Searching for electricity in Sana’a

Shady gasoline deals

One of my neighbors in Old Sana’a came by for a chat the other day. I’m sure he was attracted by the electric light that was bursting from my small windows. He’d just returned from a trip to Taiz.

“Sana’a has become a village,” he said, referring to shortages plaguing the capital. Villages often only have power for a few hours a day, run from a generator.

If you’d like to have power for more than a few hours a day in Sana’a, here’s a guide to doing it.

Step 1 – Buy a generator.

Its not as easy as it sounds. Larger generators are run on diesel and while you have to wait in line for four days to get gasoline, finding diesel in Sana’a is almost impossible. You’ll have to find  a smaller generator that uses gasoline. Their output is .5 kilowatts and you can barely run anything off of them. You’ll also only be able to find Chinese made generators of questionable quality. Somehow, my Yemeni landlord has rigged up my Mafraj to run a satellite box, a television, a DVD player, a few lights, a router, and charge a few laptops and cell phones. My only explanation is that my Chinese generator, with SUPER TIGER emblazoned on the side, has been blessed with defiant revolutionary strength.

Step 2 – Ghetto rig your house.

These .5 kilowatt generators only have one electrical outlet. You’ll have to find a place to put it outside and then run a giant extension cord into your house. In mine, we have rewired my mafraj to switch from grid power to generator power by changing one plug. I’ve also run one electric light fixture into my bedroom window. The light fixture also has two Malaysian power outlets connected to it, and I’ve run an extension chord to run a router and charge my laptop.

Step 3 – Find gas

The gas station lines are miles long, and you’ll have to wait days to get your car or gas can filled up. You’re going to have to resort to the black market. These guys are mostly from Marib, coming into the city to sell their stores of gasoline for outrageous prices. They’re hard to find. You’re going to have to go on the run with them to fill up your water jugs. I had to borrow a motorcycle from a friend and ride out to track them down. It took me about an hour before I found a few guys sitting in a strangely located truck, near an intersection on Sharia Khowlan.

It goes down like a drug deal.

“Hey, um, y’all got gas,” I whispered.

“Maybe, but it’ll cost you,” replied the two shady figures sitting in the back of the truck.

“Is it the real deal? Pink?” Gasoline is dyed pink in Yemen, similar to diesel in the US.

“Yeah we got pink, but that’ll cost you even more,” they said.

I’d heard horror stories of bad gas ruining cars. Some say that gasoline that isn’t dyed is mixed with cooking gas and can make a lethal automotive cocktail.

“Okay, gimmie 10 liters of the pink stuff,” I said.

They whipped out a few containers they were sitting on and filled up my two water jugs with haste.

“10 thousand riyals”

I protested vigorously. My Yemeni friend with me stared in disbelief. That’s almost 50 dollars, double the current going price. I relented, I needed power.

“Mubarak turned off the internet but Saleh just cuts the power,” said my friend, riding on the back of my tiny motorcycle, hugging the two precious water jugs filled with gasoline close to his belly.

Step 4 – Enjoy electricity…for now.

The box says you get 2 hours of electricity for every liter of gasoline. That’s not true. For 10 liters you may get six or seven hours, nowhere near enough to do a days work.

Step 5 – repeat step 3


2 thoughts on “Searching for electricity in Sana’a

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s