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.
كان الشّتاء هو صوت المطر ليلاً حين ينهمر من المزراب الذي في السّطح ويصب في الحمام الملصق بجسد الدار كالبثرة. يبدو شرح هذا صعباً، لكن هذا المزراب كان طبيعياً يوصل بين السطح والأرض الفلاء، وبعدها أحتاج جدي لأن يضيف بطريقة ما حماماً صغيراً للطوارئ، فألصق الحمام في منطقة المزراب. لذا كنا نعرف المطر: ينهمر من المزراب المرتفع عن الأرض حوالي متراً واحداً، يصب على أرضية الحمام ذات البلاط الأبيض! ولأن مطر صيفاً غالباً ما يكون هادراً سريعاً وراعداً، فلم نكن نميز صوت مياهه في المزراب، لكن شتاءنا كان ضبابياً كثيفاً، وكانت أمطاره وادعة، ديمة كما في الأغاني، تظل طوال الليل تنقر على الأرض.
The past of Yemen is preserved in many ways, including quite a few postcards from the early part of the 20th century, especially from Aden. Here are a few examples. If you have any you would like to see posted to this blog, please email the webshaykh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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
For a set of photographs about Sanaa, click here.