Yemen 1990

This is the last in the series of the bearded stranger's encounters with political leaders.

This is the only museum I know so I didn’t understand the incredulous looks the bearded stranger was giving as he walked around. I accompanied him because I only receive about one visitor a week. He told me there would be more tourists soon, he was the first to arrive in Aden since visas became unnecessary for some Europeans.

He checked with his finger that it really was soot which coated the walls of some of the rooms. He squatted next to the piles of ash and charred pages, all that remained of the library of 10,000 books and which our experts had covered with perspex. He looked at the furniture with the burns and bullet-holes, and admired the plastic lampshade attached to the wall, melted as if it were a dripping candle. He looked at the large hole in the outer wall: through it you can see the port where the naval ship had been when it fired the shell which made the hole.

The hole came from one of 94 shells which the rebels fired at this building, on its hill in the middle of Aden. In 1986 the building was the HQ for South Yemen’s ruling party, and the residence of the Marxist thinker and party leader Abdulfatah Isma’il. Tragically he died, in this very building, during the coup attempt in 1986. The coup failed but the badly-damaged building was abandoned as an HQ and became the museum - and  a memorial to a great man.