Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Many years before the start of the so-called Arab Spring, many international agencies had warned that Yemen could become the first country in the world to simply run out of water due to its fast-depleting water resources. It would be pertinent to mention that it is the country, which has one of the world’s oldest known dams, the Marib Dam. A verse in the Holy Qur’an says, “We made from water every living thing.” This is proof enough to stress the importance of water. When it comes to shortages; Yemen is not only running out of water, it is also dangerously running out of time. Isn’t it ironic that I am drawing such a gloomy picture, though based on facts, of a country that is nicknamed, Happy? Yemen is one of the oldest countries of the world and for thousands of years it remained one of the most prosperous ones. Even in the recent past, the situation was not as depressing as it appears now. During the 1960s, the port city of Aden was projected as the link between the East and the West due to its unique strategic location. It is an open door to the world. One does not need to pass through Bab El-Mandab, Strait of Hormuz or the Suez Canal. The port of Aden could have been much larger than Dubai and Jeddah ports combined. It had the potential to emerge as one of the largest free-zone areas in the world. In other words, this port could have become a global mall. In the northern parts of Yemen, there are untapped tourist attraction and these areas are highly suitable for agriculture. In addition to this, one cannot ignore the hardworking and skilled Yemeni manpower. Skilled workers from Yemen had helped build the civic infrastructure of various Gulf countries The Yemenis helped develop many countries but unfortunately they forgot to build their own country, which is today lying in ruins amid political upheaval. Yemen, north or south, saw more internal disputes and bloody wars that no place in the world has ever experienced. Simply put, Yemen turned from Happy to Sad Yemen. And I mean very, very sad. Now, Yemen is one of the poorest countries of the world. It lacks good roads, schools, hospitals and many things that the Yemenis should have constructed and they rightfully deserve. And most important Yemen lacks the presence of civil services required for the smooth functioning of civic life. Ironically, Yemen had over the past decades received huge funds in financial aid, not only from the rich Gulf states but also from many countries around the world. But those funds were not used for the development of the country. It is a known fact that the leaders of Yemen are billionaires at a time when the Yemenis are starving. And now, Yemen is not only in chaos, it is being torn apart by its own people and outside forces. Now, the international community and various Yemeni groups are trying to bring peace to the country. Yemenis agreed to sit around the table to discuss the future of their country. Once again differences emerged over the place for holding peace talks. It was, however, announced that those talks would be held in Riyadh. No matter what the world does for Yemen or no matter how much aid Yemen receives, it is only the Yemenis who can help Yemen regain its old name and be happy again. Yemen has been suffering for many decades. Instability and internal wars between the same people have wreaked havoc on the Yemeni society and no one knows the number of casualties among the Yemenis. Now, the Yemenis and especially women and children are suffering greatly. It is only the Yemenis who can solve their differences. It is very dangerous when you run out of time. Time doesn’t wait for anybody. Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Running Out of Time reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.