to navigate the country’s factional, tribal currents. But with the president’s return uncertain after he departed to Saudi Arabia on June 4 to seek treatment for shrapnel wounds sustained in a rocket attack, I keep returning to a tense hour that I spent with the long-serving dictator this January.

Read more.

 

Lauren Goulding is a writer and erstwhile filmmaker who spent six months in Yemen from 2010 to 2011. She blogs online at yemenade.wordpress.com and qomedyblog.wordpress.com.

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