Acknowlegement – Mastoom/Asmar Turku, Nomads of the Silk Rd

Aden, the next port of call, was also a British Protectorate and so passengers were allowed ashore. Tenders1 transferred visitors from ship to shore. Even though it was nighttime, all the shops and arcades were open. It was a hot, still evening full of strange smells and sounds. Gordon, Glenice and I decided it would be a good idea to see the sights and hired a taxi for a few hours. By this time, it was just on dawn. The driver took us across the Little Aden Causeway to Crater township and pointed out the main landmarks with the ever-present backdrop of the rugged bare mountains.

When we asked if he would take us to The Oasis he refused, saying it was far too dangerous for Europeans. All produce came into Aden by sea or across the desert and The Oasis was last or first stop before entering or leaving Aden by land. Gordon eventually talked him into it after negotiating a further payment.

What a sight! The sun was just below the horizon and in the half-light we could see dozens of tents and groups of men around small campfires. Most of the camels were resting, while others were being loaded or off loaded for the return trip across the desert. It was a surreal scene with the mixture of desert mist and campfire smoke. If only we had owned a camera!

The driver was not keen on staying too long and would not let us out of the car. On the way back he took us past the Yemen-Aden border post. Yemeni soldiers with sub-machine guns stared grimly from the other side of the boom gate. British soldiers ignored them on the Aden side. By this time, it was full sunshine and becoming quite hot. We were happy to return to the ship and retire to the safety of the bar for a cold beer. Little did we know that the political situation in Aden was very sensitive and local terrorists were taking hostages.

Years later when Helen and I travelled to England in 1967, the ship made a stop at Aden. At that time, Britain was handing over the territory to the locals. We were only allowed ashore in daylight and only along the main shopping strip. From the safety of the ship that night we could hear machinegun fire and see the light of the sweeping searchlights lighting up the mountains.

The Chiffons – ‘He’s so Fine’  1963
I don’t know how I’m gonna do it
But I’m gonna make him mine
He’s the envy of all the girls
It’s just a matter of time

Next: Colombo

Previous: Port Said

  1. A boat used to service or support a ship, generally by transporting people or supplies to and from shore.