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Journalist vs tourist visa Yemen

has been asked before, but didn’t find any satisfactory answer. What’s the pros and cons for the independent journalist working in Yemen these days?

by Lars Akerhaug at 2009-10-31 17:44:21 UTC Amsterdan , Netherlands | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Hi Lars,

I travelled to Yemen for two weeks at the end of Sept. 2008 on a tourist visa that I purchased at the airport in Sana’a upon my arrival. I think it cost me $100 cash. I’ll try to relate all that seems relevant.

I travelled with my Russian girlfriend on tour arranged by a Russian expat living in Sana’a, and passed myself of as Russian the whole trip. I’m American fyi. Our contact met us at the airport and yelled something toward passport control in arabic and they didn’t hassle us at all. According to my tour guide Yemeni have different attitudes toward various nationalities. It makes a difference when shooting as Yemeni are generally friendly and easy to chat with. They will ask where you are from. Except for in Shibam — the “manhatten of arabia” with the mud skyscrarers, people there were reserved and didn’t like to be photographed.

Also, you will have to drive through millions of annoying checkpoints at which you’ll need to hand over a piece of paper with your official travel permissions and your nationality will be written on that. Being Russian we were quickly waved through, but our guide said that europeans sometimes can be held up at the checkpoints. Americans have it worst off he said.

We travelled as tourists, I told people I was an english teacher the whole time, but on the ground i don’t think anyone really gives a crap. That is normal people on the street, it may make a difference at the checkpoints. But neverthless i would pass myself off as a photogrpher/artist before i would say i’m a photojournalist.

Yemeni kids loooooooove to be photographed, so be prepared to be take lots of silly primative portraits and show them the pix on the screen. If you don’t shoot digital borrow someone’s pocketsize point and shoot for this, otherwise you’ll waste rolls on these kids or just get annoyed to death telling them no.

Also, we were there without an assignment to shoot anything specific, and without really any idea where to go in the country, so the two-week tour all over Yemen by car was right for us. It got us to all the interesting places and if we saw something we liked we could stop. If unlike us, you have a concrete idea/theme you want to shoot then you’ll need to communicate with someone there and probably need a real fixer as opposed to a tour guide.

Anyway, fascinating place, highly recommend it. Let me know what questions you have after reading the above. The results of my journey you can see here http://www.photoshelter.com/gallery/Yemen-Boldly-Not-Moving-Into-the-Future/G00009DOiuNrF7Jk


by [former member] | 02 Nov 2009 09:11 | Moscow, Russia | | Report spam→
Hi Lars,

There’s not a whole lot of rhyme or reason as to how the whole system works. I’ve done it both ways, but the key is that no matter what, you end up needing to go and identify yourself at the ministry of information right off the bat—especially if you’re planning on working outside of Sanaa, because permission is required for travel outside of the capital, be you tourist, or journalist. Typically, I find the least hassle is to just get a tourist visa at the airport, and go the same day to the ministry of info with a letter from a publication or agency, and a list of stories that you’re interested in, and charm them.

hope that helps,

by [former member] | 02 Nov 2009 18:11 | Dubai, United Arab Emirates | | Report spam→
Thanks guys. B, did you get a lot of hassle to get your journalist visa? I’d have to fedex it to London and back…

by Lars Akerhaug | 02 Nov 2009 21:11 | Amsterdan, Netherlands | | Report spam→
i never shipped my passport back to the embassy in the states, but rather just informed, and got approval from both the US ambassador and Min of Info for my arrival. I’d say don’t bother sending your passport back as it will be a big hassle, and may not result in much more than time wasted.

by [former member] | 03 Nov 2009 07:11 | Dubai, United Arab Emirates | | Report spam→
Thanks B. As everywhere else, everyone seems to recommend fixers. I see you like me speak Arabic. How absolute is this neccesity for doing things like refugees from the war, Somalia, visiting camps etc.

by Lars Akerhaug | 03 Nov 2009 10:11 | Amsterdan, Netherlands | | Report spam→
Lars, i saw plenty of somali refugees all over the south driving from Sana’a to Aden. Not in any camps that would appear to have official status, just little makeshift settlements all along the roadsides. I bet if you speak arabic you could approach them easily enough.

by [former member] | 03 Nov 2009 18:11 | Moscow, Russia | | Report spam→
depending on what dialect of arabic you are proficient in, you might want to bring a translator. Yemeni Arabic is fairly close to classical gramatically, but they have a lot of local words that are specific in some cases, to the region of the country. Somalis in my experience have a much different dialect, and unless they speak classical, they’ll probably be able to understand you, but you’ll have a hell of a time understanding them. In any case, the Ministry of Info will probably make you take a minder with you, especially if you’re going south. They don’t interfere much, if ever, but if you’re lucky, you’ll get one that speaks english, and can help translate a bit…

by [former member] | 03 Nov 2009 18:11 | Dubai, United Arab Emirates | | Report spam→
I’m not thinking so much about communicating, more if you need fixers to get access etc. But doesn’t seem like that.

by Lars Akerhaug | 04 Nov 2009 11:11 | Amsterdan, Netherlands | | Report spam→

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