Category Archives: Folklore

Al-Gabali Book Signing at YCSR

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Dr Salwa Dammaj, Dr Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh, Ahmed al-Gabali, Abdulbari Taher, left to right.

A cultural event was organized and held at the Yemen Center for Studies and Researches (YCSR) in Sanaa on Wednesday 17 July 2019 to celebrate the publication of Qāmūs al-‘urf al-qabīlī fī al-Yaman [The Lexicon of Tribal Norms in Yemen]. The author is Ahmed al-Gabali, the Head of the Sociology Department at the Center. The book was published by AIYS as part of a recent series to publish annually a book on Yemen’s cultural heritage in Yemen by a Yemeni author. It was really a wonderful moment to celebrate a publication of an important cultural work at this extremely gloomy time.

An elite group of senior Yemeni researchers and authors attended and contributed to the event including Yemen’s great poet Dr Abdulaziz al-Maqaleh, President of the YCSR. The event commenced with brief speech by the author and researcher Mohammed al-Shaybani in which he welcomed the audience. Then, the sponsor of the function Dr Abdulaziz delivered his opening remarks in which he voiced thanks and appreciation for the author, Ahmed al-Gabali, for his great efforts and hard work to get the lexicon accomplished. Dr al-Maqaleh also expressed thanks for AIYS for contributing toward printing the lexicon and getting it published.

Hear Dr. Maqaleh’s remarks

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After that the Resident Director of AIYS, Dr Salwa Dammaj, delivered a speech, expressing thanks for the audience and  deeply appreciating the attendance of Dr Al-Maqaleh and his extraordinary role and contribution to the Yemeni culture and literature. She said:

“It is very difficult for me, who grew up on al-Maqaleh’s poetry and his prominent humanitarian and cultural active role in the Yemeni national arena, to talk about him. I’m like my generation and several Yemeni generations who have been influenced by Dr al-Maqaleh’s literature. We are grateful for this great man who devoted his life to develop Yemeni culture, establish cultural institutions and encourage young authors and support them. His extraordinary poetical works and pioneering role will remain an outstanding landmark in the modern history of Yemeni culture and literature.

The rich Yemeni culture with its unique diversity expressively denotes the deep and great civilized heritage of our people and country. Today we are here to celebrate a noteworthy and valuable book aimed to shed light on a significant side of our cultural heritage and illustrate some of its components. I am referring to the issue of tribal norms in Yemen. Perhaps, it should be quite difficult today to talk about the Yemeni culture and its uniqueness, while Yemen has been enduring the current dilemma, suffering from misery and a humanitarian crisis. But, the opposite is true; culture is the key factor that can help over some of the country’s misery and it is a prerequisite to cope with political challenges and short-sighted visions, as we move forward to a better future.”

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Afterwards the much-respected researcher and political activist, Abdulbari Taher, made a significant comment on the importance of the ‘Lexicon’, describing the book as a pioneering work which will fill an important gap in the Yemeni literature and library. The chief researcher at the (CYSR). Qadiri Ahmed Haider, delivered a speech on behalf of the author’s friends; he highly praised the tireless efforts and hard work made by Mr al-Gabali over the years to see the Lexicon accomplished. “It is a remarkable and pioneering work, self-driven and plausible adventure that al-Jabili deserves to be congratulated for”, noted Haider.

Finally, the author expressed his pleasure for having his Lexicon published, voicing deep thanks and appreciation for AIYS for printing his book and getting it published. Mr al-Gabali talked about his work on the book over the years, describing his research methodology that involved him in field survey in different Yemeni regions to collect and verify the tribal norms and vocabularies of the Lexicon. He reiterated his thanks for Dr Al-Maqaleh’s support and encouragement. By the end of the session, Mr al-Gabali signed copies of the book, launching the distribution of copies of the Lexicon in three volumes.

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AIYS is please to announce that the annual book award will be named the “Abdulaziz al-Maqaleh Book Award for Yemen’s Cultural Heritage” in honor of Dr. Maqaleh’s contributions to Yemen’s rich and diverse cultural heritage.

Dr.Salwa A. Dammaj

Yemeni Musical and Linguistic Heritage for UNESCO

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A three-day international cultural seminar on the Ḥaḍramī musical genre of Dān was held in Cairo on July 5-6, 2019. The Yemeni Minister of Culture Marwan Dammaj contributed to the discussions intended to start necessary preparations for nominating Ḥaḍramī Dān music for inclusion in UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The Ḥaḍramī Dān is a genre of folk singing that is very popular in the governorate of Ḥaḍramawt, as well as other parts of Yemen and Indonesia. In one session, the Director of the Culture Office in Ḥaḍramawt, Ahmed bin Dowis, provided a presentation of Ḥaḍramī Dān. He described it as a component of Ḥaḍramī cultural identity, involved in praising, disparaging, description and wisdom. Popular bands of Ḥaḍramī Dān can be found in Tarim, Say’ūn , Daw‘ān and Shibām. For examples of Yemeni Dān, click here and here.

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Dictionary on Tribal Customary law in Yemen

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Culminating its support for Yemen’s cultural heritage, AIYS has recently printed and published Qāmūs al-‘urf al-qabīlī fī al-Yaman (Dictionary of Tribal Customary Law in Yemen) in three volumes. This is a remarkable work aimed to fill a gap in the Yemeni literature. The author is Ahmed al-Gabali, a senior researcher at the Yemeni Center for Studies and Research.

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Ahmad Gabali with Dr. Salwa Dammaj in the AIYS office

This dictionary is the first of its kind in the Yemeni literature. It is designed to gather, document and explain terms and idioms regarding tribal norms and rules in different regions of Yemen from north to south and from east to west. The author conducted a nationwide field survey in the most famous tribal regions in Yemen. Study of the available literature provided a key resource for the content. This was based on original tribal documents, works by Yemeni authors, as well as studies by foreign researchers. In addition, geographical and historical literature was consulted as a reference to support the work. Local folk poetry in several Yemeni regions also proved valuable help for explaining the terms and concepts. Generally speaking, the content of the dictionary is based on reliable and credible sources and authentic references. It will serve as a main reference for researchers in the future.

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The author Aḥmad Ṣāliḥ al-Gabalī has been a sociology and anthropology researcher at the Yemen Center forStudies and Research since 2004. He received an M.A. degree in Bulgaria in 1988. His previous publications include studies of the terms hajar and jawār in ancient Yemen as well as the Contract of Medina written during the lifetime of the Prophet. He began research for this book on Yemeni tribes in 2006.

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Ḥaḍramī historian ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Mallāḥī

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One of the most important recent historians of the Ḥaḍramawt is ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Mallāḥī (1936-2014). An article on his life work can be found on al-‘Arabī. Among his publications are the following:

1- كتاب بادية المشقاص .

2- الحضارم في مومباسا ودار السلام (عن الهوية الحضرمية)

3- ملامح من التداخل المعرفي بين ربابنة حضرموت وعمان .

4- تقويم باكريت النجمي (عن الفلك) .

5- البلدة بين المفهوم الفلكي والمفهوم الشعبي .

6- روزنامات الربان بامعيبد .

7- الوجيز في تاريخ الشحر .

All about Aden

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One of the most impressive Yemeni sites for the culture and history of Aden and southern Yemen is alamree.net. You can literally spend hours exploring this rich site. As you can see in the above image from the main page, there is information on Aden itself, coffee and mountains in Yāfi‘ the Aden zoo and the mosque of al-‘Aydarūs. There is also a treasure trove of images and photographs on Aden, some of which are very old. More photographs and videos are also available on the Facebook site of Hussain Alamree.

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Tawāhī in the 1960s

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Ma‘alā sūq, 1920

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Local dance in Shaykh ‘Uthmān, 1947

An Iraqi Heart in Yemen

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Qalb al-Yaman (The Heart of Yemen) is a book published in 1947 in Baghdad by the Iraqi military advisor Muḥammad Ḥasan. This is a fascinating account of Yemen about an Iraqi Military Mission to Yemen in 1940-1943 with details on Yemen at that time under the rule of Imām Yaḥyā.  It is now available for reading online and downloadable.

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first page of the author’s text

The text consists of 256 pages with a detailed table of contents, illustrations and a large map. The major chapters deal with Yemen’s geography and resources, history, the author’s travel experience to Yemen, the capital Ṣan‘ā’, Imām Yaḥyā, social life, major routes, local medicine, the government and soldiers, social and regional groups, women, marriage customs, festivals and greeting behavior, Yemenite Jews, the Iraqi advisors in Yemen, diplomatic relations and correspondence, Islamic sects, and his return to Iraq. There are numerous photographs, which unfortunately did not reproduce well in the publication.

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photograph of Imām Yaḥyā (who did not want his image copied as noted in the bottom left)

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beheading of soldier overseen by Sayf al-Islām Ibrāhīm

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one of the earliest photographs of Yemeni bara‘

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respective genealogies of Iraqī King Faysal and Yemeni Imām Yaḥyā

Yemen’s Ḥumaynī poetry

One of the indigenous forms of Arabic poetry in Yemen is called ḥumaynī. For those who have not read the chronicle of Yaḥya b. al-Ḥusayn (d. 1100/1689) entitled Ghāyat al-amānī, it might be of interest to note that he claims the first appearance of this poetic form in the year 838/1434-5. This reference appears to be to the first collection of this poetry, since such a local form would not originally have been written. I attach the relevant pages from the edited text by Muḥammad al-Akwa‘ published in 1388/1968 in Cairo.

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Yemen’s Culture at Risk

Yemen Talk in Meyer Auditorium Feburary 24, 2019
Dan Varisco discussing Yemen’s rich cultural heritage at the Yemen Talk in Meyer Auditorium Feburary 24, 2019

On Saturday, February 24, The Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. hosted a seminar on “Culture at Risk: Yemen’s Heritage under Threat”. This was jointly sponsored by the Sackler Gallery, CAORC and the Antiquities Coalition. The speakers included several AIYS members, including AIYS President Dan Varisco, Noha Sadek and Krista Lewis. Also speaking was Zaydoon Zaid of the American Foundation for the Study of Man and Gerald Feierstein, of The Middle East Institute and a former US Ambassador to Yemen. Information about the event is posted online and a video will be available in the future.

Below are some of the photographs of the event.

Yemen Talk in Meyer Auditorium Feburary 24, 2019
Noha Sadek at the Yemen Talk in Meyer Auditorium Feburary 24, 2019
Yemen Talk in Meyer Auditorium Feburary 24, 2019
CAORC Program Director Glenn Corbett introducing Krista Lewis at the Yemen Talk in Meyer Auditorium Feburary 24, 2019
Yemen Talk in Meyer Auditorium Feburary 24, 2019
Zaydoon Zayd at the Yemen Talk in Meyer Auditorium Feburary 24, 2019
Yemen Talk in Meyer Auditorium Feburary 24, 2019
Luigi Marini, Permanent Mission of Italy to the UN,  Ambassador Wafa Bughaighis of Libya to the U.S. and former U.S. Yemen Ambassador Gerald Feierstein at the Yemen Talk in Meyer Auditorium Feburary 24, 2019

[Photographs provided by Cory Grace of the Smithsonian.]