by Bay Fang
I am sweating through my abaya as I drive to meet the sheik. It is a hot afternoon in Sana’a, and the sun beats down through an arid blue sky. Wispy pink and blue plastic bags that earlier held an afternoon’s worth of the narcotic qat leaf float over the congested streets like kites, and children run up to cars paused at intersections, hawking everything from full flatware sets to the tiny perfume samples one might rip from an ad in a fashion magazine.
The university I’m heading for sits on a hillside on the outskirts of town, on land donated by the government in the 1990s. It is the alma mater of a number of high-profile militants, including the “American Talib” John Walker Lindh. Squatting outside the cafeteria, young male students wearing African skullcaps sip tea alongside those in the red-checkered headdresses of the Gulf, and, as my car rumbles past, they look up and meet my gaze, expressionless.