Category Archives: Books on Yemen

Yemeni Manuscript Source


For anyone looking to find a list of Yemeni manuscripts in several European libraries, the International Treasury of Islamic Manuscripts is a good place to start.  As their website notes, “The International Treasury of Islamic Manuscripts provides a free online manuscript catalogue hosting service in Arabic and English. It guarantees hosting, security and sustainability. ” The library collections include:

A search with “Yemen” finds 243 objects. Details are provided on the provenance of each manuscript. Other relevant resources regarding manuscript collections are linked.

Old Books about Yemen


There is a very useful website with pdf downloads of old books and maps of Yemen in several languages, including a number of rare volumes.  This is accessible in the World Digital Library of the U.S. Library of Congress and UNESCO.  If you put “Yemen” in the search function you will find  over 75 books and maps, although the search will include other parts of the region later on in the list.  This includes the rare volume on Études sur les dialectes de l’Arabie méridionale  of Count Landberg and An Account of the Arab Tribes in the Vicinity of Aden by Frederick Hunter, as well as a 1914 map of the Aden Protectorate that you can zoom in on.

The Sanaa Palimpset


Oxford University Press, 2017

This volume provides a new annotated edition of the two layers of the ‘Sanaa palimpsest’, one of the oldest Qur’an manuscripts yet discovered, together with a critical introduction that offers new hypotheses concerning the transmission of the Qur’an during the first centuries of Islam. The palimpsest contains two superimposed Qur’anic texts within two layers of writing, on thirty-eight leaves of parchment collectively numbered MS 01-27.1 in the Dar al-Makhtutat (lit. ‘the House of Manuscripts’) in Sanaa, Yemen. The palimpsest’s lower text, which has been dated to the first century of Islam (seventh century CE), was subsequently erased and the parchment was later reused for writing another Qur’anic text, which remains visible in natural light. This upper text is thought to date from the second century of Islam (eighth century CE). The two layers were imaged in 2007 by a French–Italian mission.

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New Book: Arabia Incognita

In 2011, millions of Yemenis calling themselves the Peaceful Youth joyfully joined the “Arab Spring.” Four years later, popular aspirations for social justice and a serious attempt at national dialogue were thwarted by deadly domestic power struggles. When the pro-Saudi, US-supported government fled to Riyadh in April 2015, the Kingdom led a multinational military intervention inside Yemen. By December, daily bombardment had killed thousands of fighters and civilians, injured and displaced hundreds of thousands, and decimated homes and infrastructure. A naval blockade cut off access to fuel, medicine, and food for millions. In addition to this humanitarian catastrophe, the ensuing chaos emboldened al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and led the group ISIS to expand there.

Perfect for understanding the political economy, geopolitics and social relations of the region.Prof. Laleh Khalili, University of London, SOAS

Arabia Incognita helps readers understand this tragic misadventure by tracing the Arabian Peninsula’s modern history from Yemen’s strong anti-imperial movement of the 1960s through the present series of conflicts. The majority of the essays focus on Yemen’s colorful and complex internal socio-political dynamics; others draw attention to parallel, often inter-connected disharmonies inside the Gulf’s petro-kingdoms; wider regional upheavals and movements; and America’s deep, vast and very problematic security involvement in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula.


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New Book by Kenneth Cline


Kenneth Cline, who visited Yemen in the 1980s has a new e-book out called Tracking the Queen of Sheba: A Travel Memoir of Yemen.

The author’s account of a journey of exploration he took with a group of archaeologists to one of the most remote and exotic regions of the world, Yemen. In ancient times, Arabia Felix, or “Happy Arabia,” was home to a wealthy and advanced civilization that sent one of its rulers, the Queen of Sheba, on a famous expedition to visit King Solomon, her camels laden with gold and spices. Today, the country is an impoverished backwater, riven by civil war and tribal feuds. In this memoir, the author recounts the trip he took in 1984 to the Wadi al-Jubah, in the far eastern part of Yemen bordering Saudi Arabia’s “Empty Quarter” Desert. The archaeologists were on a quest to discover more about the ancient civilization known as Saba, which was almost certainly the equivalent to Biblical “Sheba.” Come along on the journey as the group struggles to conduct their research among heavily armed tribesman notoriously suspicious of outsiders — to the point where village boys will pursue a lone foreigner with a hail of rocks. And learn too what conclusions the group reached about the power of ancient Saba (Sheba) and the story of its famous queen. Highlighting the contradictions and ambiguities in the existing archaeological data, contrast the very different interpretations reached by two of the most eminent South Arabian scholars of their day, Albert Jamme and Gus Van Beek, regarding the identity and role of the mysterious queen. And learn too how this particular group of archaeologists was directly following in the footsteps of explorer Wendell Phillips, author of Qataban and Sheba, whose legendary 1950-52 excavations in Yemen could have served as the plot for an Indiana Jones movie. Things had calmed down a bit by 1984, but Yemen still remained a place where westerners ventured at their own risk.

New Book on Yemenis in Djibouti and Ethiopia


Subjects of Empires/Citizens of States:
Yemenis in Djibouti and Ethiopia
By Samson A. Bezabeh
Oxford University Press, 2016

Click here for information.

This fine study of Yemeni migration in the Horn of Africa by a
brilliant Ethiopian scholar should be a wake-up call for the entire
field of Indian Ocean studies. In a powerful critique of tired and
overused concepts like ‘hybridity,’ ‘transnational flows,’ and
‘cosmopolitanism,’ which have been routinely used to convey a sense of unity of the Indian Ocean world, Samson Bezabeh brings the state back in–and politics.”–André Wink, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Samson Bezabeh builds on Aihwa Ong and others to show how migrantnetworks and ‘cosmopolitanism’ in the space of flows of the Indian Ocean, are deeply structured by territorial powers of empire and state. His case of Yemeni traders in Djibouti is fascinating in its
own right and wonderfully executed. In Bezabeh’s hands it is turned
into an eloquent and important argument of taking state formations
seriously and refuse the facile opposition of flows versus hierarchies
that has marked much of migration studies, and of Indian Ocean studies as well.”–Don Kalb, Central European University, Budapest

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Passing of Mutahhar al-Iryani


The much-respected historian, linguistic and poet Mutahhar bin Ali Al-Iryani passed away at 83 years. The Ministry of Culture announced his death on Tuesday, 9 February, 2016. On this sad occasion the American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS) extends its heartfelt condolences to his family members.

The late scholar was one of the most celebrated historians and intellectuals in Yemen. He was really a man of great intellect and ingenuity. He had distinguished himself as a pioneer researcher and accomplished historian by his creative work on Yemen’s ancient inscriptions. He had made great efforts to decipher dozens of ancient inscriptions about Yemen’s history and civilization.
He also made substantial contribution to Yemen’s literature. He had authored several books most important of all: “Musnad Inscriptions and Comments”, in which he decoded old inscriptions written in Yemen’s old alphabetical letters known as Al-Musnad. His second significant book is: “The Yemeni Linguistic Lexicon”, which included thousands of vocabulary of different Yemeni dialects that can’t be found in other Arab dictionaries.

Al-Iryani also contributed along with the two professional historians Dr Yusif Mohammed Abdullah and Dr Husayn Al-Amri to verifying two famous Yemeni books. ” Shams Al-‘Ulum” by Nashwan ibn Sa’id Al-Himyari and “Feature of Yemen throughout ages, from 7th B.C. to 19th A.D”.

The late, Mutahar Al-Irayni has been very famous as a creative poet as well as a historian. He had composed dozens of poems and lyrics considered to be of first-class Yemeni modern poetry. A number of his patriotic and emotional lyrics were put into music by Yemen’s most popular singers. These include” Love and Coffee”, “Al-Balah” and ” He Stood up and Bid Farewell “.

Contributed by Dr. Salwa Dammaj

فنون العمارة الحجرية في يافع


اليوم الثلاثاء تلقيت مكالمة مبشرة من د.شوقي الجرو مدير عام دار جامعة عدن للطباعة والنشر يطمني فيها بأن كتابي(فنون العمارة الحجرية في يافع) سيرى النور قريباً بعد فترة مخاض وحضانة طال أمدها، بلغت قرابة ستة عشر شهرا تقريباً، منذ ابرام العقد في 30 سبتمبر 2014، ودفعي تكاليف قيمته مقدماً بالكامل. وهي فترة قياسية لا أعتقد أن كتاباً آخر قد أمضاها متعثرا بين آلات مطابع دار جامعة عدن أو أي مطبعة أخرى، ولو عرف محررو كتاب غينيس للأرقام القياسية ذلك لأضافوه إلى قائمة الأرقام القياسية..
كان سبب تعثر تجهيز الكتاب بعد أن أوشك على بلوغ مرحلته النهائية خللاً بسيطاً في البدء في آلة التغليف، وتعذر الحصول على قطعة الغيار، كما أبلغت ، ثم جاء اجتياح الغزاة الحوثيين وقوات المخلوع لعدن، واندحارهم عنها.. فتطلب الأمر إصلاح ذلك الخلل ثم صيانة شاملة للمعدات التي توقفت بسبب الحرب، كما علمت من د.شوقي الجرو.. وكنت أيضا قد ناقشت د.حسين باسلامة القائم بأعمال رئيس الجامعة، في نهاية الاحتفال بالذكرى الأولى للشهيد د.زين محسن اليزيدي، حول أهمية توفير قطع الغيار لمطبعة الجامعة وإعادة تشغيلها، ليس فقط لتجهيز كتابي المتعثر، وإنما لتسيير عملها الذي سيكفل لها الحصول على موارد مالية.
وسأكون في انتظار مكالمة البشارة من الدكتور شوقي قريباً كما وعد بأنه كتابي سيكون في أولى اهتماماته كأقدم عمل معلق أو متعثر في المطبعة..

Courtesy of Dr. Mohammed Jarhoum

al-Hamdani ms online


A manuscript copy of al-Hamdani’s Sifat jazirat al-‘Arab is available online at King Saud University. I wonder how many copies are still in Yemen and in danger of being destroyed by the current conflict.

عنوان المخطوطة: صفة جزيرة العرب
رقم الصنف: 915.3
المؤلف: ابن الحئك الهمزاني ، الحسن بن الحمد
الرقم العام: 7939
التاريخ المقترن بإسم المؤلف: – 334 هـ
المراجع: الاعلام (ط4): 179 ، معجم المطبوعات 1 : 73
الوصف: نسخة جيدة ، حديثة ، نسخ معتاد ، طبع الجزء الثاني منه سنة 1884 هـ
الوصف المادي: 306 ق ، 18 س ؛ 24 × 17.5 سم
الموضوع: العالم العربي – جغرافيا
الإحالات: ا – المؤلف ب – الناسخ -ج – تاريخ النسخ
اسم الناسخ: اسماعيل بن احمد العيدروسي
تاريخ النسخ: 1349 هـ

Yemen through its literature

Yemen through its literature:
A nation besieged

The recent Saudi-led bombing campaign against Yemen has been reduced to a simplistic narrative of a Sunni-Shia divide driving national conflict – reminiscent of an essentialist “clash of civilizations” trope. This sectarian paradigm attributes all conflict to the notion of cultural boundaries developed over centuries-old divides. Although limited in publication and certainly by translation, Yemeni literature (and lack thereof) functions, on the other hand, as a prism of a nation riven by years of occupation, civil war, corruption, and poverty – issues that far transcend the simplistic sectarian narrative willingly peddled by the media. While the isolated, impoverished nation struggles to negotiate a fraught economic and political terrain, poetry and verse have never ceased to dominate the country’s cultural landscape.

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