In 2012, Mikael Strandberg, along with traveling companion Tanya Holm, traveled 350 km (217 miles) across the Sands of Al Mahra in Yemen by camel. That journey took them into the heart of the desert and through a country that has had its fair share of turmoil in recent years. The expedition was as much about exploring a little known landscape, as it was about the culture of Yemen, a country that receives very little positive press from the mainstream media. Strandberg wanted to change this and shine a positive light on this unknown country.

In a time where the recent release of the Hollywood movie Tracks – about Robyn Davidson’s 1700 Mile journey Across the Australian Outback by Camel in the 70’s – raised the interest in camel supported journeys we hope Strandberg can shine an international positive light on the great country of Yemen.

expedition yemen

“You´ll die. Or get kidnapped by Al Qaeda. What you want to do is impossible!”

That is what all experts, analysts and the Yemenis themselves told me, Mikael Strandberg. But I have done the impossible. I have made my way into what many say is one of the most difficult countries in the world to enter, and one of the most dangerous. Together with the Swedish journalist, Tanya Holm, Kensington the Camel and a few of the oldest inhabitants of Arabia, the Bedus, I have traveled through one of the hottest deserts on earth. We didn´t meet any terrorists, religious extremists and nobody got killed. I didn´t even feel any serious fear.

What we found during this adventurous walk, in our search of the real Arabia, was a Middle Eastern country very different from the one portrayed in the global media.

mikael in middle of desert of Yemen

Strandberg therefore bought a camel and travelled across Yemen and some of the hottest deserts on earth. Some of the challenges that they faced along the way included physical exhaustion, angry sheiks, logistical hurdles, and as the name implies, some insanely hot temperatures. But along the way, they also met some amazing people. The people of Yemen, who are not always what you would expect. In total he has spent 2 1/2 years making a film that shows exactly this different side of Yemen.

Mikael with camel in Yemen

Strandberg explains:

My biggest worry since the day I decided to put all my life into doing a documentary about Yemen has been whether I would be able to do this great country justice. Even today, the news coming out of Yemen is as always extremely negative. This unfortunate fact also applies to documentaries made about Yemen, each one adding salt to Yemen´s already poor reputation as being one of the most dangerous countries on earth.

So Mikael Strandberg decided to do his own filming to do the country justice and show it’s amazing other side. The filming took part for three months in the end of 2011 and  for three-four months in 2012. In between he closely followed news and developments every day. Yemen had all his attention and he was determined to do a documentary which would show the other side of this amazing country. The overwhelmingly positive.

My first idea when I started out sketching how I wanted the documentary was that I wanted to do a journey across Yemen by camel. Camel, because I admire and love this animal and walking definitely makes a visitor get closer to the people one comes across, compared to for example travelling by car or bicycle. Also I didn´t want either a big team or a big camera accompanying me. I should keep it small and easy. Inoffensive and unthreatening.mikael in desert of Yemen

After much deliberation I realized I had to avoid politics, religion, bitterness, hatred and concentrate on doing what I have always done, meeting people during quite extreme travels.

I am happy I took this route, because I feel that I really have made a documentary which is fair, positive, funny and presents Yemen the way I see it. Like a great dream! It is kind of a road movie involving Kensington The Camel, Tanya Holm and me. Great nature, full of drama, beautiful, and an array of wonderful people and never ever boring. It took 2 1/2 years to figure it out; making a documentary is an expedition itself, full of obstacles and potholes. But in the end we managed to create  just a simple observational road movie which is not a political, religious or opinionated .

Yemen people

The documentary is called Expedition Yemen: 126 Degrees In The Shade and If you have an interest in modern day exploration, Middle Eastern culture, or simply want to see an alternative take on Yemen, then you won’t want to miss this film. It is a refreshing take on a part of the world that is largely misunderstood, despite some of the challenges that the Yemenis face.

(review by Kraig Becker of theadventureblog)

Sources: yourmiddleeast.com, mikaelstrandberg.com, expeditionyemen126degreesintheshade.com
Photo credits: Mikael Strandberg