Category Archives: Books on Yemen

Mahra Poetry Site

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Sam Liebhaber (Middlebury College) has just published a new book on Mahri Poetry, When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra. Associated with the new release is a website exhibit.

Details of the exhibit are described below:

The Mahra people of the southern Arabian Peninsula have no written language but instead possess a rich oral tradition. Samuel Liebhaber takes readers on a tour through their poetry, collected by the author in audio and video recordings over the course of several years. Based on this material, Liebhaber developed a systemic approach to Mahri poetry that challenges genre- based categorizations of oral poetry from the Arabian Peninsula. By taking into account all Mahri poetic expressions—the majority of which don’t belong to any of the known genres of Arabian poetry—Liebhaber creates a blueprint for understanding how oral poetry is conceived and composed by native practitioners. Each poem is embedded in a conceptual framework that highlights formal similarities between them and recapitulates how Mahri poets craft poems and how their audiences are primed to receive them. The web-based medium allows users not only to delve into the classification system to explore the diversity and complexity of the Mahra’s poetic expressions, but also to experience the formation of a poem in the moment. Through a series of questions designed to define the social context in which a poem is being created, the reader is taken on an experiential tour through the corpus that highlights the embeddedness of poetry in the Mahras’ everyday practices.

“Featuring Arabic as well as Mahran texts translated and annotated in English, When Melodies Gather is a superb educational resource for appreciating the verbal and performative skill of modern tribal bards.”—Flagg Miller, University of California, Davis

“Of vital importance to the documentation of Mahri, When Melodies Gather enables native speakers and scholars alike to examine and appreciate an endangered genre within an endangered language.”—Janet Watson, University of Leeds

Michele Lamprakos on Ṣan‘ā’

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The recent book by Michele Lamprakos, Building a World Heritage City:  Sanaa, Yemen (Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2015) has received Honorable Mention in the 2018 SPIRO KOSTOF BOOK AWARD.

Below is the commendation for the award:

Michele Lamprakos proves that it is possible to write a book about conservation that is also an astute urban history. Her meticulous analysis of conservation efforts in Sanaa examines the period from around 1970 to the 2000s but does so from a perspective that takes into account the longer history of conservation itself, from the discussions of Alois Riegl at the turn of the twentieth century to more recent consideration of issues such as authenticity, cultural relativism, colonialism, and the meaning of the Islamic city. With evidence culled both from archival sources and a rich array of oral testimony, Lamprakos gives voice to local officials, architects, builders, and residents. Through her attention to their definitions of such contested terms of conservation as “tradition” and “modernity” she produces a subtly delineated account of the multifarious processes at work in shaping urban form. Her case studies enable us to reconsider and challenge assumptions about the relationships between development and conservation, representations of the past and contemporary practice, everyday life and professionalism.

Michele Lamprakos teaches at the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation of the University of Maryland-College Park.

Rasulid Yemen on Youtube

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There are at least three Youtube sites in Arabic that talk about Yemen during the Rasulid period.  The first is a short description of the book ‘Adan fi ‘aṣr al-dawla al-Rasūliyya of Muḥammad Manṣūr ‘Alī Ba‘īd (2012), the second is a similar account of the book Al-Tamradāt al-Qabalīya fī ‘aṣr al-dawla al-Rasūlīya wa-athar-hā fī al-ḥayāt al-‘āmma (626-858 H) of Ṭahā Ḥusayn Hudayl, and the thirdis a chronological treatment of the Rasulid era on the channel Suhayl.

Philby in the Hadramawt

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The British traveler H. St. J. Philby is best known for his writings on Saudi Arabia, but he also visited the Hadramawt in the late 1930s, driving down from Najrān through the eastern extent of the Empty Quarter to Shabwa and then into the Ḥaḍramawt. It is a chatty text like an extended diary, with names of people met and places visited, including archaeological ruins with inscriptions.  Philby has his bias, as is evident throughout, but the photographs are good documentation of life at the time.

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Continue reading Philby in the Hadramawt

Yemen in 1960

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The author, born in 1929.

In 1961 the Yemeni scholar Ahmad Husayn Sharafaddin published a short book in English of about 80 pages entitled Yemen “Arabia Felix.” The book was published in Rome Italy, but distributed from Ta‘izz.  It provides a short summary of Yemen just before the revolution that toppled the Zaydi imamate.

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As narrated by the author, the population of Yemen was estimated at 5,834,000 with 4,400,000 in what he called “Free Yemen” (the Mutawakkilite Kingdom) and 1,434,000 in the “Occupied area” under the British. The city of Ṣan‘ā’ was said to have 60,000 residents and Ta‘izz had half that amount.

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Most of the book is devoted to the archaeology of the ancient South Arabian kingdoms.

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One of the highlights is a pull-out chart of the genealogy of the Zaydi imams.

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Of particular interest are the pictures, as noted here.

Mocha Trade in the early 19th century

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As the British extended their trade through the Red Sea and Indian Ocean in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, there were a number of books written about the trade items and how to procure them at various ports.  One of the most important was William Milburn’s Oriental Commerce, first published in 1813 and revised in an 1825 edition [https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001123449] after the death of the author. The full text of the 1825 edition is available at archive.org.  There is a lengthy discussion on trade through the port of Mocha, although very little on Aden, which was not very important at the time until the British took it over after 1839. I attach below the section on trade items available at Mocha (Milburn 1825:71-77).

ARTICLES  TO BE PROCURED AT  MOCHA, WITH DIRECTIONS

ACACIA, the inspissated juice of a thorny plant, growing in Arabia, and other parts:—two sorts are known, Vera and Germanica. The former is a gummy substance, usually firm, but not very dry. It is met with in round masses, enclosed in thin bladders, from four to eight ounces weight; outwardly a deep brown, inclining to black; of a lighter brown within, inclining to red or yellow. The Germanica is a juice expressed from the unripe fruit of the sloe bush, and differs from the preceding, in being harder, heavier, darker, sharper in taste, yielding its astringency to rectified spirit; whereas the other is not at all dissoluble by spirit.  The Vera should have little or no smell; applied to the tongue, it should soften quickly, imparting a rough, not very ungrateful taste, followed by a sweetness. If quite pure, it dissolves totally in water; if otherwise, the impurities remain.

ACORUS, or CALAMUS AROMATICUS, (Bach, Hind. Vacha, S an.) is a reed, or knotty root, about the size of a little finger, several inches long, reddish externally, internally white, full of joints, somewhat flatted on the side, of a loose spongy texture ; smell strong, taste warm, bitterish, and aromatic. They should be chosen tough, cleared from fibres, and free from worms, to which it is very subject.

ASPHALTUM is a solid shining bitumen, of a dusky colour outside; within of a deep black, found in many parts of Egypt. A thin piece appears of a reddish colour, when placed between the eye and the light. It has no smell when cold, but acquires a slight one by friction ; when exposed to heat, it liquifies, swells up, and burns with a thick smoke, the smell of which is strong, acrid, and disagreeable. It is occasionally adulterated with pitch; but the fraud may be discovered by means of spirits of wine, which dissolve the pitch, and only take a pale colour with Asphaltum.

BALM OF GILEAD, or Balsam of Mecca, is a resinous juice that distils from an evergreen tree, or shrub, growing between Mecca and Medina; it is much used by the Asiatic ladies as a cosmetic. The tree is scarce; the best sort is said to exude naturally, but the inferior kinds are extracted from the branches by boiling. It is at first turbid and white, of a strong pungent smell, a bitter and acrid taste; upon being kept some time, it becomes thin, limpid, of a greenish hue, then of a golden yellow, and at length of the colour of honey. This article, being scarce and valuable, is very liable to adulteration. The following methods are recommended to discover imposition Cause a drop or two of the liquid balsam to fall into a glass of clear water; if the drop go to the bottom without rising again to the surface, or if it continue in a drop like oil, the balsam is adulterated. If, on the contrary, it spreads upon the surface of the water, like a very thin cobweb, scarcely visible to the eye, and being congealed, may be taken up with a pin or small straw, the balsam is pure and natural. Or if the pure balsam be dropped on woollen, it will wash out; but if adulterated, it will not. The genuine, dropped into milk, coagulates it. When a drop of the pure balsam is let fall on red hot iron, it gathers itself into a globule ; but oil or spurious balsam runs, and sheds itself all round. The genuine balsam also feels viscid and adhesive to the fingers. If sophisticated with wax, it is discovered by the turbid colour, never to be clarified; if with honey, the sweet taste betrays it; if with resins, by dropping it on live coals, it yields a blacker flame, and of a grosser substance than the genuine. When the balsam is too thick to be taken out of the bottle, it need only be placed near the fire, the smallest degree of heat liquifying it.  The bottles must not be quite full, lest they should break, as the balsam is apt to rarify.

Continue reading Mocha Trade in the early 19th century

New Book on Yemen and the Gulf States

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This book has just been published by Gerlach Press:

YEMEN AND THE GULF STATES: THE MAKING OF A CRISIS
Edited by Helen Lackner, Daniel Martin Varisco
Publisher: Gerlach Press, Berlin & London
Hardcover, 143 pages
ISBN: 978-3-959940-30-6
Publication date: October 2017
EUR 85 / GBP 80

More information on the title and the order form can be downloaded from here:

Title Information with TOC:
http://www.gerlach-books.de/attachment/INFO_GerlachPress_Lackner_Yemen_Sept2017.pdf

Order Form:
http://www.gerlach-books.de/attachment/Order_Form_Lackner_Yemen_Aug2017.pdf