Archive | September, 2010

Pick rubbish up? But what are the street cleaners for?

27 Sep
In Sana’a, polystyrene sheets carelessly disgarded by construction workers fly up into the air (left), before finally settling in a main street (right). (photo by Malak Shaher)

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times


Carrying large slabs of marble on their shoulders, the workers on a building site off Hadda street in Sana’a just wanted to finish their day’s labor. But they were creating an immense task for the street cleaners who would have to clear up after them.

Before taking the marble inside, they tore off the covers and threw them into the street.

Soon pieces of polystyrene were flapping in the wind. The whole place was a mess.

“What are the street cleaners for then?” asked one of five construction workers unwrapping the marble. “It is their duty to clean whatever is in the street – otherwise they do not need a monthly salary.”

“We are going to make quilts out of them,” another joked, as he pointed to the piles of polystyrene and cardboard that littered the ground.

The workers seemed convinced that they were doing no wrong but stopped talking when a sudden gust of wind carried the rubbish up into the air.

This scene is not unfamiliar for street sweeper Othman Ali, 35. It is part of his everyday routine. Othman wakes up early in the morning to clean the street before people can see it filthy.

“What should I do?” he asked. “People do not feel for us. To live, I must keep cleaning for the eight hours assigned to me.”

Othman, who works seven days a week, complained that while he sweeps people sometimes throw things in front of him.

Such behavior fills him with frustration and depression, especially when people know that he has to clean up after them.

To support his wife and three children, he receives a maximum monthly salary of YR 20,000 – less than USD 100 – at the end of the month. If he misses a single day it’s automatically deducted from his salary.

Othman is one of more than 4,000 street cleaners in the capital Sana’a.

There are three shifts in general. The first is from 7 am till 11 am, the second from 2 pm to 6 pm and the third from 7 pm to 11 pm.

Each street cleaner works for two shifts according to what is specified by the cleaning administration at the municipality.

The street cleaners of Sana’a work day and night to make the street tidy. But the streets often lie dirty as many people do not cooperate, throwing things in the street moments after the street cleaners have left the place clean.

In addition to street cleaners, the cleaning administration also has vehicles to collect the garbage from houses and shops.

“One day we were collecting the garbage from people’s houses when a woman threw a full bag of rubbish from the third floor. It scattered everywhere and I had to collect it all up,” said Abdulrahman Sadeq, 20.

Sometimes, he said, our car has to return to the same place three times as people forget to put their rubbish out.

According to the law, a fine of YR 1,000 to 10,000 is imposed on anyone who throws their garbage out after the rubbish vehicle passes.

“Everybody should have a sense of cleanliness. It is everybody’s responsibility,” said Ali Al-Sanhani from the cleaning administration.

There are 17 districts in Sana’a. Each has two supervisors reporting on the area’s cleanliness and checking whether the cleaners are working or not, according to Abdulhakim Saber, general secretary of the cleaning administration.

Saber added that Sana’a’s expanding population has added more to their responsibility as they now have to provide the new areas with street cleaners.

“Therefore, we have an emergency unit. It consists of 124 streets sweepers who are taken to the areas most needed to be cleaned,” Mohammad Al-Raidi, the head of the unit said.

Every day, 1,350 tons of garbage is collected from Sana’a’s streets.

In the seasons of Eid and Ramadan, some 4,000 to 6,000 tons are collected per day, according to Abdulla Naser Al-Zoba, the director of the administration.

6,829 tons of garbage was collected on the first day of Eid, two weeks ago, he added.


Yemen’s got talent,

9 Sep
Malak Shaher
Yemen Times


“I can make a difference in people’s lives by making them laugh”

According to his friends, Haitham Al-Haidari, 20,  is “super funny.” To share his gift, he  presents at open days and parties. He also likes computer design and adores break- dancing.

“I have lately been doing a lot of standup comedy shows,” he told the Yemen Times. “I like cheering people up because I feel I can make a difference in their life by making them laugh. Before I start imitating people or mocking some social habits, I prefer to mock myself first so that they feel comfortable listening to me.”

Haitham’s friends say that they really like they way he “shoots” jokes and that he is a very funny person, as he has the talent of imitating people’s accents. As he is fluent in English, he likes presenting in English, but can also do so in Arabic. Somtimes he mixes both.

Haitham says that he himself is a mix of everything: “Originally, I am from Taiz,” he said. “I live in Sana’a and like to go to Aden every now and then. You can say I am like a mix of everything. But, I am pure Yemeni.”

The 20-year-old said that the money he earns from his comic shows goes towards helping people.

“Last time I presented a comic show was at Amideast Yemen, and the money went to the profit of children who have cancer.”

Haitham is performing some comedy shows after Eid.

Right now the comic and break dancer’s is reaching for the stars. He wants to study astrophysics abroad.

Haitham, who peppered his interview with funny comments, said goodbye in his own way.

“Bye,” said the Yemen Times

“Bye no problemoo,” he replied. “This is Japanese accentoo.”

The Yemen Times profiles young Yemenis with talent. If you are talented or know a young Yemeni who is, please send an email to

Intellectual property rights: an unknown concept

3 Sep
Malak Shaher
Yemen Times


An unoriginal poster of teen pop star Hanna Montana sold in a toy shop in Sana’a. Copyrights and trademarks are not yet understood or appreciated in Yemen. YT photo by Nadine Ibrahim.

SANA’A, Sept. 29 — Abubakr Al-Maflahi, Yemen’s Minister of Culture attended a conference in Geneva last week, chaired by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in order to discuss how intellectual property plays a vital role in economic development.

Shamsadeen Al-Zain, the head of Al-Zain Organization for Intellectual Property, told the Yemen Times that the Yemeni government struggles to protect intellectual property in a country where many have no idea what intellectual property and copyrights mean.

Yemen has ratified two international conventions on intellectual property rights, yet the illegal copying and stealing of other people’s ideas is still widespread in the country, Shamsadeen Al-Zain, added.

Al-Zain said that intellectual property rights certainly play a key role in development, since people’s creativity is better generated when they know their rights will be protected.

As the head of an intellectual property organization, he often witnesses people stealing trademarks and artistic creations such a songs, DVDs and CDs, which according to him are widespread.

“Computer systems and software in Yemen don’t have legislative protection and are always exposed to theft and piracy,” he said.

The first intellectual property law in Yemen was issued in 1994 to protect trademarks, industrial figures, patents and copyrights.

According to Al-Zain, a person found guilty of intellectual property theft can be imprisoned for up to six months or be asked to pay damages according to what the judges specify. He or she may also be asked to apologize in a newspaper or on television.

Yemen signed the Paris Agreement to protect industrial property in 1997. It also signed the Bern Agreement in Switzerland to protect literary and art works in April 2008.

But most people still are not aware of intellectual property rights, he said.

Renting pavements to earn a living

2 Sep

A street vendor stands in the yard of the General Peddlers Union and Markets, a safe place for his wheel barrow. In the yard, the 1,200 vendors registered with the union store their wheel barrows or vegetable boxes at night. They collect them again in the morning and set off to earn an uncertain living. YT photo by Malak Shaher

Malak Shaher



Filled with hope, street vendors call out for people to buy from them above the street’s car horns.

During a Ramadan night on Jamal Street, a popular shopping street in central Sana’a, street vendors display their goods and clutter the already busy sidewalk. They know that they cause a lot of trouble, but they have no other way to earn a living.

To support their families, street vendors sell whatever they can put in a wheel barrow, including vegetables, fruit, quilts, cosmetics, flashlights, books, home appliances, and toys.

But selling on the streets is against the law according to the municipality, so there is always a possibility that its employees will confiscate their goods and detain them for a day or two before fining them YR 2,000 or more to release them.

“It is their only way to earn a living, there is no article in the law that allows them to sell in the sidewalks of the street,” said Ameen Jum’an, the deputy of General Secretary of Sana’a. “We try as hard as we can to give them the chance to sell during seasons like Ramadan and Eid without confiscating their goods or taking fines.”

The deputy added that since 2006, the municipality has not taken “rent” from the street vendors as it used to do in the past. But they do fine them if they are brought to the municipality. In this case, they are given a receipt.

However, Mohammad Abdulmalek, who has no other option for earning a living other than selling girls’ hair decorations on Jamal Street had another story to tell.

“Besides the money I pay, which is YR 1,500 as rent for the one meter you see, the municipality employees sometimes take fines from us, they wait for us to give them more money or else they may arrest us and confiscate our goods,” he added.

“I pay YR 3,000 for each meter I occupy. This is my place, and the police do take fines from me as I pay an extra symbolic amount of money for the municipality employees,” said Jameel Muthana, a quilt vendor on Hael Street.

Apparently, street vendors realize that they have to pay a bribe to the municipality employees in exchange for the latter not reporting them to the Municipality. But they complain that the municipality employees sometimes come with no prior notice and confiscate their goods before they are given the chance to pay money.

Not only found on Jamal Street and Hael Street, street vendors all over Yemen still have to pay fines without receipts, according to Fateh-Arahman Al-Jassaf, Director of General Union for Peddlers and Market.  

He said that just in Sana’a, there are no less than 17,000 street vendors, 1,200 of which are registered in the union.  

When employees from the municipality confiscate their goods, vendors lose their perishable goods, such as fruits and vegetables, according to Al-Jassaf.

The General Peddlers Union and Markets was established in May 2008 and joined the Yemeni Labor’s Union in December 2009, with the aim to protect street vendors all over Yemen from the attacks of municipality officers.

The head of the union said that vendors only pay fees for the place they occupy on the sidewalk during peak seasons like Eid and Ramadan.

According to Al-Jassaf, the employees of the municipality approach the street venders randomly, and come in a police car without permission from the municipality to take money from vendors.

“Sometimes, some municipality employees go to the street where there are a lot of vendors and take YR 100 or 200 from each one so to allow them to stay without reporting them. If someone does not pay, he reports him to the municipality, as it is illegal to sell things in the street.”

Adel Al-Sana’ani, the Director of the Tahreer district, a popular sales point for street vendors, said the municipality has no knowledge of the bribes the street vendors pay to the municipality employees.

“Taking money from street vendors is illegal as they take no receipts for the money they pay. If the vendors report the employees that take money from them, the employees will be tried,” he said.

Al-Sana’ani said that four years ago, the municipality used to take fines from the vendors during Ramadan and Eid in their offices and give them receipts in return. This was because they are not allowed to sell in the street, because there is an article in the law that prohibits anyone from disturbing the movement of cars or pedestrians.

“Some municipality employees are said to take money from the vendors in the street, which is illegal,” Al-Sana’ani explained.  “We face a real problem, as some of the shop owners also ‘rent’ the space in front of their shop.”

But street vendors cannot complain because selling in the street is against the law. Reporting the bribes they pay to the municipality officers would only serve to make them pay more fines for breaking the law.

Street vendors are not only men selling to support their families, but also women and little children supporting themselves for different reasons.

On another night during Ramadan, a ten year-old boy, who took up a small space on the sidewalk on Jamal Street selling toys, looked around hoping a child would see him and insist that his parents buy him a toy.

Unlike street vendors who sometimes pay YR 3,000 for each meter they occupy on the sidewalk, the boy said he pays YR 500 per meter.

“The goods we sell determine the amount of money we have to pay,” he explained. “The more expensive the goods, the more money that is taken

Of the 17,000 street vendors, there are around 3,000 children working as street vendors.

“Last year, 30 street vendors were arrested and their goods were thrown in a garbage container in Asser, Sana’a,” head of the union Al-Jassaf told the Yemen Times.  

“The place they were detained lacked basic facilities. There is no water and there is no door for the bathroom. These prisons were one day demanded to be closed by Former General Secretary of Sana’a Ali Al-Shu’aibi,” said Ahmad Mohammad, a street vendor on Al-Daeri Street, Sana’a.

“They are against the law and create a crowd in the streets,” said Muttahar Al-Haimi, the General Secretary of the municipality at Al-Wahda district. “Each time they do not pay the rent fees, we arrest them for two or three days but release them after they pay a fine of YR 2,000 maximum.”

The peddler’s union is working on helping street vendors to find shops instead to sell from. It aims at least to find them a market in which to sell their goods.

Nevertheless, Al-Jassaf said that in spite of the fact the street vendors create a mess in the street. The municipality has found no real solution until now to solve their problem.

He accused them of procrastinating in finding a solution for them so that they can collect money from the vendors who will pay in order not to be arrested

Yemen’s got talent

2 Sep
“It is not necessary to be an artist to feel the beauty of life”
Malak Shaher
Yemen Times


Nabil Al-Qanes, 24, is a young Yemeni cartoonist, promising poet, and short story writer.

Nabil, when did you discover your passion for drawing?
I started before I enrolled in school. My father used to draw simple drawings, although he was not a professional. I was so attracted to drawing that I kept everything he drew. I used to focus on every single line and draw it again. However, my talent was polished by the passage of time.

You said you like cartoons more than drawing. Why?
I like it more because it is a sarcastic art, treating a major issue with a simple sketch, and it has a great effect on people.

I have participated in four cartoon exhibitions at Sana’a University and one at the Culture House in Sana’a. I got three awards form Sana’a University, as one of the best participants in two of the exhibitions and the best participant in the last exhibition in 2008.

In 2008, I took a course in cartooning at the Yemeni Association for Developing Arts and Culture.

You told me that you also write short stories.
Yes. I write short stories and I got third place in a short story competition held at Sana’a University.

I was nominated to leave for Saudi Arabia to participate in a cultural scientific event for  Yemeni universities at the King Fahd Bin Abdulaziz University, Jeddah.

I also write poems. I am now working to publish two collections of poems