Yemeni Akhdam, or servants, are similar to hereditary castes, but are distinguished by their African features and the menial jobs they perform. Widespread prejudice places the Akhdam at the bottom of Yemen’s social ladder. Asked about the origins of the Akhdam, Yemenis say they are descendants of Ethiopians who crossed the Red Sea to conquer Yemen before the arrival of Islam some 1,400 years ago – making them outsiders in their own country. Most live in slum areas in the outskirts of the capital Sanaa and other main cities. They reside in small huts haphazardly built of wood and cloth, without basic services such as running water, electricity and sewage networks.
And you thought you had it bad.

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A boy plays on a makeshift swing near a slum area of the Akhdam community, where he lives, in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

Children from the Akhdam community play in a slum area in Sanaa. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

People are seen in their hut in a slum area of the Akhdam community in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A boy stands at the door of his family's hut in a slum area of the Akhdam community in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A poster of Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh hangs inside the hut of an Akhdam family in a slum area in Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A boy lies in a baby hammock in his family's hut in a slum area of the Akhdam community in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A woman from the Akhdam community applies traditional Henna dye on her husband's head in their hut at a slum area in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A woman applies traditional Henna dye on the legs of her daughters in their hut in a slum area of the Akhdam community near Sanaa. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A man poses for a photo with his grandchildren in their hut in a slum area of the Akhdam community in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

Women stand by the door of their hut in a slum area of the Akhdam community in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A woman and her granddaughter stand at the door of their hut in a slum area of the Akhdam community in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A woman from the Akhdam community holds her son in a slum area in Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A girl collects water from a makeshift well at a slum area of the Akhdam community in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A man from the Akhdam community sleeps on the side of a street in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A girl carries a jerry can filled with water she collected from a makeshift well in a slum area of the Akhdam community in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A man from the Akhdam community cooks chicken feet outside his hut in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A woman from the Akhdam community poses for a photo in a slum area in Yemen's south-western city of Taiz. Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi /Reuters

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

Ahlam Salem, 15, moves in an ally in a slum area in Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A general view of a slum area of the Akhdam community in Sanaa. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A boy stands at the door of his family's hut in a slum area in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

Street cleaners from the Akhdam community collect garbage in Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz. Khaled Abdullah/REUTERS

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A woman from the Akhdam community with traditional Henna makeup on her face stands outside her hut in a slum area in Yemen's south-western city of Taiz. Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi /Reuters

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

Children play in an abandoned hut in a slum area of the Akhdam community in Yemen's western port city of Houdieda. Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi /Reuters

The Life Of The Yemeni Servant Classes

A view of a slum area of the Akhdam community in Sanaa. Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi /Reuters

Nov 21, 2012