For the tourist with only a short stay, it is not difficult to get a good impression of Aden in two or three hours tour by car or taxi, since the Colony is small and much of it barren rock and sand. Most of the obvious “places of interest” can be visited in two or three afternoons, yet a surprising number of people spend months, even whole tours, in Aden almost without knowing of their existence.

Crater and the Tawahi Tanks

The shortest and most popular sight-seeing tour from Steamer Point is to Crater, the original commercial area and a town built in the hollow of an extinct volcano crater, on the opposite side of the peninsula. From Prince of Wales Pier the road leads past the Crescent and its shops and gardens along the front and through the Maala Straight, a new road on reclaimed land and rapidly being lined with new blocks of shops and flats, many of them service hirings. At the end of the straight, turning right at a roundabout, the road climbs past cemeteries – legend says Cain is buried here – to the Main Pass, cut through the central rocky ridge. Just before driving through this, a pause on the car park beside the traffic office at its entrance gives a wonderful view back over Maala to the dhow harbour and Slave Island, where the ancient craft of dhow-building is still carried on.

Rich bazaar

Through the deep, narrow gorge of the pass a wide, modern thoroughfare leads down into Crater. Turning left off this brings you to the residential part of the town and the sea at Front Bay – the Sultan of Lahej has a town palace on the front. Turn right, however, and you come to the municipal market and from here you can plunge into the network of streets making up the bazaar, a rich hunting ground for the shopper – luxury goods, souvenirs, cloth and everyday oddments crowd its many small shops. Or continue past the market to the municipal park enclosing the Tawahi Tanks – a series of vast reservoirs formed by masonry bonded on to the living rock and built by who knows what occupants of Aden in some distant century. They were discovered and cleared out by a British officer in the middle of the last century, but their origin remains obscure. They can store many millions of gallons of water – but rain being rare in Aden, often remain dry from year to year.

Also in this park is the little Aden Museum, built in 1930. It houses various ancient coins, weapons, soapstone carvings and pieces of pottery, some examples of local crafts – handwoven cloth, indigo dye work, calico printing and pottery – and samples of frankincense, myrrh and other precious gums.

Leaving Crater by the Marine Drive gives a fine view of the little township from across the bay and, crossing the sandy isthmus, brings you back to the main road to Khormaksar and so back to Maala. The Prince of Wales Pier to  Tawahi Tanks is 6 miles and the round trip to Crater via Main Pass and back by Marine Drive is 13 miles.

Sheikh Othman and the Gardens

Sheikh Othman, on the boundary of the Colony and Protectorate, is an Arab town almost untouched by modernisation and is a natural oasis and since the last century, the main source of Aden’s water supply.

Again, a circular trip is possible. Drive out through Maala and Khormaksar, past the RAF Station and civil airport, and you come to the salt works, once a most important local industry. Exports are falling off, but 168,000 tons of salt were exported from Aden in 1959. It is produced by a simple process of evaporation – sea water is pumped into the 3,682 acres of shallow salt pans and left to evaporate in the hot sun, leaving the salt behind. Pumping is done by windmill, and the flat landscape with its windmills has a look of Holland and is a great attraction to local artists.

Potters at work

The road continues past the Aden Protectorate Levies camel lines and then comes the first sight of green bush in Aden. On the outskirts of Sheikh Othman a little mosque crowns a hill: turn off near here and head for the open desert if you want to see the potters at work. This ancient local craft dates from before the invention of the potter’s wheel, so the craftsman walks – or, for larger vessels, runs – round the table on which stands the clay he is shaping.

Also near the mosque can be found the Aden Zoo – a small private collection of animals from Africa and Southern Arabia, including; lion, cheetah, monkeys, foxes, python and ostriches. Admission is -/50.

In the streets of Sheikh Othman goats wander, untethered and untended, at will. Here you may see the camel caravans that bring produce across the desert from the hills up-country. And here, too, is carried on another local industry, cloth dyeing.

Exotic flowers

But Sheikh Othman is chiefly famous for its gardens, both private and public, for this is an oasis with plentiful wells and boreholes. The township gardens are 47 acres in extent, bright with flowering shrubs and cannas, cool-looking with shade trees and even grass, while water flows everywhere in ditches.

Leave Sheikh Othman by the opposite direction from that you entered and continue across the desert (and past two new cinemas) to the roundabout where the road meets that to Little Aden. From here, return to Maala via the causeway road that passes near Slave Island, where you may see flamingos wading in the shallow lagoons off the end of the airport runway. The distance from Steamer Point to Sheikh Othman, via Khormaksar and Champion lines is 13 miles and the return by causeway road is 10 miles. A round trip, including the gardens, is 24 miles.

Little Aden and Bir Fuqum

This, the longest road in Aden, can be combined with the trip to Sheikh Othman. From Steamer Point and Maala it is usual to take the causeway road which, after meeting the Sheikh Othman road, continues along the sandy shore of the bay, giving distant views of the barren rocks of Aden proper. After a few miles empty sand gives way to camel thorn, palm trees and a small village, then, on the right of the road can be seen the beginnings of the new city of Al Ittihad, the headquarters and ministerial residences of the Federation of Arab Amirates of the South, for here the road touches the Protectorate border.

Silent Valley

It continues straight across the desert to cross an inlet creek and enter Little Aden, where the oil harbour, employees’ housing and refinery proper spread out over a wide area. Beyond the refinery the way leads through Silent Valley, so named because no radio will operate there, and past a growing Army camp. The end of the road is at Bir Fuqum, with a few refinery houses on a rocky ridge. Below, a little bay shelters a fishing village with curious, two-storey packing-case houses, sailing boats drawn up on the beach and hordes of raggedly picturesque children. The distance from Steamer Point to Little Aden is 20 miles and from Little Aden to Bir Fuqum 7 miles. The round trip is 54 miles. 

First view of Aden for most people arriving in the colony; Ma'alla Straight and Mount Shamsan, an 1,800 ft high extinct volcano. (author)

Looking across the harbour towards Ma'alla Straight flats from the Air Sea Rescue Squadron jetty in 1963. (author)

Aden Harbour in reflective mood in 1962 with Mount Shamsan rising in the background and Arab dhows littered in all directions (Robin Morrell)

This fine street scene, taken in the south west part of The Crescent in 1962, contains a wide selection vehicles of the period (Ken Rochester)

Perched on top of a rocky outcrop, the Governor's Residence at Steamer Point as seen from the main coast road in 1962 (Ken Rochester)

Little Ben looking down on Steamer Point from across the harbour in 1960 (Ronnie Hush)

The dominant feature of an otherwise featureless land, the 1,800 ft Mount Shamsan towers above the harbour and settlements below. (author)

Looking down on RAF Khormaksar and the Army lines from Mount Shamsan in 1964. The main runway can just be made out (author)

Crater town from the top of Shamsan, 02-64 (author)

A rare and frightening sight was an Adeni dust storm as depicted in this 1967 view of RAF Khormaksar as it is about to be engulfed (Malcolm Stelfox)

The photograph was taken from the roof of Pioneer Block overlooking the Astra Cinema and floodlit football pitch. Several airmen can be seen walking nonchalantly in the direction of the swimming pool.

This view looking out across Aden Harbour was taken from Steamer Point (Roger Wilkins)

View of Aden Harbour as seen from the road leading from Khormaksar to Maala (Roger Wilkins)

The dual carriageway that led from Khormaksar to Steamer Point as seen from the balcony of an Officer's hiring in 1962 (Robin Morrell)

Looking down towards the northern end of Ma'alla Straight and out across Aden Harbour, 1962 (Robin Morrell)

Cinema, possibly near Tarshyne. Can anyone confirm and name it please? (Roger Wilkins)

A distant view of Shamsan from the coast road off the eastern end of the Khormaksar runway in 1964 (Roger Wilkins)

One of several shanty towns in the Colony, this one was located near one of the Army Lines outside Khormaksar (Roger Wilkins)

A common sight for those travelling from Khormaksar through Maala was this Shanty town, rising from the base of Shamsan mountain (Roger Wilkins)

The Avon engine not only powered the Hunters but also the Khormaksar Power Station, pictured here outside the main gate in 1964. (Roger Wilkins)

Looking up towards Crater Pass, 1963 (author)

The summit of Crater Pass and Taff John surveys the commemorative inscription marking the re-construction of the Pass (author)

Two views of the Tawahi water tanks taken by Roger Wilkins in 1964. The water level looks quite low at the time of Roger's visit

This view shows just how deep within the rock formation the tankage area was

Another low-level view, this time looking through a gap in lower Shamsan mountain towards Crater (Richard Grevatte-Ball)

Looking across the rooftops of Crater town in 1962, the base of Shamsan in the background dotted with 'shanty town' dwellings (Robin Morrell)

The road out of Crater with the Tawahi tanks in the background, 1961 (Des Meek)

A view looking north across The Crescent towards Mount Shamsan (Pete McLeland)

Owing to a shortage of accommodation, Pete McLeland was billeted in the Aden Hotel while on detachment to Ksar in 1960 (Pete McLeland)

This is the view of the harbour taken from his room.

Close-up view of Aden Harbour from a Beaver pilot's perspective while on the approach to Ksar (Richard Grevatte-Ball)

A rare site in Aden indeed! A heavy rain cloud covers the peak of Mount Shamsan .....

..... shortly before dropping a deluge of water onto the Aden peninsular (both, Richard Grevatte-Ball)

Torrential rain flooded much of Khormaksar and drenched this brand new RAF Hercules, one of only a few to visit Aden (Richard Grevatte-Ball)

Little Aden and the Refinery, pictured from RAF Air Sea Rescue Launch, 2767, in March 1964 (author)

This ramshackle village was built close to the water line on a the beach at Little Aden, 1962 (Robin Morrell)

An isolated beach at Little Aden in 1962 - what better place to hold a beach party (Robin Morrell)

Target practice for the RAF Regiment Mountain Rescu Team at Little Aden in 1965 under the guidance of Sgt Stan Clinkscales in white (Simon Morrison)

One of many dingy back streets to found to the rear of the Crescent, 1961 (Des Meek)

Typical hustle of a back street somewhere behind the Crescent at Steamer Point in 1963 (author)

Further along the same street and a couple of urchins pose for the camera (author)

The cheapest way of travelling round the Colony was by Blue Bus, the inside of one being depicted here en-route to Steamer Point in 1961 (Bob Dargue)

View from the back of the Blue Bus .....

Many of the flats on either side were hirings for military personnel and their families.

..... as it travels down Maala Straight .....

Of note is the rickety wooden scaffolding on the new construction on right.

..... passing lines of classic British motor vehicles as it goes (all three, Bob Dargue)

This whole section of land was reclaimed from the sea in the early sixties.

Would-be passengers gather at one of the bus stops along the mile-long Straight in on 27-09-62 (Bob Dargue)

Many small back streets, such as this one, ran parallel and to the rear of Maala Straight (Bob Dargue)

A crowded market square somewhere behind the Maala Straight in 1961 (Bob Dargue)

Scruffy back street in Maala with its herd of goats, 1960 (Des Meek)

Arab traders set out their market stall in this early morning scene in Maala, 1960 (Des Meek)

The shy occupant of the Harbour Police Authority launch looks the other way while awaiting his next duty in Aden Harbour (Bob Dargue)

Bob Dargue and his friend Paddy manage to keep their 'fags' dry and alight while cooling off in a fountain (Bob Dargue)

Dhows ar rest in Aden Harbour awaiting their next trip out to sea, 1961 (Des Meek)

Typical dhow repair yard bordering Aden Harbour, 1961 (Des Meek)

Busy scene at Aden Harbour in 1965 (Simon Morrison)

A hive of activity in a typical Steamer Point backstreet in 1960 (Bill Horspole)

The statue of Queen Victoria, 1960, hidden away in a small garden off The Cresent at Steamer Point (Bill Horspole)

One of the more pleasant parts of the Crescent where goods of a better quality were to be found on sale (Keith Webster)

The tide is right and fishermen prepare their nets before heading out for the open sea .....

..... while another group repair nets from the previous day's catch (both Keith Webster)

'Juggernauts' of the Arabian seas, a typical scene in Aden Harbour with a pair of Dhows going about their daily business (Keith Webster)

A couple of Arab crewmen can be seen heaving on the rope in an effort to move their dhow alongside the jetty (Keith Webster)

Bringing your livestock to market Arabian style. This dhow was moored alongside a jetty in Aden Harbour (Keith Webster)

A view looking out from the jetty towards a variety of freighters and cargo vessels at anchor in the Harbour (Keith Webster)

Looking out across the Harbour from behind the Arab quarter in 1962. Note the 2 minesweepers and a frigate tied up at their births (Keith Webster)

The rearside view of Arab buildings seen from the same position (Keith Webster)

Flt Lt Keith Webster

A pilot on Valettas with 233 Squadron, Keith’s tour at Khormaksar covered the years 1961-62 and being a keen photographer, he made the most of the rare opportunities to take shots such as those depicted below. Many more of Keiths photographs are contained in other pages, details of which can be found on the Update Log page.

Aerial trip round the 'island'

Soon after dawn a few weeks before his tour ended, Keith took his camera for a low-level jolly’ round Shamsan in one of the S&R Flight Sycamores and captured images of the mountain and colony from angles that few will have experienced. The pilot for this sortie was Flt Lt Denis Keyes.

This first seven images depict a Sycamore lifting off from Khormaksar with Keith, camera at the ready, sitting by the open rear door .....

Looking across the 37 Shackleton pan shortly after lifting off with MR.2 WR959-F on standby

Keith was not the only one up early on that day; 8 Sqn groundcrew can be seen preparing their aircraft for operations

A view looking west along the 208 and 8 Sqn Hunter line and across the other squadron aprons as the Sycamore climbs gently away

Continuing on an easterly heading, the Sycamore crosses Khormaksar Beach and out over the Indian Ocean

Climbing up above Mount Shamsan, an unusually clear view looking north towards RAF Khormaksar and the broad expanse of beach

Mount Shamsan comes into view soon after XG518 commences its clockwise circuit of the extinct volcano

The aptly named town of Crater. The coast road connecting with Khormaksar can be made out in the bottom right

The town of Crater with the Khormaksar road leading in from the right

As Crater slowly disappears, the Sycamore .....

Overhead Sirah Island with its prominent Fort and the causeway linking it to Crater

..... flies round the more hostile-looking southern side of Mount Shamsan. There is no access road to this part of the former volcano

The headland at Steamer Point now looms ever larger and .....

..... Little Ben can be seen left of centre on the hilltop

..... as the Point is passed in what seems like a blink of an eye and .....

..... The Crescent quickly comes into view

The clearly defined curve of The Crescent and surrounding backstreets, cradled on three sides by the imposing Shamsan mountain

A quick look back towards Steamer Point .....

..... before flying low along the one-mile dual-carriageway that forms Maala Straight.

Many of the buildings in these rare birds-eye views were apartment blocks ....

..... let as hirings to the military

The northern end of Maala Straight

This stunning image was captured as the flight continued across the harbour towards a still rising sun

Continuing on and out over the harbour, a freighter lies at anchor in the clear green water

Two more views, this one looking down on an area of the harbour reserved for Arab dhows .....

The S&R jetty at Obstruction Pier is located near the top right of the photograph.

..... and a second looking across the harbour towards Khormaksar Airfield and Sheikh Othmann in the distance

Running in from the west; apparent in this view are 233 Sqn Valettas, 105 Sqn Argosys, 84 Sqn Beverleys, a Comms Flight Dakota, a few Canberras, Hastings and a Britannia

Shamsan forms the backdrop for this view of four Valetta C.1s on the 233 Sqn line

Another rare view, this time of Khormaksar Control Tower

The short sequence below was taken by Keith when enduring a dash into the Red Sea on Air Sea Rescue launch, 2767, in 1962. I do remember the fantastic engine sound though. I photographed the yacht because I was told that the crew were on a round the world trip, which would have been unusual enough in 1961/2.

Tied up alongside 2767 at Obstruction Pier is the yacht on the round-the-world voyage

Having done their washing, its crew were taking a well deserved break at the time.

Slave Island slips passed as 2767 cruises slowly out of Aden Harbour. The island once served as a prison in the early colonial days

The reflection of an early morning accentuates the power being derived from the crafts's twin Sea Griffon engines as the throttles are opened up

Way out in the Red Sea at top speed and with Aden disappearing in the distance

SAC Bob Hambly's collection

Jersey born and bred, airframe mechanic Bob Hambly served at RAF Khormaksar from 1958 to 1960 and has provided the following selection of images from his historical collection. The period colour views are from a set of rare hand painted coloured prints Bob bought while in Aden and date from around the early 1950s.

The Europe Hotel provides the background to this 1906 view of an arab water cart, a scene that is probably little changed today (Bob Hambly)

This view of Crater Pass in the early fifties clearly depicts the aquaduct linking the Tawahi tanks (Bob Hambly)

Until the late fifties, access to the town of Crater was through the narrow pass from which the Aden Bus Company bus has just emerged (Bob Hambly)

Closer view of the Tawahi tanks (Bob Hambly)

A panoramic scene looking north east across the town of Crater (Bob Hambly)

The district of Maalla and part of Aden Harbour prior to the reclamation of land on which hundreds of flats were built (Bob Hambly)

Maalla district looking north from the opposite direction to the previous photograph (Bob Hambly)

Arab Dhows at anchor in the harbour at Maalla (Bob Hambly)

Post Office Bay near Steamer Point (Bob Hambly)

Steamer Point with the busy Aden Harbour in the background (Bob Hambly)

Another view of Steamer Point with Aden Harbour in the background and the infamous Crescent shopping area to the fore (Bob Hambly)

Typical shanty backstreet scene in Steamer Point (Bob Hambly)

Located just across the airfield at Khormaksar, the area known as the Salt Pans was dominated by a number of these attractive windmills (Bob Hambly)

An everyday scene throughout Aden; camel convoys provided the primary means of transport for most of the Protectorates trade (Bob Hambly)

Bob Hambly with his dhobi shoe cleaner on the balcony of Block 6 in 1959 (Bob Hambly)

Looking east across the back of Crater from Shamshan in 1960 (Bob Hambly)

Vital fuel storage tanks occupied a large area to the north east of Maalla (Bob Hambly)

The old cinema at Maalla is reflected in this view across the perfectly still waters of Aden Harbour (Bob Hambly)

A typical Aden Harbour scene of 1960, with cruise liner, freighters and a plethora of small boats used for ferrying passengers and goods (Bob Hambly)

View of the harbour from the same point on the same day looking north towards RAF Khormaksar in the distance (Bob Hambly)

Emitting a certain arabian charm, this little kiosk was located on the main road near Steamer Point, 1960 (Bob Hambly)

SAC Ray Jones's collection

Ray served on 37 Squadron (Shackletons) at Khormaksar from 1959 to 1961 and has provided the following selection of coloured images from his collection. They were all taken in 1960.

Crater and Sirah Island from Shamsan

Looking across the peninsular towards Khormaksar from Shamsan

Little Aden from Shamsan

Little Aden from Shamsan

Outskirts of Crater village from Shamsan

The approach road into Crater

Aden Harbour near Steamer Point

Aden Harbour near Steamer Point

Approaching Steamer Point

Typical street scene by Steamer Point bus stop

Queen Victoria's Statue at Steamer Point

The Governor's residence on a distant rocky outcrop

Elephant Bay from above SNCOs Club and Pool

Elephant Bay from above SNCOs Club and Pool

Shamsan from Steamer Point area