Category Archives: Agriculture

Charles Schmitz on AIYS

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Charles Schmitz in Sanaa

by Charles Schmitz

I was lucky to arrive in Yemen during the optimistic period that followed unification. By 1993, Ali Salem al-Baydh had already absconded in Aden and the expulsion of Yemeni laborers from Saudi Arabia took a toll on the economy, but there was still a euphoria for the new liberal era.

At the time, AIYS in Safiya Shimaliya hosted a score of prominent researchers headed by Sheila Carapico. Sheila was hard at work on Civil Society composed on a laptop with no screen—as I remember, someone had rigged a big dusty desktop monitor to make do. Iris Glosemeyer meticulously collected newspaper articles on every prominent Yemeni political family and could recite the names of the mothers of the Members of Parliament, as well as their sons and granddaughters, by heart. Anna Wuerth was a regular fixture in family court and the court of AIYS’s mafraj gatherings. Eng Seng Ho appeared occasionally in from the Hadhramawt to boil lobsters (it took a long time in Sanaa’s high altitude) or fix a laptop. Resident Director David Warburton somehow managed to keep the place running. These scholars’ guidance and support were critical to my research in Yemen, and my gratitude to them and to AIYS led me to later serve AIYS in the hopes of providing a new generation of researchers the same supportive experience in Yemen.

I took up residence in al-Hawta, Lahj, to observe the reestablishment of property rights in agricultural land. Though completely rudderless, the Yemeni Socialist Party still controlled the south. Those with foresight in Lahj at the time were the Islahi activists in the rebuilt Ministry of Religious Endowments who were well prepared for their post-war reign of terror in al-Hauta. For comic relief, I would join the resident Abdali clan members whose stories of the socialist years in al-Hawta resembled Garcia Marquez’s surrealism. One of the Sultan’s relatives spent four years locked inside his house before finally emerging to join the socialist experiment in progress. My days in al-Hauta were interrupted by the Seventy Days War of 1994. Though we all had hoped the daily peace demonstrations would prevail, deployment of forces along the former border foreshadowed a different outcome. I flew out of Yemen seated on the rear door of a C-130.

By the time I returned to Yemen in 2001, AIYS had grown significantly thanks to Sheila Carapico and Mac Gibson’s work in the early nineties. AIYS indeed had operated on a shoestring for its early history (see Steve Caton’s t-shirts), but tired of running AIYS with student help from her office at the University of Richmond, Sheila applied for new grants that allowed AIYS to hire professional staff. In 1996 AIYS under Mac Gibson hired its first executive director, Ria Ellis, who ran AIYS from her palatial home office in Ardmore, PA.  Ria and her assistant, Joan Reilly, not only administered an expanded AIYS but also produced a spree of new publications, including much of the translations series by Lucine Taminian and Noha Sadek and Sam Leibhaber’s Diwan of Hajj Dakon.  In the early 2000s under Tom Stevenson’s watch, AIYS landed a Middle East Partnership Initiative grant for a permanent residence. Hired as resident director in 2000, Chris Edens undertook the arduous task of finding a permanent building. Chris not only found a well located and suitable building, but also oversaw its substantial reconstruction and the relocation of AIYS from the Bayt al-Hashem location.

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AIYS Yemeni Fellowships 2017

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Some of the 2017 AIYS Yemeni Fellowship Recipients

Despite the continuing crisis, AIYS has been able to offer fellowship research grants to Yemeni scholars. This year, with limited funding, a total of 15 proposals out of 47 were awarded. Seven researchers out of fifteen who received AIYS Fellowship grants for 2017 gathered on Friday May 26, 2017 in the AIYS premises. Each researcher gave a brief presentation about his/her own research. The Resident Director of AIYS welcomed the scholars and congratulated them on winning the fellowship grant, wishing them success in their studies.

The researchers belonging to different academic specialties, including history, medicine, agriculture, science and literature.

Those present included:
1- Dr. Amat Al-Maliq Al-Thawr, Professor of History at Sanaa University, whose research is aimed to study the cultural relation between Yemen and Mecca during the reign of the Al-Qasimi Imamate State. She discussed the main objective of her research, highlighted the importance of such study and explained her methodological approach. Dr. Al-Thawr suggested that the Yemeni Imams paid great attention to the relation between Yemen and Mecca so that they had the final word on the religious and cultural activities in the Holy Mecca. She stated that her research is designed to provide a detailed study about Yemen’s relations with Mecca during that period.

2- Dr. Ebtisam Shamasan, a professor at Sanaa University College of Science, will study the nutritive value of the Indian mackerel fish species. She explained her research’s objectives, methods and importance. The researcher suggested that her study is mainly intended to explore to what extent freezing may affect the nutritive value of Indian mackerel fish.

3- Arif Al-Afeef, a Master degree student at the College of Medicine, Sanaa University, gave an overview about his research on the liver disease Cirrhosis.

4- Dr. Nabilah Al-Wasi’aee talked briefly about her research topic which focuses on a poetry collection entitled “Sanaa” by Yemen’s great poet Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh. The researcher said that her study aims to shed light on one of the most distinguished poetical works by Dr. Al-Maqaleh, who is one of the most celebrated and influential figures in Arab literature and culture in the temporary history of the Arab world. Al-Wasi’aee argues that this book “Sanaa” can be described as one of Al-Maqaleh’s most impressive poetical works. “It is filled with poetical images, symbols, rhythm and metaphors,” she said.

5- Dr. Monirah Jamel, head of the Psychology Department at Sanaa University, dedicated her research to study psychological impacts upon the teenagers of Internally Displaced People (IDP). She explained the objectives of her research that aims to explore the negative impacts of displacement upon the internally displaced students.  “My research is intended to study to what extent displacement can undermine ‘self-esteem and achievement impetus’ among IDP students in the secondary schools,” Jamel said.

6- Dr. Amirah Qasim, a professor at Sanaa University’s College of Agriculture, gave a brief presentation about her research on “Livestock Food Substitution.” She gave details about her research’s objectives, approach and importance. Her research aims to study how leaves of the Prickly Pear plant can be used as a food to feed animals, mainly sheep.

7- Saleh Al-Faqeeh, a doctoral degree student in the Antiquities Department, Dhamar University, will study “Ottoman Facilities in Yemen.” The scholar gave a detailed presentation about his research that aims to document the Ottoman civil facilities in the city of Sanaa.

At the end of the gathering, the researchers received the grant funds. As usual every researcher received 80% ($1000) of the total amount. The remaining 20% is held back and will be paid as soon as researchers get their studies accomplished and have submitted a copy of it. The researchers expressed their pleasure to get the Yemeni Researcher Fellowship, highly appreciating AIYS assistance at this critical moment. Some Yemeni Students who study abroad for master and doctoral degrees also received the fellowship. They made presentation about their researches via the Internet, so their funding was transferred to them.

Here we have to express our deep thanks to Mrs Heidi Wiederkehr of CAORC for her continuous contacts and tireless efforts she made to get the money allocated to the Sanaa AIYS office amid very difficult conditions.

Dr. Salwa Dammaj
Resident Director
American Institute for Yemeni Studies
Sanaa Yemen

Burrowes on Al-Eryani

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Abd al-Karim was one of my two best Yemeni friends (the other being his nephew, Abd al-Ghani), the man who taught me the most of what I know about Yemeni politics, and in my opinion the most important political force in Yemeni politics over the past generation.  He founded and shaped the old Central Planning Organization (CPO) in the mid-1970s, designed the multi-step process that led to the creation of the GPC and the consolidation of the Salih regime in the early 1980s, orchestrated the unification of Yemen and creation of the Republic of Yemen in 1990, negotiating the final border agreement with Saudi Arabia in 2000, and helped engineer the transition from the 30-years-old Salih regime in 2011.  Did anyone do half as much over this 35-year period? May this great Yemeni rest in peace.

Robert Burrowes, University of Washington, emeritus

A Hadrami date basket

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صناعة محلية %100
الخُبَر … جمع خُبْرَة وهي لفظة مستعملة عند حرفيي حَضْرموت، وهي عبارةٌ عن زنِبيلٍ مصنوعٍ من السَعَف يستخدم لحفظ التمور في النخيل قبل قطعه. وتسمى عملية وضع التمر إذا بدت عليه علامات النضج في الخُبْرَة بعملية القَنَامة. وتتميز الخُبْرَة بشكلها الجميل الذي يشبه إلى حدٍ كبيرِ شكل الخُف أو قارب الصيد فهي تتكون من جناحين متجافيين, طرفها الأول مفتوح وطرفها الآخر بيضاوي الشكل، وتقسَّم الخُبَر حسب حجمها إلى خمسة أنواع رئيسيةٍ … العُقدة وهو أكبرها حجماً، يأتي بعده كبير الحُوطة، فكبير سيئون، ثم الرُّبع الشافي وأخيراً الربع الصغير. وتعد صناعة الخُبَر من الصناعات الخُوصية التي تحتاج إلى خبرةٍ في إعدادها، فهناك خطواتٌ عمليةٌ خاصةٌ تحتاج إلى فنٍ وإتقان.

courtesy of Dr. Mohammaed Jarhoom

Yemen’s Grape Harvest

grapes1Photograph courtesy of Dr. Muhammad Gerhoum

Amidst the suffering that continues unabated in Yemen, it still remains a land famous for its bountiful fruits, especially the many varieties of grapes.  The early Muslim geographer Ibn Rusta stated that there were 70 varieties of grapes in Yemen in his day.  There are still many varieties, especially raziqi, ‘asami, aswad and biyadh. Grapes ripen in the northern highlands of Yemen during the hot period of jahr and are plentiful in June and July in the southern highlands.

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Photograph courtesy of Dr. Muhammad Gerhoum