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Amid a never-ending war, Yemenis find respite at the beach

MILES PARKS, HOST:

A beach in Yemen is one place where residents of that country can find a bit of relief despite nearly a decade of civil war. And there are some prospects for peace now that fighting has slowed. NPR's Fatma Tanis takes us to that beach in the city of Aden.

FATMA TANIS, BYLINE: It's a sweltering evening in Aden. Waves lap gently at the sand as families watch the sunset and swim in the Arabian Sea. I meet two teenage girls who are taking selfies.

(SOUNDBITE OF GIRLS GIGGLING)

TANIS: In between fits of giggles, they tell me about life in Yemen. Fourteen-year-old Zaynab loves it.

ZAYNAB: (Through interpreter) Life is good in Yemen. I think it's the best country in the world. I don't feel like leaving it to go anywhere else. I want to stay here.

TANIS: We're only using their first names at the request of their parents, who have jobs where they usually don't speak to the press. Zaynab's cousin Hanan, who is also 14, agrees. "Yemen is amazing. But," she says, "there are a lot of things that could be better."

HANAN: (Non-English language spoken).

ZAYNAB: (Non-English language spoken).

HANAN: (Non-English language spoken).

TANIS: "It's too hot, for one. There's no proper electricity. Everything is expensive." And she would like it to be safer. Aden is calm these days. The fighting in the last few years has mostly been in the north of the country. But memories of the terrible war remain fresh in people's minds. In 2015, the Iran-backed Houthi militia fought for control of the city but were pushed back north by the Saudi-backed government coalition forces. But for many Yemenis, like Mohammad al-Saadi, the war still isn't over.

Do you feel like the war has ended?

MOHAMMAD AL-SAADI: No.

TANIS: He's sitting with his wife and toddler on a beach towel, snacking on fruits and sweets.

MOHAMMAD AL-SAADI: (Through interpreter) We have to hope that things get better, but it's difficult. There's a long way to go. We need genuine intentions by the parties in power and good governance that doesn't exist.

TANIS: Al-Saadi hasn't received his salary at his government job since February of this year. It's a big issue all over Yemen as resources have been poured into war. Yemen has oil reserves, the country's main source of revenue, but it's unable to export it because of a Houthi embargo.

MOHAMMAD AL-SAADI: (Through interpreter) The people of Yemen are tired of this war, but the parties are only thinking of themselves. No one is thinking of the Yemeni people.

TANIS: At a cafe by the beach, I meet Basmal Ali. He's the manager of the beach resort. He used to live in Louisiana but moved back to Yemen to take care of his parents. He says most Yemenis aren't able to come to places like this and enjoy a moment's peace by the beach. The majority of the country lives under the poverty line. Access to food and water remains critical. And while people here are relieved that the war has slowed down, it's not clear what happens next. Ali says the future doesn't look promising. He says Yemen is two different countries now between the south and the north.

BASMAL ALI: A unified Yemen - I believe it's hard. After this mess in this war, it's impossible.

TANIS: Despite ongoing peace talks between the ousted government backed by Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels backed by Iran, Yemen will remain deeply fragmented and in need of reconstruction.

ALI: Yemen lost its dignity in this war, from this conflict. There is no winner.

TANIS: Ali says the world has already stopped paying attention to what's happening here. And without help, things could get tougher in this divided, impoverished country even if the war ends.

Fatma Tanis, NPR News, Aden, Yemen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALLAH-LAS' "YEMENI JADE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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