[The article below features research by AIYS Board Member Sam Liebhaber.]
by Ali Abulohoom, Yemen Times, October 2, 2014
“My father told me that [in his village in Mahra] back in the day, they did not use any language but Mahri in their daily lives, as there was no need to use ‘formal language’ [Arabic],” said Saeed Bin Basheer, 52, who lives in Al-Ghaiyda, the capital city of Mahra governorate.
Basheer still speaks the Mahri language and urges his four sons to do the same.
“I always tell my sons not to forget Mahri as it is part of our culture and identity. Arabic, English, and other languages have become easy to learn anywhere, whereas Mahri [is in danger of dying],” Basheer added.
In 2009, the Yemeni Central Statistical Organization estimated the population in Al-Mahra governorate at 101,701—many of whom speak the region’s traditional Mahri language.
Like Arabic and Hebrew, Mahri is a Semitic language. Unlike its two Semitic counterparts, however, it lacks a written tradition. Except for a few short lines and word lists, which have been published in Arabic, the Mahri language has only been written down for scholarly audiences.