A Dark Descent: The Streets of Yemen at Night

Lorenzo Meloni
Lorenzo Meloni
A boy sleeps inside a car in the southwestern city of Ibb, Yemen. August 2010.

28-year-old Italian photographer Lorenzo Meloni is fascinated by Yemen and its rapidly-changing existence. Last year, while traveling the country from August to October, Meloni found himself frequently shooting at night, unknowingly documenting the calm of daily life before the tumultuous uncertainty of the Arab Spring.

In Yemen, a country with a 99% Muslim population, the month-long observance of Ramadan breaks the country’s everyday routine. Life during Ramadan happens at night—days are spent fasting indoors, sheltered away from the heat and bustle of life. As the August sun sets each night over the port city of Aden, the streets stir to life. In Sana’a, the capital, qat is sold at market, and in Ibb, a southwestern city, new construction proceeds during the cool of the night.

Meloni shares his observations about daily life: “At sunrise, everybody goes home to shelter from the heat. People stop chewing qat in order to halt the amphetamine intake—otherwise sleeping would be difficult. At sunset, everybody gets together again. The streets fill with people. It is more pleasant to be outside and meet someone to eat Salta with, or to chew khat, or to complain about the president.

When Ramadan ends, daytime activities return, as do daily issues—young adults looking for employment to support their children and wife, wives walking miles to fetch non-existent water, a man going to the market to buy an AK-47, angry because things never change.”

Despite Yemen’s uncertain future, Meloni plans to continue documenting life in Yemen.

“Walking around the streets at night gives the feeling of traveling back in time, to a place where time has stopped,” says Meloni. But “with the calm of a long exposure, photography gives you the chance to lighten dark places.”

View more of Lorenzo Meloni’s photographs on his website.

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