Aden's Social Tapestry: The Crescent Hotel and Goldmohur Days

Dive into the vibrant social scene of Aden's past, where the youthful energy of BP Bunkering, Luke Thomas, Besse, government offices, and the American consulate converged. At the heart of this bustling social life were the Crescent Hotel and Goldmohur Beach. Thursday nights at the Crescent Hotel's roof terrace buzzed with dances, where fashion met festivity under the stars, while Sundays at Goldmohur Beach promised sun-soaked relaxation and adventurous outings. Ann Berryman (now Atkinson), a former Aden Airways hostess, recalls these halcyon days with nostalgia, painting a picture of a community knit together by music, fashion, and the shared pursuit of leisure.

Whilst the older generation were sipping their pink gins at the Union Club in Steamer Point the young singles and couples from BP Bunkering, Luke Thomas, Antonin Besse, Government offices and the American consulate had a busy social scene centred on the Crescent Hotel and Goldmohur.

Dances to recorded music were held on Thursday evenings on the open roof terrace of the Crescent Hotel, it was a weekly ‘must attend’ social event and tables had to be reserved well in advance. The girls wore their prettiest dresses and the men looked dashing in ‘Red Sea Kit’. In the hot months this consisted of white trousers, white short sleeved shirt with or without a bow tie and a black cummerbund. In the cooler months a black dinner suit could be worn or black trousers with a white ‘sharkskin’ jacket made by a tailor in the bazaar.

Sunday evenings on the Crescent Hotel roof were devoted to classical music concerts, again from records, and this was a relaxing way to recover from the sun after a hectic day on the beach.

Goldmohur was an anti-shark netted corner of a deserted beach with a rickety diving board, a barnacle strewn raft, communal showers and dilapidated huts around a bar under the Gold Mohur trees, this seemingly un-prepossessing place was the most magical and important place in the universe, especially on Sundays!

Mohamed Ali, our Yemeni cook would have the picnic basket ready by 6am, filled with fried egg sandwiches and flasks of tea and fresh lime juice. After driving through Steamer Point we eventually reached the traffic light (I think it was the only one in Aden at that time) on the narrow one-way bridged-road that went down into Elephant Bay and then onto Goldmohur – from the bridge to Goldmohur there was nothing but sand – no buildings, no people.

Gradually friends would arrive and we all had own favourite places to sit and would spend the day in and out of the water- playing our own version of water polo if the tide was in or just cooling in the shallows if the tide was out.

You had to be careful around the raft and diving board because if you were cut by the barnacles the wounds took ages to heal in the humid atmosphere. We could walk up to the lighthouse above the beach and gaze down onto a deserted Conquest Bay which was always known as a ‘no swimming’ area because of the heavy surf and threat of sharks. A good Sunday at Goldmohur meant you returned home exhausted, sunburnt and sandy; ready for the Crescent Hotel concert in the evening.

There were other safe beaches for swimming – Cable and Wireless employees had their own pool in Telegraph Bay, the shark-proofing was done with concrete pillars, and the Port Trust had a small shark-netted beach at Ras Morbut but neither of these had the social cachet of Goldmohur. The emphasis was always on safe bathing – the wife of an RAF officer was taken by a shark whilst swimming in shallow water in Telegraph Bay and I never confessed to my parents to swimming with friends in the surf by the elephant’s trunk in Elephant Bay.

One Sunday morning a group of us decided to climb Shamsan from Crater and go down the other side into Goldmohur! There was a vague pathway from the Tawila Tanks to just below the summit where I turned round and went back the same way – I can’t remember if anyone went down the other side.

It is at the Crescent Hotel and Goldmohur that I have the happiest memories of my years in Aden.

by Ann Berryman (now Atkinson) former hostess with Aden Airways.

This birthday party picture of 1947 brings together some of my contemporaries – Noreen Lowes, Jocelyn Tring, Patience Floode-Cooke and Lynette Shrubbs. Other names are long forgotten, maybe someone will put names to faces.

Goldmohur - an odd name you might think

Goldmohur, a notable area in Aden, was renowned for its delightful swimming beach, a preferred spot among the elite. The name 'Goldmohur' originates from a tree species once common in this region. Known scientifically as Poinciana regia Bojer, this tree is also referred to as the Gold Mohur Tree, Flamboyante, or Flame tree, celebrated for its striking appearance.

In a different historical context, 'Gold Mohur' was the term for a gold coin offered to British soldiers in India as an incentive. This coin was given to those who chose to marry a local Indian woman and extend their stay in India, rather than returning frequently to England for leave. This practice aimed to encourage soldiers to establish deeper connections with the local community and maintain a more consistent British presence in the region.