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Yemenis flock to coast for brief respite from war
Mukalla has revived an annual festival taking advantage of a natural phenomenon that cools the coastal region.
Although many Yemenis flocked to enjoy the water, they had to exercise caution, as the country's coastguard services have crumbled during the war. [Rashed Bin Shoubrag/Al Jazeera]
By Saeed Al Batati and Rashed Bin Shoubrag
8 Aug 2016
Mukalla, Yemen – From mid-July to early August each year, the coasts of the Yemeni city of Mukalla and neighbouring regions experience a natural phenomenon in which the hot and humid temperature drops and the sea’s tidal waves turn chilly.
The cold spell, known as “upwelling“, occurs as currents cause hot, surface waters to sink and cold, deep waters to surface, helping to cool Mukalla’s sweltering summer.
Until 2011, when Arab Spring protests swept through Yemen, local authorities had arranged an annual festival to take advantage of the phenomenon to boost tourism in Mukalla – but it was put on hold as violence spiralled out of control. The situation in Mukalla was exacerbated last year, when al-Qaeda seized the city.
But this year, with al-Qaeda now cleared from Mukalla, local authorities opted to revive the tourism festival for two weeks late last month. Turnout was high, as people flocked to the coastline for a brief respite from Yemen’s war.
A man performs a folkloric ceremony at a local plaza to entertain residents on the festival's concluding days. [Rashed Bin Shoubrag/Al Jazeera]
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With Yemen in crisis, traditional dances like those displayed at this year's festival have largely disappeared from the city's streets. [Rashed Bin Shoubrag/Al Jazeera]
Some elderly Yemenis opt to swim in the sea to treat rheumatism, having heard tales of the therapeutic miracles of the cold waters.[Rashed Bin Shoubrag/Al Jazeera]
The festival provides an opportunity to showcase traditional handcrafts. [Rashed Bin Shoubrag/Al Jazeera]
Yemenis who are adept at crafts and sewing are invited to the festival to showcase their skills. [Rashed Bin Shoubrag/Al Jazeera]
During its year-long takeover of Mukalla, al-Qaeda banned people from holding public parades or dances. [Rashed Bin Shoubrag/Al Jazeera]
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Small boats race in the city's watercourse. The winner is given a pat on the back and a small cash prize. [Rashed Bin Shoubrag/Al Jazeera]
Swimmers pack the beaches of Mukalla in the early hours of the day, when the sea temperatures are at their lowest. [Rashed Bin Shoubrag/Al Jazeera]
The cold sea waters also attract Yemeni expatriates from the Gulf states, or Yemenis living in other war-torn areas of the country, such as Taiz and Marib. [Rashed Bin Shoubrag/Al Jazeera]
Despite the hazards posed by the unpatrolled waters, many people, including children, opt to go out deeper to swim in the big waves. [Rashed Bin Shoubrag/Al Jazeera]
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