Street construction project in Aden, South Yemen (South24 Center)

Despite War Hurdles, Life Return To Normal in Aden


Thu, 09-03-2023 05:01 PM, Aden

Ali Mahmood (South24)

A big smile was drawn on the childish innocent face of Mansour Marwan, a child aged nine, lives in the port city of Aden in South Yemen. Mansour who lost his right limb during the Houthi war, attended a big football game held in his city for the first time since he was wounded. The little child was given the honor to strike the first kick in the match which brought together the two top rivalry football clubs in Aden, Telal Aden and Wahdat Aden early this week. Thousands of fans flocked to Al-Hubaishi, the oldest stadium in the port city. The stadium couldn't absorb the huge turnout, crowds gathered outside the ancient square eager for word of the game as seats were filled up inside.

Courtesy of the STC Youth Department

Despite the many hurdles Aden is facing due to the dire economic condition, life in the port city which serves as a seat of the newly constructed Yemen Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) and Yemen's legitimate government, has been getting back on track after eight years of a devastating war. 

"War has stolen a big portion of our life, we came through critical times during the war seeing nothing but corpses and destruction," said Wael Mahmood a citizen from Aden attended the game this week told "South24 Center". "We just breathed a sigh of relief," he added. 

For many viewers, the large turnout which attended the football game in Al-Hubaishi stadium this week, was a signal of better times to come.

Following the gloomy years of war, life in the port city is tentatively returning to normal, reconstruction is widely seen because of the tireless efforts being made by the local authorities of the city which managed to rehabilitate much of the city's damaged infrastructure through funding provided by the UAE, the Saudi program for reconstructing Yemen and by the European Union (EU).

"We have been taking all measures to revive the damaged infrastructure in the city " Mohammed Al Jonaidi office manager of Aden's governor tells "South24 Center"

"600 projects have been implemented in Aden in the last couple of years in, these vital projects mainly targeted the rehabilitation of the poor infrastructure which was severely damaged during the war," Al Jonaidi said.

Construction work in Aden (Ahmed Shehab)

"The implemented projects covered sectors of the basic service mainly the electricity sector, the water and sanitation, roads and streets rehabilitation, the health and education sectors and sectors of sports and culture," he added. 

Al Jonaidi said that most of the projects were funded by the UAE and the Saudi development and reconstruction program for Yemen.

"There is so much for the people of Aden to be proud of, and that pride is starting to show itself again in the condition of the city" Michael Knights a US researcher and analyst who visited Aden and wrote a book about the war the city experienced since 2015 tells "South24 Center".

"It may seem like a small thing, but the tidying and cleaning and greening of the city's roundabouts is a sign of recovery. The roundabouts of Aden - Arab League, Aqaba, Regal, Tariq, Badr, Caltex, Airport, Qahira and so many others - are the beating hearts of the city. Nowhere else gets as much traffic every day and so nowhere else is it more important to put civic pride on display. And the roundabouts are coming back to life, including their historic monuments, their painted flagstones, and their well-watered greenery. They are a symbol of the acceleration of Aden's recovery،" Knights said. 

Rehabilitation project in the street of Aden (Ahmed Shehab)

The local authorities in Aden put the rehabilitation of the city's roundabouts in the forefront because the city is widely recognized by its historic streets and roundabouts, some bear historic names like Madram street in Al-Mualla district which bears the name of Abdu Nabi Madram who was killed while resisting the British colonization which occupied Aden from 1839 to 1967, some roundabouts in the port city are historic landmarks.

The governor of Aden Ahmed Lamlas laying the foundation stone with the representative of the Saudi Relief Center (Screenshot).

"Even compared to one year ago, I got the impression that the whole town was in good spirits. Crater city is lively, and the market sells young people's clothing, women's cosmetics, and various foods. The monument of "I LOVE Crater" was very cute. The fish is delicious, and the sea and mountains are beautiful." Mitsuru Kumode, a Japanese journalist who visited Aden in January 2023 tells her experience in Aden to South24 Center

"Aden has all the elements that tourists like, and I thought it had a very high potential as a tourist destination" she said. 

The reconstruction process Aden is experiencing is accompanied by a return of the cultural activities Aden was famous for. Sports, cinema, theaters, music, and arts are thriving back after eight years of war.

Last week, a first ever all-female music band was set up in the city. Thirteen young girls joint a project funded by the EU to receive training sessions on how to play the music instruments. The project is funded by the EU and Goethe Institute and implemented by Aden Foundation for Arts and Sciences AFAS. The group are set up to form the first music band for women in Aden to revive the rich Adeni music heritage. They are expected to play songs from the Adeni classic music.

"The project is the first of its kind. We considered it because we believe that women need to be empowered in the field of arts. They need to take the lead in the arts, a profession chiefly dominated by men," Abdullah Al Bakri, the chairman of Aden Foundation for Arts and Sciences (AFAS) told "South24 Center".

"I joint the band because I believe that art is a message of peace, love, and co-existence. We need the music instruments to prevail and speak louder and for the tools of death to cease and be silenced" said Alaa Kamal, a trainee aged 18 to "South24 Center". We are highly encouraged by our families, and we share the same passion to music," she said.

Earlier in January 2023, Aden took the limelight when William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" ringed out on stage in Arabic by the prominent Adeni theatre troupe "Khaleej Aden" the troupe was founded by the amazing Adeni director Amr Jamal in 2005, the performance of the play in the city after years of war has sparked hopes of a cultural revival. Amazingly, Mr. Jamal's and his crew were able to defy the many hurdles caused by the war and put the film industry in South Yemen back on the international map. The hard-working smart team won many international awards for their feature film dubbed as "The Burdened" which was selected last week to the premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival and won a new award for the most humanitarian film granted by the International Amnesty.

"I felt proud watching our cinema makers hitting the stage at Berlin International Film Festival, such new accomplishment proved how Aden's youth is pioneering, intelligent, innovative, and ambitious," said Fatima Al Nakhibi, an international relations master student from Aden tells "South24 Center".

"People of Aden love life and deserve life, we are tolerant, peaceful, reject violence and struggle for peace for many years," she said. 

Signs of recovery 

Once you visit Aden, you will feel the speedy recovery the port city in South Yemen has been experiencing, new malls and resorts just opened in the city. Folks from Yemeni expats returned from the Gulf states to start their business in Aden as the city got back on the stability track. Based on the stable condition the city is witnessing, new shipping lanes joint the containers harbor in Aden, furthermore, many diplomates arrived in the city in the last couple of months considering resuming operations from the city. 

UAE-funded housing project in South Yemen (Ahmed Shehab)

Historically, Aden was a hub of history in South Yemen. As late as 1960, Aden was the second busiest harbor in the world after New York. The cosmopolitan city embraced a unique collection of cultures and religions. It hosted millions of migrants and swarms of expats from India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Europe as it once sat at the world's crossroads. The historic city still embraces dozens of churches, temples and synagogues dating back to the 20th century when the city was recognized for its religious diversity and tolerance.

Ali Mahmood

Aden-based freelance journalist who covers the war in Yemen via the National and other foreign media outlets. 

South YemenAdenReconstructionSportCinemaHouthi warReviveInfrastructure