Category Archives: Hadramawt

National Geographic on Shibam


On April 3, National Geographic online published an article on the historic Yemeni city of Shibam.

In the heart of Yemen’s Wadi Hadramaut, a cluster of ancient mud skyscrapers soars above the desert floor—a beacon of mankind’s adaptability to the most formidable of environments.

At the edge of a desolate expanse of desert known as the Empty Quarter, the 16th-century Walled City of Shibam remains the oldest metropolis in the world to use vertical construction. Once a significant caravan stop on the spice and incense route across the southern Arabian plateau, British explorer Freya Stark dubbed the mud city “the Manhattan of the desert” in the 1930s.

Every aspect of Shibam’s design is strategic. Perched upon on a rocky spur and surrounded by a giant flood wadi, its elevated position shields it from flooding while maintaining proximity to its primary source of water and agriculture. The city was built on a rectangular grid behind a fortified wall—a defensive arrangement that protected its inhabitants from rival tribes and offered a high vantage point from which enemies would be seen approaching.

For the full story click here.


AIYS held two well-attended panels at MESA in Boston last week.  Here are some of the photos from the panel organized by Dan Mahoney on the destruction of Yemen’s cultural heritage:

Dr. Lamya Khalidi, Dr. Krista Lewis and Dr. Dan Mahoney at MESA

Dr. McGuire Gibson at the heritage panel.  Dr. Gibson was the founder of AIYS in 1978.

Dr. Lamya Khalidi, who also provided a video of Dr. al-Sayani, the current Director of the General Organization of Antiquities  and Museums in Yemen.

And here are photos from the panel organized by Dr. Marieke Brandt:

Continue reading AIYS at MESA

A Hadrami date basket


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

Safeguarding Yemen’s Cultural Heritage


Here is my personal blog post on MENA Tidningen regarding the UNESCO meeting I attended a few days ago in Paris.  AIYS was well represented at the meeting.  I gave an introductory talk on Yemen’s history and culture the first day, followed by presentations on Yemen’s intangible and movable cultural heritage by AIYS associate and anthropologist Najwa Adra, ethnomusicologists Jean Lambert and Scheherazade Hassan, Anne Regourd (University of Copenhagen), Leila Aliaquil (jewelry expert), Alessandra Avanzini (University of Pisa) and St. John Simpson (British Museum).  Speaking on Yemen’s archaeology were Iris Gerlach (DAI), Alexander Sedov (National Museum of Oriental Art, Russia), Sabina Antonini (Association Monumenta Orientalia), Michel Mouton (CEFAS), Zayd Zaydoon (AFSM) and Jean-François Breton.  Yemen’s architecture and built heritage were discussed by Renzo Ravagnan and Massimo Khairallah (Instituto Veneto del Restauro), Omar Abdulaziz Hallaj (GIZ), Marylene Barret (Conservator) and Cristina Iamandi (architect and urban planner).

The meeting was opened and closed by H.E. Ambassador Ahmed Sayyad, Ambassador of Yemen to UNESCO.  It was fortunate that Mohanad Ahmed Al Syani (Chairman of GOAMM) and Nagi Saleh (Chairman of GOPHCY) were able to make the arduous journey from war-torn Yemen to Paris and brief the delegates on the current damage to Yemen’s heritage and future needs for restoration.

Heritage Destroyed



The blood-soaked political battle to take control of Yemen goes beyond dead bodies, the wounded, the displaced and destruction of the infrastructure.  Yemen’s rich and irreplaceable Islamic heritage is also under attack.  In the Hadramawt, al-Qaeda has razed one of the many shrines, most under waqf control.  The pictures here are of the  tomb of al-Habib Hamad bin Salih bin Shaykh Abu Bakr bin Salim in the area of Sha’b al-Nur in the directorate of al-Shihr in the province of Hadramawt.  What other important cultural and religious landmarks will also be destroyed as the madness continues?

My thanks to Dr. Mohamed Jarhoum for identifying the shrine, the photos of which were posted on the Internet.

Hadrami Hyena


The following Facebook post by Ibrahim Aljariri shows a hyena captured in the Hadramawt.

هذا الضبع الحذر كان يغير ليلاً ونهاراً على مواشي الأهالي في إحدى قرى حضرموت خرج كثير من الشباب في إثره بعد أن ضاقوا به ذرعاً ولكن حذر الضبع حال دون وصولهم إليه, فتجرد أحد الشيبان لهذه المهمة وسط سخرية الجميع فهذا الشايب قد شارف على السبعين من عمره والطريدة لم يأتي بها الشباب فكيف يأتي هذه العجوز الذي يكاد أن يرى أمامه لم تثنيه سخرية القوم حمل بنديقته التي رافقته طيلة عمره وذهب يبحث عن الغريم عاد عند المساء يسوق الضبع ذليلا بعد أن أصابه برصاصته التي لم تخطئ يوماً وسط ذهول أهل القرية جميعاً.. كان هذا الشايب أحد أفراد جيش البادية في شبابه ذلك الجيش الذي ولّد رجالاً لايقهرون.

New study of Shibam architecture


Abobakr Abdullah Ahmed Al-Sakkaf recently (June 2013) received his M. Sc. in Architecture from the Department of Architecture & Planning, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  His dissertation title is ” The Impact of Local Climate on Residential Building Design in the Ḥadhramaut Valley: A Case Study of the City of Shibam” [Translated from Arabic].  Below is an abstract in English of his thesis:

Traditional mud brick architecture has been used for centuries in the construction of urban centers and residential homes, buildings, fortresses, and mosques across the Middle East and beyond. Despite the historical importance of this traditional form of architecture,  which in countries like Yemen continues to serve as the visual record of a nation’s history and heritage, the scientific literature available is mostly restricted to identifying  the modern challenges to its continued survival and preservation.

Continue reading New study of Shibam architecture

Hirak and the Houthis


Southern Yemen After the Fall of Sanaa

by Susanne Dahlgren | MERIP, October 7, 2014

The mysteries in the September events in Sanaa loom large. Who decided that security forces should not try to stop the Houthis from entering the Yemeni capital? Why didn’t Hashid tribes, closely tied to the political elites of Sanaa, stop them? These are questions that southerners are asking when trying to make sense of what happened on September 21 when Ansar Allah, the militia of the Houthi political group, stormed the largest city in the north.

What many believe is that the Houthis were used by former president ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih to dislodge Maj. Gen. ‘Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, a long-time player in the Yemeni political elite and his former righthand man, and to weaken al-Ahmar’s political affiliate, the Islamist party known as Islah. For decades, the Sanhan tribe to which Salih and al-Ahmar belong has monopolized power in Sanaa, excluding not only the Houthis but also the biggest tribal confederation, the Bakil. These tensions have hindered state building in northern Yemen since the 1960s, but have very little to do with the south, where the hirak, a movement for autonomy from the capital, continues to build momentum.

Continue reading Hirak and the Houthis