So, there I was … I had a retired Marine Corps officer … and I had asked him to go to one of the most dangerous countries in the region at the invitation of our local representation. As brave a Marine as he was, he was justifiably nervous. To make him feel better, I said I’d go along. What was I thinking? This was, by the way, about three months before the devastating civil war.
We landed in Sana’a and were immediately met by the representative’s folks – two black SUVs, each with two folks packing heat. We got to the only hotel that was considered acceptable for westerners – nice set-back, extensive security. For the next three days, we had an amazing series of meetings with senior government officers and a great tour of the town. Not a single traffic light. With two cars driving at as high a speed as the roads allowed, even our rep after one ride (in the other car) said he was car sick and couldn’t imagine how his guys did it.
We were treated to a very respectable representative office. The ministries we visited were basic viewed from the outside, but as soon as you were inside the gates – peace and beauty. The final dinner with the representative was in downtown old Sana’a in a gloriously restored four story townhouse. Stunning. We got to watch a wedding next door from the fourth floor. It is such a shame that everything is probably gone in the civil war. Sana’a’s architecture was very unique. Also, the cuisine was the spiciest my colleague and I have experienced in the Middle East. As Texans, we could really relate. I am hoping for a full recovery for that impoverished nation.
Moral: There would have been little to offsets in this country – lack of a baseline in industry being a major issue. And, internationally, you do need to judge the use of your resources in pursuit of business. In retrospect (almost all hindsight is clear), we should have ignored this market. That is a hard call, especially if you have product in the market already.