Yemeni Muslims in Addis Adaba

Anwar Mosque, Addis Adaba

Sophia Pandya has published an article entitled “Yemenis and Muwalladīn in Addis Ababa: Blood Purity and the
Opportunities of Hybridity” in the Journal of Arabian Studies: Arabia, the Gulf, and the Red Sea.  Below is the abstract.

This is an analysis of the Yemeni Muslim community living in diaspora in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, through the ethnographic lens of the politics of religious and ethnic identity, with a particular focus on transnational and multiracial hybridity, and gender. Living in diaspora has created pressure both to identify as ‘Yemeni’ and to assimilate into Ethiopian society. Ethiopians and Yemenis in Ethiopia have discriminated against those considered not to be maintaining ‘pure’ ethnic or religious boundaries. The muwalladīn, in particular, experience degrees of discrimination in the Yemeni community, due to perceptions that they are not ‘pure-blooded Yemenis’ or that they are simply inferior because they are black. Does this hybridity also create a space in which exclusionary definitions of culture and religion can be rejected? This study examines the factors working for and against assimilation for the Yemeni (chiefly Ḥaḍramī) and muwallad community in Addis Ababa, and the social opportunities and implications of their migration (or that of their ancestors), considering socio-religious class distinctions, political and economic contexts, and gender. It explores the ways in which they have established themselves, reimagined community, and redefined their identities.

Wavell in Yemen: #2


[Illustration, Guests in Turkey, from John Clark Ridpath, Ridpath’s History of the World (Cincinnati: The Jones Brothers Publishing Company, 1899), vol IV.]

[Note: Arthur John Byng Wavell (1882-1916) was a British soldier and adventurer who traveled in disguise to Mecca in 1908 and went on to Yemen in 1911 to witness fighting between the Zaydi imam’s troops and the Ottoman Turks. This account was originally published in 1912. For Part One of this series, click here.]

The hour was late and the smoking room almost deserted when the conversation about to be reported took place. My companion the Pasha was a tall, heavy man, on whose sunburned and lined countenance a long life in the open air and many hard-fought campaigns in tropical countries had left their traces. He had been a field marshal once, but that was in the days of Abdul Hamid, when as some one said after the American civil war, “you could not spit out the window without hitting a major-general.” It was to this latter rank that the reshuffle which followed hard on the constitution had reduced him…

The Pasha regarded me with some curiosity.

Continue reading Wavell in Yemen: #2

Yemen Scholars at WOCMES


Today is the second day of the WOCMES (World Council on Middle East Studies) conference in Ankara, Turkey.  There are two panels that focus on Yemen; both were organized by AIYS member, Dr. Najwa Adra.  The first is entitled:  Tribalism in the Middle East I: Tribe and Diatribe: Anthropology Meets Political Science

Moderator & Discussant: Lisa Anderson
Dawn Chatty : Syrian Tribes, National Politics and Transnationalism
Najwa Adra : Qabyila: Tribal Identity in Yemen
Daniel Varisco:  Yemen’s Tribal Idiom:  An Ethno-Historical Survey of Genealogical Models (read by Dr. Mohammed Sharafuddin)

The second panel is entitled:  Tribalism in the Middle East II: Tribes in Yemen: the View from within

Moderator & Discussant: Saad Sowayan
Mohammed Sharafuddin : Poetry and Tribalism in Yemen
Adel Mujahid Al Shargabi : The Future Political Role of Yemeni Tribal Sheikhs in Light of the Expected Outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference
Abdul Karim Alaug : Tribalism in the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference



Wavell in Yemen: #1


Market in Lahj

[Note: Arthur John Byng Wavell (1882-1916) was a British soldier and adventurer who traveled in disguise to Mecca in 1908 and went on to Yemen in 1911 to witness fighting between the Zaydi imam’s troops and the Ottoman Turks. This account was originally published in 1912.]

The events in that country [Yemen] are worthy of a chapter in the history of these prosaic days. The counter-currents of human interest and activity that run up and down the Red Sea, linking the civilizations of the East and West, leave undisturbed this backwater. Western Europe knows little and cares less about what goes on there.

Yet for the last twenty years, while the Turks and Arabs have been struggling for the mastery, the history of the Yemen has been one of fire and sword. It is a record of battles and sieges, places taken by storm and garrisons starved into surrender; of savage massacres and fierce reprisals. Generals have made and lost great military reputations there. The campaign of 1911, with which this book deals, probably cost nearly as many lives as did the Boer War. Nor is this conflict over; it will be renewed and fought out to the end, for both sides mean to win.

Continue reading Wavell in Yemen: #1

Poetry of al-‘Awdhali


Click here for a Youtube selection of the sung poetry of Nasr ibn Muhammad ibn Ja‘bal al-‘Awdhali.  The words are below

من كلمات الأمير ناصر بن محمد بن جعبل العوذلي رحمة الله
ناصرمحمد قال كثرالمشاكي مذله
بصبرعلى ماجرى لي والصبرواثق بحبله
والصبر ياقلب ناصر يكمل الخط كله
ولاتزعل رفاقك ومن يباشي يشله
أنا الوفاء قد ذريته وجاءعلي غيرحله
وجيت ذاك المزرع والسيل جاء له وشله
اليل ياهاجسي أبدع طاب السمرطاب حله
وعاد قلبي مولع مابين ورده وفله
الجبرعندي غنيمه والكبرمشلول شله
ولامتى القلب صابروالطين قد زاد بله
لاعاد نشتي مصانع ولابعيني ترله
الحمدلله ناصر قانع على ماسهله
وكل ظالم وعاصي يارب أهده ودله
وهو ببصره يفكرلا ما صلح شي تشله
تعبني الوقت زايد سنين صابر وشله
الصبر حكمه عظيمه لكل من جار حمله
يا طارشي شل خطي لاعند خلي وقله
صاحبك دي تحبه لا مافهمته تمله
المال محنه ومتعب عند الذي ضاع عقله
ماعاد يفكرلواحد لا من رفاقه ولاأهله
أبومحمد تبدع فاقد رفيقه وخله
دي بايرجع شقيقي وخلي باهديله المال كله
يارب تحسن ختامي وتصلح الشان كله
ياعود دق عودك صوتك دواء لكل عله

Manzoni’s Travel Book in Arabic


One of the classic late 19th century travel books on Yemen was by the Italian Renzo Manzoni.  In addition to an informative account of his trip to Sanaa, the illustrations are fantastic.  The original Italian version, El Yèmen: Tre Anni nell’ Arabia Felice, was published in 1884 and is available as a pdf online at Recently the Social Fund for Development has sponsored an Arabic version, also available for free in pdf online.


Hadrami Dance


في حضرموت رقصة شعبية يسمونها ‘نعشة البقارة ‘ والبقارة تعنى العاملين على البقر، ولهؤلاء الفلاحين الذين يشقون الارض بطاقة أبقارهم رقصة خاصة تمثل هذا المزارع الذي يعيش طول وقته مع بهائمه ذكور البقر، الثيران والتى تمتاز عن الحيوانات الاخرى بجموحها الشديد، لهذا يحتفظ هؤلاء المزارعون بشعر رؤوسهم، فيبقى الشعر طويلا م،سدلا على اكتافهم، وفي كل عام يقام لهم موسم في 15 شعبان، اي موسم زيارة النبي هود، وهو موعد احد اسواق العرب المعروفة والتى تقام في حضرموت وتسمى سوق حضرموت…في هذا الموسم يسرح الفلاحون شعورهم وتطلى رقابهم بالزيت قبل عدة اسابيع لتكون لينة للرقصة التى هي عبارة عن حركة الرأس وذوائب الشعر المرسلة على الايقاع الذي يتكون من الطبلة والمرواس الصغير.

ويعتقد آخرون ان هذه الرقصة فريدة لا يوجد لها مثيل في اجزاء العالم الاخرى، لانها تعتمد على حركة الرأس فقط ولمدة طويلة، كأنما هي متأثرة بحركة رؤوس الثيران عند الحرث. ] (مقتبس من المصطلحات الزراعية والري في كتابات المسند، للدكتور جواد علي)

مع ان الاعتقاد القائل بأن هذه الرقصة تتواجد فقط في حضرموت اعتقاد خاطئ لان هذه الثقافة متواجدة لدى اهل السودان. والملفت للنظر ان الصورة اسفله تذكر بما ألفناه نحن المغاربة عن ”التحيار ‘ عندما تسدل المرأة شعرها للرقص بحركات رأس دائرية في الافراح المغربية

Photograph from Sula Siham via Dr. Mohammed Jarhoom