By Ali Saeed
Many cities around the world have their share of pollution, traffic, and bad health habits. Yemeni cities are of course not exempt from that. Yet, despite the misconception that Yemenis – more than others – are very unhealthy, it is not an impossible mission to stay healthy in the country.
Yemenis have different techniques to make that happen and many, who are not necessarily thinking of their health, unintentionally maintain a healthy lifestyle due to their type of work outdoors, which often require lots of walking or outdoor exercise, in addition to the abstinence of expensive junk food. Health conscious individuals try to stay fit in a number of ways. While some maintain their health by exercising, others stick to a certain diet or healthy habits.
Some men and few women schedule times for a regular outdoor walk or run, although the city traffic makes it difficult. Others play soccer or simply go the gym to use the various types of equipment.
For social and cultural reasons, women do not feel comfortable jogging in public. Instead, they go to women-run sports clubs. “Twice a month I go to a female sport club to do some exercises and to swim,” said Ola Al-Shami, a young woman in her twenties. These clubs are on the rise and they there are at least three swimming pools in Sana’a reserved to women.
A woman in her thirties ask a taxi to go to Judi, a health club with swimming pool on Rabat street. “May I ask you, what is this facility? I have dropped off many women here?” asked the taxi driver. She informed him that it is a sports club, with a large swimming pool and exercise classes. “Women swim too?” he asked shockingly.
Women also exercise at home and several households buy treadmills or bicycles to keep fit from home. Saddam Al-Khamri, salesperson of Shawqi Sport-Shop nearby Tahrir Square explained that women are their main customers for treadmills and bicycles since they do not exercise in public or in the streets.
“We sell every day around four-five treadmills,” said Al-Khamri. “Some are sophisticated ones that we sell for YR 200,000 (around $1,000) but our first prices start around YR 30,000 (around $140) for simpler kinds.”
Of course those who cannot afford to buy equipment work out without the devices. Some studiously follow the various exercise television programs on many satellite channels, such as “Ma ilak illa Haifa” popular program or the morning exercise show on Yemeni TV. Others, such as Ahmed, 74 years old, stated that they exercise five times a day, referring to the five daily prayers, as the movements of prayer exercise the bones and joints.
“It is also helps in enriching our mind and soul. After all as we say, there is a cure in prayer,” he added.
Staying healthy is not just about exercise, but also about the food we eat. “I am careful to eat fruits and vegetables everyday to stay healthy,” said Al-Shami,
Old recipes are still used by today’s generation as a guide for their diet. Many families in Sana’a often buy different spices to use infuse them in the various recipes, or to use them on their own as medicine. In fact, entering a spice shop in Yemen, you may falsely assume that you are also in a pharmacy as many signs point to healing remedies for headaches, acne, bad hair, or temper.
Mohamed Al-Hamadi, owner of Al-Hamadi Spicy Shop in the busy commercial Jamal Street says that women come to his shop every day to buy rosemary, oregano and chamomile. “They buy these herbs to alleviate stress,” he explained.
Honey is also often used in the prevention and treatment of many diseases, from a simple cold to more serious diseases. As it is said: “Honey cures everything!”
While eating well and exercising are necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle, nothing can replace the simple and crucial daily gestures of hygiene and clean water.
Several families in Sana’a resort to buying purified or bottled water instead of drinking directly from the pipe. “I buy purified water and do not allow my family members to drink from the pipe,” said Mohammed Hassan, a local van driver. “In fact, I believe pipe water is not drinkable and contains some germs.” This creates a major problem for many who can not afford to always buy water.
Water is also important for washing fruits and vegetables or cleaning the hands throughout the day. “Washing your hands before and after a meal or going to the bathroom can prevent more than 50% of the diseases,” said Dr. Osama Mere, public health doctor. “These are the most important personal habits that we should all follow on a daily basis.”Français
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