Category Archives: Tihama

Lady Elwood in the Red Sea: #5 Military Show

Between 1825 and 1828 an English lady named Anne Katharine Elwood accompanied her husband, a colonel in the British service, to India. On this trip they stopped at Hodeidah an Mocha on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. Her account is quite detailed, including her visits with women in Hodeidah and Mocha.  Her full text, published in 1830, is entitled Narrative of a Journey Overland from England by the Continent of Europe, Egypt, and the Red Sea to India, including a Residence There, and Voyage Home, in the Years 1825, 26, 27, and 28. The discussion of Yemen is in Volume 1, which is available at archive.org.

For Part #1, click here.  For Part #2, click here. For Part #3, click here. For Part $4, click here.

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Lady Elwood in the Red Sea: #4 Visiting the Dowla and the Baniyans

Between 1825 and 1828 an English lady named Anne Katharine Elwood accompanied her husband, a colonel in the British service, to India. On this trip they stopped at Hodeidah an Mocha on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. Her account is quite detailed, including her visits with women in Hodeidah and Mocha.  Her full text, published in 1830, is entitled Narrative of a Journey Overland from England by the Continent of Europe, Egypt, and the Red Sea to India, including a Residence There, and Voyage Home, in the Years 1825, 26, 27, and 28. The discussion of Yemen is in Volume 1, which is available at archive.org.

For Part #1, click here.  For Part #2, click here. For Part #3, click here.

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Lady Elwood in the Red Sea: #3 Streets, Market, Costumes and a Bible

Between 1825 and 1828 an English lady named Anne Katharine Elwood accompanied her husband, a colonel in the British service, to India. On this trip they stopped at Hodeidah an Mocha on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. Her account is quite detailed, including her visits with women in Hodeidah and Mocha.  Her full text, published in 1830, is entitled Narrative of a Journey Overland from England by the Continent of Europe, Egypt, and the Red Sea to India, including a Residence There, and Voyage Home, in the Years 1825, 26, 27, and 28. The discussion of Yemen is in Volume 1, which is available at archive.org.

For Part #1, click here.  For Part #2, click here.

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Lady Elwood in the Red Sea: #2 A House in Hodeidah

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View of Red Sea Port of Yanbu‘ (from Elwood’s book)

Between 1825 and 1828 an English lady named Anne Katharine Elwood accompanied her husband, a colonel in the British service, to India. On this trip they stopped at Hodeidah an Mocha on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. Her account is quite detailed, including her visits with women in Hodeidah and Mocha.  Her full text, published in 1830, is entitled Narrative of a Journey Overland from England by the Continent of Europe, Egypt, and the Red Sea to India, including a Residence There, and Voyage Home, in the Years 1825, 26, 27, and 28. The discussion of Yemen is in Volume 1, which is available at archive.org.

For Part #1, click here.

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Lady Elwood in the Red Sea: #1 Landing in Hodeidah

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Between 1825 and 1828 an English lady named Anne Katharine Elwood accompanied her husband, a colonel in the British service, to India. On this trip they stopped at Hodeidah an Mocha on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. Her account is quite detailed, including her visits with women in Hodeidah and Mocha.  Her full text, published in 1830, is entitled Narrative of a Journey Overland from England by the Continent of Europe, Egypt, and the Red Sea to India, including a Residence There, and Voyage Home, in the Years 1825, 26, 27, and 28. The discussion of Yemen is in Volume 1, which is available at archive.org.

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Travels to Aden and Mocha in the mid 19th Century, #9

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This post is the last from the travel account of Joseph B. F. Osgood (1823-1913), whose Notes of Travel or Recollections of Majunga, Zanzibar, Muscat, Aden, Mocha, and other Eastern Ports (Salem: George Creamer, 1854) describes the Arabian coastline, like a 19th century Ibn Baṭūṭṭa. For Part #1, click here; for Part #2, click here; for Part #3, click here; for Part #4, click here; for Part #5, click here; for Part #6, click here; for Part #7, click here; for Part #8, click here.

In addition to coffee, Osgood discusses “kaht” (qāt)…

“[p. 234] After the heart is contented with smoking, kaht is passed round and eagerly devoured by the ruminating guests. The name of this choice and expensive luxury is given to the tender leaves of a tree, resembling in appearance and taste the foliage of the apple tree. It is brought to Mocha from the inland towns three or four days’ journey distant, in a tolerable condition of freshness, secured by the mode of packing. So delicious [p. 235] is it thought, that the day would be of little event which did not expend three or four dollars from the coffers of a rich Arab in the single item of kaht. While thus smoking or chewing, Arabs expectorate but little, although to do so would be thought no breach of politeness. Should he not be joined by those who thus make friendship end in smoke, sleep, ever ready to keep his drowsy thoughts from mischief, disposes of him until mid-day prayer, after which comes dinner.

[p. 238] After dinner the merchant washes and goes to his counting room, to smoke, chew kaht, write letters, and transact the business of the day.”

Ghosts of Hodeidah

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by Lily V. Filson

In the summer of 2005, I arrived in a Yemeni coastal port on a road trip that had brought us from the lofty tower-palaces of Sana’a, capital of Arabia Felix for the Romans, down to the Tihama plain on the Red Sea. Apart from this narrow sea, little separates Tihama from East Africa, but much more than mountains separates Tihama from Sana’a. The air got exponentially hotter and saltier, and the landscape flattened into an arid brown. Our destination was Al-Hodeidah, also seen as Hudaydah, in the Latin alphabet’s perpetual attempts to nail down those mutable Arabic vowels. Translated, it becomes “the iron,” a metal charged with magic and miracles in the long memory of Arab lore, and one which has recently been through the fire of a brutal war.

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But back to 2005: as a foreign girl, the fisherman were enthusiastic to show me everything; some I could identify, others had melted into slime. Most impressive for everyone there were the long masses of shark corpses rolled together like so many unsettling logs. Yemeni machismo won the day, and with great flourishes, a row of teeth was sawed out of one’s mouth, tied up in plastic, and ceremoniously presented. Those teeth travelled around the length of almost all of Yemen on that trip, and five years later, I was in Florence, Italy, where a graduate program was letting my creativity flourish in unexpected ways. I was exploring jewelry design, and the shark teeth which had been my gift in Hodeidah now occupied a small velvet pouch, and they became the stuff of a dream I sketched in silver that quickly took shape at a bench in a workshop in the Oltrarno. In another life in 2013 across the world again, they walked the runway as part of the inaugural New Orleans Fashion Week; those few teeth were destined for a very different life, but their ultimate connection to Al-Hodeidah on Yemen’s Red Sea coast invests them now with a gravity beyond the passing their flashing moments of past glamor.

Continue reading Ghosts of Hodeidah

Two Talks on Yemen in Vienna

On July 3 Dr. Najwa Adra will present a talk at the Institute for Social Anthropology in Vienna, Austria entitled: “What Does it Mean to Be Tribal in Yemen?”

On July 5 Dr. Daniel Martin Varisco will give a talk at the same institute on “Agriculture in the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen.”

Both talks are free and open to the public. For details, see https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/isa/events/upcoming-events/

Details on both talks are provided below:

What Does it Mean to Be Tribal in Yemen?

A large majority of Yemen’s population self-identifies as qabili /pl. qaba’il, terms normally glossed in English as “tribal.” Qabyala a uniquely Yemeni term that can be translated as “tribalism” comprises tribal ideology, customary law, behavior in formal contexts and a set of presumed personal characteristics ascribed to tribal Yemenis. This talk, based on long term field research, explores the behaviors and events associated with qabyala, in contrast to activities that do not connote tribalism; describes the interaction of tribes with urban elites; and suggests ways in which Yemeni tribes can collaborate with the state in peacebuilding and national development.

Najwa Adra (www.najwaadra.net) holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Temple University. She is   a cultural anthropologist with long-term experience in field research and development  consulting in Yemen. She has studied tribal identity and customary law in Yemen’s Central Highland Plateau as these have changed over the past 30 years and the ways in which these indigenous institutions can contribute to state building. She has written on Yemeni tribal mediation for ISA and is currently completing a book on tribal identity in Yemen. Her research also extends to Yemeni dance traditions, women’s role in Yemeni agriculture and literacy.

Agriculture in the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen

Yemen has a rich tradition of agriculture, stemming from the South Arabian kingdoms through the Islamic era. Yemeni scholars, anthropologists and agricultural experts have written about Yemen’s agriculture in the past half century, but less is known about the state of agriculture during the Mutawakkilite Kingdom in Yemen of the Zaydi Imams Yahya and Ahmad (1918-1962). This talk draws on Arabic resources, accounts by foreign travelers and the report of a 1955 FAO agricultural mission to Yemen in describing the role of agriculture and cultivated crops in the area ruled by the imams in the first part of the 20th century.

Daniel Martin Varisco holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania for ethnographic research on water resource use and agriculture in Yemen. He has also conducted ethnographic and historical research in Yemen, Egypt and Qatar. He serves as President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, editor-in-chief of CyberOrient (www.cyberorient.net), and was editor of Contemporary Islam (2006-2016). He has published on the history of Yemeni agriculture in the Journal for the Economic and Social History of the Orient, the Journal of Semitic Studies, History and Anthropology and in his Medieval Agriculture and Islamic Science (1994).

The Battle for Hodeidah in 1924

The current battle for Hodeidah is not the first time it has been the target of foreign intervention.  In October, 1924 the young Idrissi ruler took over Hodeidah, much to the chagrin of Imam Yahya, who was forging his kingdom after the departure of the Ottoman Turks. It was short-lived. Below is an account given by the U.S. Consul in Aden in an official dispatch.

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