War leaves Yemen’s Aden hollowed-out shadow of former self

War leaves Yemen’s Aden hollowed-out shadow of former self

The mood is eerie on the mostly empty streets of Aden, Yemen’s southern port city and designated seat of government that has suffered three years of civil war.

Damaged buildings are hollowed-out versions of their former selves, a testament to past lives and aspirations of inhabitants who now scrape by on aid handouts and the bare minimum for survival. Shot-up storefronts and apartment blocks, carcasses of burnt-out armored vehicles and signs marking minefields now define the cityscape along the sea.

Violence, famine and disease have ravished the country of some 28 million, which was already the Arab world’s poorest before the conflict began. The conflict pits a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition supporting the internationally recognized government, which has nominally relocated to Aden but largely lives in exile, against rebels known as Houthis.

Damage inside a classroom of a school that turned into a camp for displaced persons in Khanfar, Abyan, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Crumbling, empty billboards line Aden’s rubble-strewn streets. An old Mercedes-Benz dealership, once a peg in a thriving commercial center that sprang up under colonial rule, sits empty and pockmarked with bullet holes. Its damaged sign now stands over bay windows boarded up by people sheltering inside. With the war still raging, nothing is being rebuilt.

Since the Saudi-led coalition began its bombing campaign against the rebels in 2015, the U.N. estimates that some 10,000 civilians have been killed. Millions need humanitarian assistance and have been forced to flee their homes.

The Mercedes Benz building damaged in Aden, Yemen. Once a peg in a thriving commercial center that sprang up under colonial rule, the dealership sits empty and pockmarked with bullet holes. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

On the beach, old pleasure venues also lie empty, broken and deserted. A shattered night club and a vacant children’s theme park are ghostlike reminders of generations past.

Even with a civil war in full swing, people seek some simple recreations and acts of normal life — young men get haircuts and women visit salons where a blow-dry costs 200 Yemeni Riyals ($0.80).

  The Associated Press reported this story with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.  

The Associated Press reported this story with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.  

Wedding boutiques are open till late at night, salesmen inside chewing stimulant qat leaves to pass the time. “Women come in and look at some dresses, but they are expensive for people now, so it’s hard to sell,” said one clerk.

“I am engaged and want to get married but how can I in this situation when I do not have a job?” said a nearby youth, who like most young men here has recently taken part in the fighting.

A girl pulls water from a well in the home of Ahmed al-Kawkabani, leader of the southern resistance unit in Hodeida, in al-Khoukha, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

 This Feb. 17, 2018, photo shows a damaged theme park in Aden, Yemen. The mood is eerie on the mostly empty streets of Aden, Yemen’s southern port city and designated seat of government that has suffered three years of civil war. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

This Feb. 17, 2018, photo shows a damaged theme park in Aden, Yemen. The mood is eerie on the mostly empty streets of Aden, Yemen’s southern port city and designated seat of government that has suffered three years of civil war. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

A damaged clock due the ongoing war ahead of sunrise, in Aden, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

A displaced girl from stands in her shelter in Abyan, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Youth play pool on a street in front of damaged buildings due to the war. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Women walk past Saudi-led coalition backed forces, leading the campaign to take over Hodeida, as they patrol Mocha, a port city on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

A sign with Arabic that reads, "danger mines, danger mines" on the highway from Abyan to Aden in Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

In this Feb. 13, 2018, photo, a man jogs on the beach after the sun sets in Aden, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

A ship wreck abandoned on the shore from Mocha to Aden in Yemen. On the beach, old pleasure venues also lie empty, broken and deserted due to the civil war here. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

A man smokes a traditional "shisha" water pipe inside his car parked his car in front of the beach in Aden, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Sand drifting over an empty highway from Abyan to Aden in Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Displaced girls pose for a photograph inside a school turned into a camp for displaced persons in Khanfar, Abyan, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

A girl runs inside a school turned into a camp for displaced persons in Khanfar, Abyan, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

A girl walks alone on a street in al-Khoukha, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

A elderly man walks past a damaged building from the 2015 war in Aden, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Damage and bullet holes from the country's civil war outside a women's hair salon in Aden, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

The interior of a women's hair salon in Aden, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

In this Feb. 12, 2018, photo, an elderly woman smokes a water pipe at the home of Ahmed al-Kawkabani, leader of the southern resistance unit in Hodeida, in al-Khoukha, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

The interior of a home in Mocha, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

A displaced boy and girl, who are not related and got to know each other recently due to the on-going war, joke in his shelter, in Abyan, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

The sun sets in Aden, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

War damage outside the Lelte boutique for wedding dresses on a street in Aden, Yemen. Despite the country's ongoing war, wedding boutiques are open late into the night, salesmen inside chewing stimulant qat leaves to pass the time. “Women come in and look at some dresses, but they are expensive for people now, so it’s hard to sell,” said one clerk. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Wedding dresses on display in Lelte boutique on a street in Aden, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

18-year-old Abdullah gets his hair cut at a barbershop in Aden, Yemen. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)


Text from the AP news story, War leaves Yemen’s Aden hollowed-out shadow of former self, by Nariman El-Mofty.

Visual artist and Digital Storyteller at The Associated Press