Time goes by in lotus dreams that have no memory of a past or reckoning of a future till we wake suddenly, and find anchor cast in the gulf of Aden.
…Red barren masses of stone, broken and jagged like “An old lion’s cheek teeth.”
…An astonishing aridity everywhere, all the more startling by contrast with the fierce verdure of the lands we have last seen.
Not a drop of rain has fallen here in three years, and no green thing lives in the place. Even the tawny hills rot and fall to dust in the terrible desiccation. The earth is an impalpable dun powder that no roots could grasp; the rocks are seamed, cracked, and withered to the heart;—the dust and bones of a dead land.
…As a coaling station and harbor from which war-ships may guard the entrance of the Red Sea, Aden is valuable; and therefore, like Hong Kong, Singapore, Penang, Ceylon—like everything much worth having in this part of the world—it is an English possession. There are wharves of heavy masonry; the governor’s residence, a verandaed bungalow shut in with green persiennes, standing on a little eminence some distance back from the water; and one narrow street of heavy white stone houses with flat roofs, fringing the shore.
A carriage is hired to convey us to the Tanks—the only bit of sight-seeing to be done at Aden.
These Tanks are of unknown antiquity and are variously attributed to Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, the Arabs, and—as a last guess—to the Phœnicians.
Historians, when in doubt, always accuse the Phœnicians.
In this rainless region, where water falls only at intervals of years, it was necessary to collect and preserve it all, and some one built among the hills huge stone basins with capacity of hundreds of thousands of gallons. These basins are quite perfect still, though the name of the faithful builder thereof has long ago perished.
Aden, Yemen, 1890
Source: Elizabeth Bisland, In Seven Stages: A Flying Trip Around the World, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1891