SING ALONG WITH ... DANNA: Getting to the small Yemeni village for today's story was no easy - nor expedient - task for Danna Harman (page 1). First, it took a month to get a visa to get into Yemen. Once there, she spent another "five days petitioning this bureaucrat and that one until I was given travel permission out of the capital, Sana."
But just after the permission was granted, Danna was informed that several "guests" would be traveling with her, and that oh, by the way, she would be paying them. "These guests were government and military minders, all of whom were named Muhammad, and all of whom said they were working for Yemen TV," Danna says. "So me and all my Muhammads (my driver's name is also Muhammad) get in the Landcruiser and, together with a few Western journalists, as well as 35 soldiers with antitank and antiaircraft weapons, head up to the Marib region."
The only CD they had in the car was the Rolling Stones singles collection, "The London Years." Danna says Muhammads No. 1 and No. 3 hated it, and Muhammads No. 2 and No. 4 insisted on listening to it over and over. "The arguing about the Rolling Stones was getting so out of hand - what with most of them chewing khat [local leaves chewed for their stimulating effect], and the number of kalashnikovs and daggers in the car, I thought maybe we should try a singalong instead."
Danna says everyone was a bit reluctant at first, but after four hours of driving - and arguing about the Rolling Stones - and her regaling them with stories in Arabic, they agreed, and spent the rest of the trip singing Yemeni pop songs together.
GOOD PHIL HUNTING: Phil Smucker says that Afghanistan's Pashtuns - despite giving rise to the Taliban and the occasional kidnapping - are some of the kindest folks he's met in his global travels as a foreign correspondent.
"Some cultures and societies don't know the least bit about making 'a guest' feel at home," Phil says. "The Pashtuns offer up Afghanistan's version of Southern hospitality. They'll make you eat until you pop, and keep you for days, falling all over themselves to make you feel comfortable."
Phil says it's easy to see why Al Qaeda members never wanted to leave. "Unfortunately, some of them may still be lingering" (this page).
The Pashtun tribesmen in Moqor told Phil they would get him to Kandahar in one piece by passing him along from one tribal chief to another. "I'll probably settle for a few more cups of green tea instead," Phil says.
- Faye Bowers
Deputy world editor