In Yemen, the honey of war

Beekeepers collecting their honey near Atak, Chabwa province, November 16.

You will meet them at night on the roads, mountains of wooden lockers stowed in the backs of their pick-ups. In Warring Yemen, no one travels as much as the beekeepers. They migrate with their hives. They run after the flowers. The others can kill each other, the roads are covered with checkpoints and shells fall from time to time… They pass.

The soldiers “are afraid of our bees. We spend most of the time without control. »Saïd Al-Aulaqi, 40, beekeeper in Chabwa

It must be said that Yemenis do not joke with honey. In this little industrialized country, strewn with vertiginous mountains, this liquid gold is renowned as one of the best in the Middle East, and even in the world. We will not enter the national debate, that of knowing which province holds the prize. The soldiers at the roadblocks are not unaware of it: some beekeepers earn a very honorable living, but it would be inappropriate to ransom these small peasants. “Either way, they’re afraid of our bees. We spend most of the time without control ”, laughs Saïd Al-Aulaqi, 40, a beekeeper in Chabwa, in the south of the country.

A road hampered by the fighting

This little man, all in nerves and in good humor, aspires, for his bees, to leave his region and this valley, which pierces a majestic rocky plateau, a few kilometers from the capital, Atak. The flowering is finished here, he must go and put his hives elsewhere. But, for now, ” it does not go through “, he said grumbling. The fighting between the army and the Houthi rebels makes it impossible to use the road connecting Marib, the large tribal town in the north, to the mountains that surround the capital, Sanaa.

Three days earlier, even the qat sellers, these other great nomads, were no longer coming. Impossible to find a bunch of this gently euphoric herb, with properties similar to cocaine, cultivated in the highlands of the North, in rebel territories, and which is chewed fresh, everywhere in the country, the very day of its picking.

“When you move around, bees become unpredictable: it’s hard to guess what they need. »Farea Al-Muslimi, owner of beehives in Wessab

There is no question that Saïd Al-Aulaqi will set off without certainty. His bees, he must transport them at night, while they sleep. If he were surprised by daylight, without having been able to install them properly, they might flee, disoriented. And if he kept them locked in the hives, the heat would strain their wax. In France too, the beekeepers of Provence fear the gasoline failure when they transport their hives, at night, from the mountains to the lavender fields, depending on the blooms. Saïd Al-Aulaqi therefore keeps abreast of the state of the fronts on one of the many WhatsApp groups of his corporation.

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