Monday, August 1, 2011

Motorcycle Taxis

"Let's take a motorcycle taxi." During my first month in Yemen our Program Coordinator, who in many ways was my mentor during those first weeks, decided it was time to show me the ropes of taking a motor. He let out a loud "Yahh!" at the sight of the next motorcycle taxi to pass by and instructed him to wait while he flagged down a second motor. I seated myself behind the driver on the second bike and held onto the underside of the metal seat frame.

This first ride was short -- we were only going to Sharia Mataam -- but it was enough to get me started. The motorbike weaved through traffic, went down one-way streets, sped around corners, and generally bent any traffic law that its small and agile frame allowed it to bend. "I wouldn't recommend doing this daily," my colleague warned, "but if you're running late and need to make it to a meeting it's a great way to make up time."

I caught on to how to flag down the motorcycle taxis, and although I didn't take them often I enjoyed it when I did. It was quite an enjoyable feeling to drive through the city, lots of noise and activity going on around you, with the sun shining and the wind flying through your hair. I must admit I felt proud of myself.

video

Sometimes when running late for lunch I would take a motor. I would often arrive before my friends, despite leaving five minutes later, and wave at their car taxi as I passed. I intended to film the ride between work and lunch at some point. Unfortunately I only caught a few seconds of it here. I found out the morning this video was taken that I would be leaving Yemen early the following day, and unfortunately my camera was barely charged.

One point to add: generally speaking women do not use motorcycle taxis. It would be quite improper by Yemeni social standards for a woman to be seen straddling a bike, especially if seated behind an unrelated man. On the one occasion that I did see a girl riding a motorcycle it looked like she was being picked up from school, perhaps by a brother or uncle, and she was sitting side-saddle.