Milestone 17 –Distance: 3,188.4 km (65.3%) – 12 April 2021
We’ve continued in a south-westerly direction heading back down to the coastal plains and find ourselves on the southern tip of the Yemen.
Our destination is the seaport of Aden, located between the eastern point of where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden (named after the city itself), which will then become the Arabian Sea in the east.
A former capital of the Yemen, Aden is considered by some as the birthplace of Noah’s Ark, and there are others who believe it was also the location of the Garden of Eden. Depending on who you ask, you may even discover that it’s the resting place of Cain and Abel!
Biblical connections notwithstanding, Aden is conveniently situated between India and Europe to merit its importance as an ancient trading hub on the spice route.
Its natural harbour is set in the crater of a dormant volcano which now forms a peninsula connected to the mainland by a low bank. There are some references to this eastern harbour being used as far back as the 5th and 7th centuries BCE. Consequently, it is no surprise that Aden has changed hands on numerous occasions. On the western side of the peninsula lies Little Aden, the location of an oil refinery on the modern harbour.
Aden has acted as a strategic buffer to the Horn of Africa, providing control of the Red Sea for the British, and latterly a major staging post and bunkering station in the area and key base for defending British oil interests. Having set up a stronghold in Aden in the 1800s following the threat by Napoleon of closing off the British route to India, British rule came to an end in 1967.
Apart from the picturesque views of the harbour, one of the main attractions is the Cisterns of Tawila, a series of water tanks, estimated to have been constructed almost 2,000 years ago, carved out of the volcanic rock of the Shamsan mountains. The next visit on my list here will be Sira Fortress which dates back to the 11th century and is still in use today.