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Daniel Martin Varisco is President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies.

AIYS at MESA Update

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The annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) in San Antonio, Texas, is only a little over a month away. Yemen will be well represented this year, both in AIYS sponsored panels and individual papers. The AIYS General Information meeting, to which all are invited, will be Friday, November 16, 4-5 in room Mission B (2).

Here are the panels and papers on Yemen:
Friday, November 16, 11-1, AIYS Panel
(5224) Anthropology in War-Torn Yemen: Challenges, Dilemmas, and Alternative Methodologies.
Organizers: Susanne Dahlgren and Marina de Regt
Chair: Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Hobart & William Smith Colls.
Marina de Regt, Vrije Universiteit-Amsterdam-Finding Ways to Work on Yemen: A Plea for Engaged Scholarship
Susanne Dahlgren, U of Tampere/National U of Singapore-Securitized Yemen: Studying a Popular Revolution in the Shadow of War, Drones and Terrorism
Nathalie Peutz, NYU-Abu Dhabi-Fieldwork in a Yemeni “Village” Displaced and Constituted by War

Saturday, November 17, 8:30-10:30
(5307) Unorthodoxies Shi’ism, Sufism, Feminism
Michael Dann, U of Illinois-Zaydi and Imami Appropriations of Early Shi’i Hadith Narrators

Saturday, November 17, 11-1 AIYS Panel
(5057) The Birth of Modern Yemen: Internal Views of the 1960s Civil War
Organizer: Marieke Brandt
Chair: J. E. Peterson, Tucson, Arizona
Marieke Brandt, Austrian Academy of Sciences-A Tribe and Its States: Yemen’s 1972 Bayhan Massacre Revisited
Joshua Rogers, SOAS, U of London-Aid and Taxes: A Political Economy Analysis of the Civil War in North Yemen 1962-1970
Gabriele Vom Bruck, SOAS, U of London-Domestic Photography and Memories of Loss in Northern Yemen
Zaid Alwazir, Yemen Heritage & Research Center-The Third Force’s Role in Yemen’s Peacemaking and Achieving National Reconciliation (1964-1970)

Saturday, November 17, 3-5
(5118) Challenges Facing Yemen’s Millennia-Long Cultural Heritage (Roundtable)
Organizer: Mac Skelton, Johns Hopkins U
Chair: Sama’a Al-Hamdani, Yemen Cultural Institute for Heritage and the Arts
Alexander Nagel, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History
Najwa Adra, American Institute for Yemeni Studies and Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Nathalie Peutz, NYU Abu Dhabi
Sabine Schmidtke, Institute for Advanced Study

Saturday, November 17, 3-5
(5059) Beyond the Written Word: Unity and Diversity across Transmission and Transformation of Medieval Textual Traditions in the Arabian Peninsula
Anne Regourd, CNRS, UMR 7192-Questioning the Birth of a Tradition
Corrado la Martire, U of Cologne-How to Conceal the Tradition into the Text: Tayyibi Isma’ili “Codes of Conduct” (adab al-du’at) between Yemen and India

Sunday, November 18, 1:30-3:30
(5105) The Indian Ocean without Boundaries: A Historical Perspective
Organizer: Daniel Martin Varisco
Chair: Roxani Margariti, MESAS Department, Emory U
Craig Perry, U of Cincinnati-The Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean before 1500: Evidence and Interpretive Challenges
Andre Gingrich, Austrian Academy of Sciences-Local Knowledge in Pre-Colonial Maritime Interactions
Marina Tolmacheva, Washington State U-Managing Monsoons: Mamluk-Era Voyaging East
Daniel Martin Varisco, American Institute for Yemeni Studies-Sailing with and against the Winds: Navigation in the Red Sea Indian Ocean Network in the Ayyubid, Rasulid and Mamluk Eras

Sunday, November 18, 8:30-10:30
(5279) Composing a Community of Words in the Islamic World: From Medieval to Modern
Emily Sumner, U of Minnesota-“In Our Sea Their Sins Must Drive Them”: The Righteousness of the Huthi Zamil

Sunday, November 18, 8:30-10:30
(5061) Medical Mobilities and Transformations in the Global Middle East
Shireen Hamza, Harvard U-Stretching the Body: Preparing to Travel in the Indian Ocean World

Egyptian Expedition Yemeni Manuscript List

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In December, 1951, an Egyptian delegation led by Fu’ād Sayyid ‘Imāra, the head of Arabic manuscripts in the Egyptian National library, arrived in Aden on their way to microfilm Yemeni manuscripts. They were received in Ta‘izz by Imam Aḥmad and Foreign Minister Qadi al-‘Amrī and then flew on to Ṣan‘ā’, where they had access to the Western Library of the Great Mosque. They were able to microfilm about 300 manuscripts, including from the collections of the former Imam Yaḥyā and other private collections. This important bibliographic volume is available online.

The topics covered in the manuscripts copied were the following: 110 on kalām, 35 on fiqh and ‘uṣūl, 33 on ta’rīkh, 20 on ḥadīth, 20 on adab, 19 on tafsīr and ‘ulūm al-Qu’rān, 13 on lugha, 8 on Ismā‘īliyya and extreme Shi‘a groups, 5 on various subjects, 3 on qarā’āt and tajwīd, 3 on siyāsa and ijtimā‘ and 2 on manṭiq. Because many of the manuscripts come from royal collections, this is a great asset for anyone studying Zaydi Yemen.

tarikhtarikh2Selections from the Great Mosque Western Library

Continue reading Egyptian Expedition Yemeni Manuscript List

Yemeni Arts on al-Madaniya

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Despite the turmoil and suffering in Yemen, a number of Yemeni artists are continuing to write, draw, photograph and film. One of the more exciting online resources for this is the website al-madaniya, published in English and Arabic.  Current posts include an article on Muhammad Mahmud al-Zubayri, Art in prehistoric Yemen, Yemeni songs, the poets ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Muqalih and ‘Abd Allah al-Baradduni, several short stories and much more. All the articles are published in Arabic and English, so they are also suitable for anyone interested in learning Arabic.

As note in the “About” section…

al-Madaniya magazine is a platform for Yemeni art, culture and civil society. It aims to highlight and nurture Yemeni art, culture and civil society initiatives through contributions from emerging and established writers, photographers and creatives

The magazine aims to impact the way Yemenis view their own society by providing a space for its cultural, intellectual and artistic productions, and by highlighting initiatives bridging social divisions. By presenting all contributions in both Arabic and English language, the magazine allows the international reader to explore an undiscovered side to Yemen, which differs from images of Yemen created in mainstream media

al-Madaniya magazine is a project implemented by the Yemen Polling Center and made possible by the generous funding of the German Institute of Foreign Affairs.  Yemeni artist Ibi Ibrahim has been commissioned to lead the project and serve as the Editor in Chief.

Jon Swanson on AIYS

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View of Taiz

When I arrived in Yemen with my wife and two children in January of 1974, there were few researchers in the country save perhaps for Tomas Gerholm in Manakha.  On advice from Yemeni friends in the US, we settled in Taiz where we remained until the end of July 1975. In those days there was no AIYS so we were left to sort things out on our own. About a year after we returned to Detroit I got a call from Mac Gibson about a meeting at the University of Chicago to set up a research facility in Yemen. I thought this a fine idea and took the train to Chicago where I met with Mac, the late Manfred (Kurt) Wenner, Marvin Zonis, and perhaps one or two others whose names I can’t recollect.  We ended up meeting two or three times.

Under Mac’s leadership AIYS began to set up bylaws based on the bylaws of other research groups like the American Research Center in Egypt. It was orginally proposed that we might call AIYS the “American Research Center in Yemen” but this was rejected and we eventually settled on the American Institute for Yemeni Studies. I suggested that we include a rule in the bylaws barring anyone engaged on intelligence gathering from the institute on the grounds that researchers and research would be jeopardized if we were in any way perceived as government agents. This amendment found support and was adopted.

When I returned to Yemen in 1979, AIYS was in full swing with John Mandaville as the local director.  He and his family were welcoming and very supportive. Like many researchers I stayed there briefly before I found an apartment. Other researchers there at the time included Barbara Croken, Tom Stevenson, Susan Dorsky, and Steve Caton. Subsequently Leigh Douglas became director. Leigh later taught at the American University of Beirut where he was tragically kidnapped and later assassinated by a faction of Hizballah after Reagan ordered airstrikes on Libya which killed members of Muammar Qadafis family.

From 1981-83 my then wife, Lealan Swanson, served as director of AIYS and she is best able to relate that chapter of the AIYS saga. One memory of that period which will probably not make her part of the story is that while my daughter and walking in gulleys west of Sanaa near the international school my daughter pointed out a stone hand axe. I subsequently collected a number of these and left them at AIYS. They certainly confirmed the ancient human occupation of the Sanaa plateau and the possibility of productive archaeological research in the area.

This post is part of the anniversary of AIYS at 40. Click here for other reflections.

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Yemeni film at MESA

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Thanks to the efforts of Tom Stevenson, the new film Yemen: Kids and War, by Khadija al-Salami, will be shown in the MESA film festival on Friday from 2-2:55.

Below is a synopsis of the film:
It is an exceptional documentary, filmed in a country no camera can penetrate – a world exclusive. In a context in which the biggest international networks are unable to present images of this forgotten war, the Yemeni director Khadija Al Salami has entrusted her camera to 3 children who become war correspondents for this documentary in Yemen. Ahmed is 11, Rima is 8 and Youssef is 9. It is them who will recount the daily life of the Yemeni people under Saudi airstrikes. They meet other kids, collecting the testimonies of wounded children in hospital and those who lost their parents in the airstrikes. With the innocence of children, they also interview adults – a painter, a rapper, a model who has become ‘Miss War’ on social media – and ask them to send a message to those who they believe are the only ones who can stop the war – the EuropeanUnion. Constructed like a story tale, with no images of violence, this deeply moving documentary shows the cruel reality of war through the eyes of children, and the incredible hope that they place in Europe to put an end to the conflict.#Edith Paris

A Yemeni Pilgrimage to Mecca in 1825

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In 1241/1825 Ismā‘īl Jaghmān made the pilgrimage from Ṣan‘ā’, documenting every step of the way and what he saw in Mecca. The title of a recent book about this trip is Riḥlat al-ḥajj min Ṣan‘ā’ ilā Makka al-Makrama, published in Riyāḍ in 1426/2005. This volume describes his trip and provides detailed maps of his itinerary. It is available for download as a pdf at moswarat.com.

 

Michal Zurawski on AIYS

michal1Michel at Sabanco place (Old Sanaa, Harat at-Talh)

In October 2010, I arrived Sanaa for a 10 months scholarship to practice Arabic language and get experience of Arabic culture. It was a basic scholarship set on agreement between the Polish and Yemeni governments. From the Polish side it has been used mostly by students of Arabic language studies, however Yemen was not a popular destination. That year only I and one girl came (and there were 5 places).

The scholarship was a great chance to gather material for my B.A. thesis on an introduction to Yemeni dialects. Because of that, I reached out to AIYS about its facilities in Sanaa. I got some directions from Faraj, but getting to AIYS was quite challenging as it was in an uncharacteristic house, located in a small alley near the Republican Hospital in al-Qa’a Street. There I met Faraj and Stephen (AIYS director at the time).

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Date seller near Bab al-Yaman

I have spent some long hours in AIYS library going through dialectological books and dictionaries. It contained everything that was written on Yemeni dialects. It was a very enjoyable time, but also crucial for my B.A. thesis. Unfortunately, at my home University of Warsaw, there were not any positions for dialectology.

Continue reading Michal Zurawski on AIYS

Digging through the Dhamar Museum Ruins

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On May 21, 2015, near the beginning of the Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign over Yemen, the Dhamar Archaeological Museum, housing precious artifacts from the local area, was bombed and destroyed. As can be seen from the picture above, it was a complete leveling, resulting in the irretrievable loss of Yemen’s heritage in the region. The museum was clearly not a military target, and was not the only heritage site damaged or destroyed by deliberate Saudi bombing.

This year a CAORC Kaplan grant was given to Yemen’s Ministry of Antiquities to sift through the ruins and salvage what could be found. This is a new kind of salvage archaeology, excavating for material that had already been excavated and stored in what was thought to be a safe spot for preservation. Work has already begun on the difficult task of removing concrete and fallen walls in the hopes of finding relics that have not perished in the destruction. This is not a free-for-all, but an undertaking with scientific methods.

Pictures of the ongoing work are provided below.

dhamar6The team working on the museum site.

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Travels to Aden and Mocha in the mid 19th Century, #9

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This post is the last from the travel account of Joseph B. F. Osgood (1823-1913), whose Notes of Travel or Recollections of Majunga, Zanzibar, Muscat, Aden, Mocha, and other Eastern Ports (Salem: George Creamer, 1854) describes the Arabian coastline, like a 19th century Ibn Baṭūṭṭa. For Part #1, click here; for Part #2, click here; for Part #3, click here; for Part #4, click here; for Part #5, click here; for Part #6, click here; for Part #7, click here; for Part #8, click here.

In addition to coffee, Osgood discusses “kaht” (qāt)…

“[p. 234] After the heart is contented with smoking, kaht is passed round and eagerly devoured by the ruminating guests. The name of this choice and expensive luxury is given to the tender leaves of a tree, resembling in appearance and taste the foliage of the apple tree. It is brought to Mocha from the inland towns three or four days’ journey distant, in a tolerable condition of freshness, secured by the mode of packing. So delicious [p. 235] is it thought, that the day would be of little event which did not expend three or four dollars from the coffers of a rich Arab in the single item of kaht. While thus smoking or chewing, Arabs expectorate but little, although to do so would be thought no breach of politeness. Should he not be joined by those who thus make friendship end in smoke, sleep, ever ready to keep his drowsy thoughts from mischief, disposes of him until mid-day prayer, after which comes dinner.

[p. 238] After dinner the merchant washes and goes to his counting room, to smoke, chew kaht, write letters, and transact the business of the day.”