As I quickly found out – the things you think you know – don’t always add up to reality.
One of the biggest misconceptions I had (primarily because I had never been there before) was the whole “Is it safe to travel to Yemen?” thing. When I told friends and colleagues in America that I was indeed going to go… my remarks were met with the “Are you sure that you’ll be safe?” line of questions.
The answer to that question came very quickly in the form of a resounding: “Yes!” I felt right at home and safe the entire time I was a guest of Elaghil Trading.
Once I arrived, I was completely blown away by the friendly attitude of everyone I met. Elaghil Trading is a well-known, very diversified, and highly respected corporation in the capital city of Sana’a, Yemen. Elaghil Trading owns the country’s largest Volvo dealership, as well as distributorships for major kitchen appliances used in residential and commercial applications. I was hired to work with its Countertop operation specializing in solid surface fabrication; Avonite and Hannex are among the brands it represents.
Three-quarters of the entire country’s population is located in Sana’a – and there are only three solid surface fabricators in the capital city. Elaghil is one of those three firms. That is an opportunity any company would LOVE to have. In contrast, my hometown, Phoenix, has close to 200 Fabricators in this market.
Once I settled into training mode with the Fabricators at Elaghil, it was very apparent to me that the guys in the shop have what it takes to be world-class craftsmen – as they all possessed the skill sets required to work with solid surface products, but most importantly they all had a burning passion for quality and a dedication to work as a team. My counterpart during my stay in Yemen, Khalid Elaghil, is the grandson of the founder of the corporation. Khalid acted as my interpreter for all of my days of training with the shop personnel didn’t speak much English. Khalid and I quickly developed a close friendship, and even though I am old enough to be his dad, we found working with one another to be way more fun than actual work.
While “in country”, I was able to visit Elaghil’s beautiful showroom in downtown Sana’a. I also had the chance to tour one of its two competitor’s showrooms to see the contrast in style and display between the three companies.
After just a couple of days I noticed many similarities, but also some differences in the way that things are done in Yemen. One of the greatest differences that stood to me was the type of cabinets common in Yemen: Aluminum. Maybe I just haven’t been around enough of the world, but I was really surprised to learn that the majority of cabinets installed in both residential and commercial applications are made completely from stamped and anodized aluminum sheets.
Another thing that took a little getting used to was the Yemeni style of work day hours and the work week in general. Here in the United States, we typically work Monday through Friday, around 8 to 10 hours a day. In Yemen, their “Monday” starts on Saturday, and they work every day through Wednesday with Thursday being a “half day”. Since the country is 99 percent Muslim, Fridays are what we in the United States normally recognize as “Sunday.” As far as Yemeni work hours go – here’s another cultural difference: they start at around 8 a.m. in the morning and work until 1 p.m. Lunch (the biggest meal of the day) typically lasts two hours. By 3 p.m. everyone is back to work and their work day continues until around 8 p.m. because the majority of the country is Muslim, there are multiple times during the day where work will stop briefly for prayer. This is very natural for the people of Yemen, and they structure their work day around this routine.
There are many similarities between us – “we” (the staff of Elaghil and myself) both have a passion for craftsmanship, and a desire to do the very best quality of work humanly possible. The techniques that Elaghil uses for fabricating solid surface countertops are pretty much like everywhere else. They strictly adhere to product specific manufacturer’s technical guidelines in their 5,000-sq.-ft. production facility. They produce a very respectable amount of countertop applications every day with the staff that they have on hand. They wanted me to help them “refine and streamline” their production process, and that was accomplished by the time I left for home. After you have been doing this as long as I have, you get a “sixth sense” when it comes to determining if an individual or a company has “the right stuff” in order to be successful in this industry. Elaghil has “it” and I’m sure we will be hearing about many good things coming them in the future.
Fun fact: Yemeni Airlines, the first commercial airline for the Republic of Yemen, was established by Dr. Elaghil's father.
Ed. Note: “Education on Location” at Fabrication Shops around the world is a service that is provided by AZ School of Rock. For more information, contact Kevin M. Padden at www.azschoolofrock.com, by phone at (480) 309.9422 or via e-mail at email@example.com.