The film, Salmon fishing in the Yemen has netted over 10 million dollars at the box office, but if you think that a spot of fly fishing in Yemen would make a nice holiday, think again.
Salmon fishing in the Yemen tells the story of the romance that develops between a fisheries expert from the UK, played by Ewan McGregor and the employee of a fabulously wealthy Yemeni Sheikh – Emily Blunt. The brief is to introduce salmon to the wadis of the Yemen so the Shiekh can fish for them. Love triumphs in the end – as do the salmon fry but in this case, fiction does not mirror fact – and here’s why…
Since the release of the film, the Yemeni tourist board has been bombarded by people wanting to pack up their fly fishing equipment and jump on a plane to this oasis. However, there is no such fishery – and even if there were, travel to Yemen is considered by the foreign and Commonwealth Office to be a very bad idea indeed. The British government line is, all travel to the country should be avoided and those already there should leave.
More terrorists than trout
Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East. Since 2009, hundreds of people have been killed and as many as a quarter of a million displaced by fighting between government troops and rebels from the North of the country. Despite a truce in 2010, the following year, the Arab Spring, saw new unrest and the president toppled. The resulting power vacuum has allowed Al Qaeda to increase its influence in the Yemen, and despite the regime’s attempts to fight back, the country is now considered to be a haven for terrorists.
In fact just this week, the CIA foiled a plot by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to detonate an improved version of the underpants bomb worn by Nigerian terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab that failed to go off properly in 2009.
Go to Yemen and you risk being kidnapped by armed militia and sold to Al Qaeda, which is a great shame because Yemen is a country of immense, historical and cultural importance.
More skyscrapers than salmon
Part of the ancient spice route, Yemen is at the confluence of Africa, the Middle East and Asia and according to legend, was the home of the legendary Queen of Sheba. No less than four world heritage sites are in Yemen – including, the walled city of Shibam. Known as the ‘Manhattan of the desert’, the city dates from the third century AD and is thought to be the first example of town planning based on the principle of vertical living. Some of the mudbrick buildings are eleven storeys high and are thought to have been built in this way to protect residents from attack by Bedouin marauders.
While fishing of any kind in Yemen is firmly off the agenda for the time being, an improvement in the security situation could see anglers flocking there – but to the coast rather than the rivers. Piracy aside, there are some 200 or so Yemeni islands in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, offering the prospect of rich sea fishing for anyone brave enough to go.