The best of hospitality for tourist who became a hostage to good fortune

Click to follow
Being kidnapped is a traumatic, unpleasant and disturbing experience - except in Yemen, it would seem .

An Italian tourist who emerged from captivity yesterday could not have been more delighted. Giorgio Bonanomi, 49, was released on Sunday night after five days as a hostage. While in captivity he was fed with the tastiest morsels of local food, kept clean and allowed to write letters to his girlfriend, he said. "They treated me very well, always leaving me the best things to eat," he added.

"I am perfectly fine. I was never afraid for a moment, and it was a very interesting experience," Mr Bonanomi told the Italian news agency Ansa. "We have another seven days here and I certainly don't want to miss them.

"Yemen is a beautiful country and all in all I was a guest, even if an enforced one, of very interesting people."

Yemen, a mountainous and green corner of the Arabian peninsula which the Romans named Arabia Felix, is one of the wildest places on earth. It is partly inhabited by heavily-armed tribesmen for whom a Kalashnikov hardly counts as a serious weapon; rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns are ubiquitous, and some tribes run to tanks and heavy artillery.

Tribal groups have regularly seized hostages, either as pawns in internal battles, or to win concessions from the government and oil companies.

But they are nearly always treated with scrupulous hospitality. One diplomat returned from captivity some years ago with his sole complaint that he had been plied with too much Johnny Walker Black Label.

Americans, French, Saudis, Italian and Germans have been seized over the past few years, but all hostages have so far been released unharmed.

Mr Bonanomi, a 49-year-old graphic artist, was freed after a standoff between the government and members of the Dhabian tribe in the remote and romantic east of the country, not far from the site of what was once the palace of the Queen of Sheba.

He was travelling with six other tourists when the armed kidnappers stopped their four-wheel vehicle at a desert road block.

He apparently regarded his sojourn in the desert as a highly-desirable optional trip, and said he would continue with his holiday.

"Too bad it's not possible to organise holidays like this, because it was fantastic," he said.