A Wedding in the Town of Al-Qaeda

An unexpected wedding invitation to an unfortunately named town highlights Yemen's promise — and its challenges. An evening with the villagers of Al-Qaeda

Holly Pickett

The mountains near the village of Al Qaeda. Lawlessness, growing poverty, a water crisis, a raging conflict with Houthi rebels in Yemen's north and clashes with separatists in the South continue to destabilize the Arabian Peninsula's poorest state.

The men were firing their Kalashnikovs so close by that I was certain I could hear the bullet casings cascading down onto the roof of the tent. A crowd of women swaddled in black cupped their hands over their veiled mouths to emit a wave of high-pitched ululations — a call of celebration familiar across the Middle East. The 16-year-old bride, draped in a sparkly white gown, henna tattoos running up her arms, sat silent and tearful as she prepared to meet her groom for the first time. I hadn't meant to spend the night in this tiny village in a...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!