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The Restaurants Street: A photo essay by Sadiq al-Harasi

the Restaurants Street

A translated version of this piece is Available in: العربية (Arabic)

The Adeni neighborhood the Restaurants Street, as it is known, is one of the streets branching from Tahrir Square in the middle of Yemen’s capital city Sana’a. Different sounds engulf you in this crowded street. They produce a strange mix of auditory chaos: the voices of bystanders, customers’ calls, the playful comments of restaurant owners, the sound of bread being kneaded on the table, the hollering of the sahawiq sellers, the crackling of the fire, the sound of backbiting grunts and gossip, and the engaging conversations about the depressing condition of the country. It is an unspoken agreement among the frequenters of this street that everyone is free to make noise, just as everyone is free to understand it… or not!

What brings all these people who belong to different social classes together is the Adeni bread, the eggs, bean stew, the sahawiq and country-style cheese (al-taazi), Adeni tea – and the countless conversations that take place there.

This street is a fountain of stories. It has a distinctive identity and unique imprint, for it’s not an ordinary street like others. The writer Wajdi al-Ahdal wrote a collection of short stories that take place in this very street, and he called it The People of the Restaurants Street. Maki, the protagonist of one of the stories, describes this street as: “The Restaurants Street has a very unique geographic location. It is so easily accessible from every corner of the city that it’s nearly comical. It’s the focal point of the city, like a belly button signifying Mother Earth’s umbilical cord. I did a cadastral mapping for Sana’a once and found that the Restaurants Street is where ‘the golden number’ is achieved. And from an astronomical viewpoint, the Restaurants Street is located directly under Aquarius, which attracts the young freedom-loving and educated class. And the atmosphere in this area generates new ideas and strange struggles.”

In this photo essay, the photographer Sadiq Yahya al-Harasi conveys something of this street’s soul that his camera has managed to capture.

Sadiq Yahya al-Harasi is an architecture graduate and coordinator of the Writing Program at the Romooz Foundation. Sadiq is a short story writer, an amateur photographer and an enthusiast of Yemeni heritage in all its forms.

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