With a lopsided smile, Naswan Masoud Al-Farza’i, 31, tells of how, during the heavy rain last May, he lost his source of income for his family.
It happened in the Saila, a paved road built in the natural course of rainwater that divides the Yemeni capital Sana’a from south to north. In Arabic, ‘saila’ literally means stream, and when it rains heavily, it soon becomes apparent why the road is called this.
It was late afternoon on a Wednesday when Al-Farza’i first drove down into the depression of the Saila. In the back of his white cab he had one Yemeni passenger.
“When we entered the Saila, there was no rain,” starts the father of two.
But then suddenly, as if out of nowhere, water was everywhere. His customer screamed, opened the door, and ran. Al-Farza’i debated what to do until the water was up to his chest. He tried to open his door, but the pressure of the water on the outside was too strong. His seatbelt was still on. He undid it, and tried again in vain. So he wound down his window and squeezed himself out of the taxi and onto the roof. As he stood on the top of the car, he looked up. The rain was pouring down.
Perched on the top of the 3-meter high wall of the Saila near Qubbat Al-Mahdi, he watched the spectacle in the water below.
“I saw cars come up behind my car, slide over the top of it, and continue on down [the river],” he tells the Yemen Times. He pauses, and holds up a hand to his cheek to convey how overwhelmed he was. The water, he says, was seeping up over the side wall of the Saila and into the adjacent residential areas. As he was cold and wet and he couldn’t see his car anymore, he went home.
When the taxi driver returned later that night, the level of the brown water in the Saila had dropped and the taxi’s luminescent roof sign poked out of the water. He breathed a sigh of relief as the car had not moved.
“The municipality came and towed the car out of the Saila and onto the side, but then they left it. There was no compensation, nothing,” he says.
Today, Al-Firza’i has cleaned his car and says that he has fixed the engine as much as he can. He is putting the car up for sale. In total, he says, he has lost USD 2,000 in the event. His number plate floated away.
They should set up a warning system, he says. If they also build good drains, then the water would be channeled through them and would not flood the road.
“The floodwater doesn’t come from Sana’a,” he said. “It comes from up in the mountains.”
Al-Farza’i asks for compensation, but says that if he manages to buy a new car, he will work again as a taxi driver.
Alice started this blog in Yemen in 2010. Today she chats up taxi drivers and picks grass out of her rocket salad in Cairo, Egypt. All photos and words on this blog are her own, except if indicated otherwise.