fissures © 2011 . All rights reserved.

Arabia Felix

The inside of Husain’s house was cold and dark. We climbed three flights of steep stone stairs to a bare little sitting-room furnished with a single rug and a few cushions. Puffing my way up, I thought how odd it was that every detail of the architecture of the place seemed totally out of proportion to the people who lived in it. Each stair was a good eighteen inches high – above knee-height for the average Yemeni man. Had they built these houses in the expectation that they were going to grow into giants? Was the scale of the city supposed forcibly to elevate the inhabitants? Husain and Abdurabu had gone at the stairs like mountain goats, skipping up from peak to peak. I lumbered behind, a gangling heavyweight with the sound of seagulls crying in my chest.

Jonathan Rabat