“It must be hot in Yemen” is a very common statement made by many people who imagine Yemen as an arid country, with only deserts and sand dunes. The beauty of Yemen’s landscape and architecture is unknown. In fact, it comes as a surprise to many. To counter the mass perceptions of Yemen, and to insist on the need to see Yemen beyond the headlines, Fahd Aqlan, a 35 years old Yemeni man, started the Facebook page with over 23,000 followers: “So you think you’ve seen Yemen?”.
La Voix du Yémen (LVDY): Why did you start this page?
Fahd Aqlan: When I left Yemen in 2007, I found that most of the people abroad believed that Yemenis were no more than savages living in a desert! I understand this stereotype because Yemen always pops-up in the news linked with terrorism and scenes of desert and gunmen.
I tried to think differently and to use my business capacities of finding good things among bad things. That is how I realized that our amazing culture, customs and nature are the key to be used. So I started a Facebook group, which later became a page, browsing the Internet to find the best quality photos of our country and spread them to my non-Yemeni friends.
LVDY: Have you seen any impact?
Aqlan: The great reaction of these friends was the motivation to keep me going. Later on, I also started to receive many messages from Yemenis abroad telling me they rely on the page for their presentation they give on Yemen and share the photos with their own friends to break the stereotypes.
LVDY: What is the most interesting message you have received about the page?
Aqlan: From a Yemeni, it was “This page makes me feel proud!” and from a foreigner the most interesting one was “Are you sure this is Yemen?”
LVDY: What is the process to select the pictures?
Aqlan: On a daily basis, I search for photos on the Internet, and sometimes I also get some from photographers or page fans. I am not a photographer, so there is no technical condition for the photos to be posted. There is only one thing I insist on: the picture has to force me to say “Wow!”
LVDY: Have any artist complain to you about the use of their pictures or infringement of copyright?
Aqlan: I always put the name of the photographers on the photos so their work is credited. In some cases however I have no idea who the owner is, so I write “unknown” until the photographer or one of my trusted sources gives me the author’s name. This is not a commercial website but more like an online exhibition, but if one of the photographers requests to put down his photos, I will respect that.
LVDY: Are you organizing, or planning to, any activities in addition to the page?
Aqlan: No, I believe that it is the job of the government to market our values and to attract tourists. I still have hope that one day we will have a governmental organization to do virtual and physical showrooms to present the hidden beauty of our home.
LVDY: How do you imagine the future of this page?
Aqlan: I hope it will keep growing as long as we still have this beauty in our lovely home.
LVDY: Finally, is there a message you wish to share with our readers?
Aqlan: I want to thank them for their great effort all those who spread share the photos. And please keep it up to tell the world how lovely and beautiful this land is.
Interview conducted by Benjamin Wiacek
Selection of pictures posted on “So you think you’ve seen Yemen?”:
هذا المقال متوفر أيضا باللغة العربية