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Yemen
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Yemen: The Unknown Arabia
by Tim Mackintosh-Smith

Yemen is arguably the most fascinating and least known country in the Arab world. Classical geographers described it as a fabulous land where flying serpents guarded sacred incense groves. Medieval Arab visitors told of disappearing islands and menstruating mountains. Our current ideas of this country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula have been overrun by images of the desert, by oil, by the Gulf War. but as Tim Mackintosh-Smith reminds us in his brilliant book, there is another Arabia.

The mildly hypnotic effects of his daily khat chew had barely kicked in before Tim Mackintosh-Smith made an odd admission for a travel writer.

"I don't like traveling in itself," he confessed, shredding another mouthful of the tender, slightly bitter khat leaves from a branch he was holding. "I would much rather stay here and chew khat. But when I do travel, I have been blessed with good luck."

"A third eye opens when I travel, and it sees a lot," he said during a day spent eating lunch and chewing khat (pronounced cot), a stimulant whose ingestion is the afternoon pastime of most men here in Yemen's capital, his home for two decades. "Things cease to be mundane when you have this third eye open."

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