Mahri: A language or dialect?

from Bertram Thomas’ “Arabia Felix” (1932)

[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.

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Rediscover archeologist Wendell Phillips

Wendell Phillips stands with Yemeni men, including Sheik Al-Barhi (center), a leader of the Bal Harith tribe. (Courtesy American Foundation for the Study of Man)

Read more here:

By Tish Wells, McClatchy Washington Bureau, October 10, 2014

— Wendell Phillips was a real-life Indiana Jones crossed with Lawrence of Arabia digging in the desert sands of history just after World War II.

The discoveries of some of those post-war adventures are now on display at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington.

“Unearthing Arabia: The Archaeological Adventures of Wendell Phillips,” running Oct. 11 through June 7, 2015, examines the excavations that Wendell Phillips carried out in 1950 and 1951 in Saudi Arabia, which is today Yemen, said Massumeh Farhad, the gallery’s Chief Curator and Curator of Islamic Art.

During Phillips’ expeditions, he and his archeologists discovered two cities lost under the rock and sands of time — Timna, the capital of Qataban kingdom, and Marib, the reputed home of the Queen of Sheba. They unearthed a pair of bronze statues of snarling lions ridden by smiling cherubs, alabaster funeral stele, layers of pottery that proved centuries of occupation, and more.

“Unearthing Arabia” tells a tale of commerce, riches and influence that stretched up and down the coast of the Red Sea between Yemen and the Mediterranean powerhouse empires of Egypt and Rome.

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Hirak and the Houthis


Southern Yemen After the Fall of Sanaa

by Susanne Dahlgren | MERIP, October 7, 2014

The mysteries in the September events in Sanaa loom large. Who decided that security forces should not try to stop the Houthis from entering the Yemeni capital? Why didn’t Hashid tribes, closely tied to the political elites of Sanaa, stop them? These are questions that southerners are asking when trying to make sense of what happened on September 21 when Ansar Allah, the militia of the Houthi political group, stormed the largest city in the north.

What many believe is that the Houthis were used by former president ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih to dislodge Maj. Gen. ‘Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, a long-time player in the Yemeni political elite and his former righthand man, and to weaken al-Ahmar’s political affiliate, the Islamist party known as Islah. For decades, the Sanhan tribe to which Salih and al-Ahmar belong has monopolized power in Sanaa, excluding not only the Houthis but also the biggest tribal confederation, the Bakil. These tensions have hindered state building in northern Yemen since the 1960s, but have very little to do with the south, where the hirak, a movement for autonomy from the capital, continues to build momentum.

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وفاة الفنان اليمني عبدالوهاب الكوكباني


المصدر أونلاين – صنعاء

غيب الموت يوم الاثنين بصنعاء الفنان الكبير عبدالوهاب حسن سعد الكوكباني، عن عمر ناهز 69 سنة بعد رحلة أثرى خلالها مع أخويه (سعد ومحمد) الأغنية اليمنية بعدد وافر من الأعمال مثلت منعطفاً هاما في تطوير الأغنية اليمنية.

وقدم الفنان الراحل مع أخويه أعمال وصل عددها إلى نحو 1300أغنية منها 200أغنية وطنية للثورة بالإضافة إلى اغاني الأرض والزراعة والانسان والحب والوحدة التي تغنى بها الثلاثي الكوكباني قبل إعادة تحقيقها.

وذاع صيت الثلاثي منذ أول ظهور في عدن عام 1974م في أول شريط سجل لهم ، ومنذ ذلك الحين اشتهرت العديد من أغانيهم منها ” يا راعيات الغنم ” و” طاير السعد والهنا ” وغيرها من الأغاني المحفورة في الذاكرة اليمنية .

وكان شثيقه الفنان محمد حسن سعد الكوكباني قد توفي قبل سنوات ولحقه اليوم اخوه عبدالوهاب وتبقى على قيد الحياة من الثلاثي أخاهم سعد.

The one woman for Yemen’s future


امرأة واحدة بينهم .. اسماء مرشحي المؤتمر والاصلاح والحوثي والحراك والناصري لرئاسة الحكومة

2014-09-30T11:11:58.0000000+03:00 أخر تحديث للصفحة في

براقش نت – قالت صحيفة الشارع ان المؤتمر الشعبي العام قدم مرشحين لرئاسة
الحكومة هم شوقي أحمد هائل , وعبدالعزيز المخلافي و محمد لطف الارياني , فيما قدم حزب الاصلاح كل من أحمد بازرعة و عبدالله الصايدي ويحيى العرشي ونبيل الفقية .
وذكرت ان الحزب الاشتراكي اليمني قدم كل من أمة العليم السوسوة و محمد ابولحوم وفيصل سعيد فارع , فيما قدم التنظيم الوحدوي الشعبي الناصري ثلاثة مرشحين هم , عبدالرحمن الحمدي , والدكتور عبدالله دحان وعبدالحميد حاميم .
ونقلت الصحيفة عن مصادرها قولها ان الحراك المحسوب على الرئيس هادي قدم مرشحين هم فريد مجور و محمد علي الشدادي و ومحمد بن همام واحمد عوض بن مبارك , فيما قدمت جماعة الحوثي مرشحا واحدا هو الدكتور أيوب الحمادي , وان اتلجماعة كانت قدمت محافظ البنك محمد بن همام غير انه اعتذر , وان حسن زيد امين عام حزب الحق طرح أسم الدكتور محمد مطهر .

Human Rights Watch Honors Arwa Othman


Human Rights Watch, September 16, 2014

Human Rights Watch’s Alison Des Forges Award celebrates the valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others. Human Rights Watch collaborates with these courageous activists to create a world in which people live free of violence, discrimination, and oppression.

Arwa Othman is a writer, journalist, anthropology researcher and leading advocate working to end child marriage in Yemen.

Women in Yemen face severe discrimination in law and in practice. More than half of Yemeni girls are married—often to much older men—before age 18, making them more likely to drop out of school, die in childbirth, or experience physical and sexual abuse. During the mass protests that erupted in Yemen in 2011—ultimately ending then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule Othman was among the most outspoken activists calling for human rights and gender equality.

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Art and Islam in Yemen

The ongoing controversy of art and Islam

by Mohammed Al-Khayat, Yemen Times, August 7, 2014
One Yemeni artist was beaten for having painted  a woman wearing a traditional Yemenis dess (pictured).

One Yemeni artist was beaten for having painted a woman wearing a traditional Yemeni dress (pictured).

From the US to Yemen, the cliché of the starving artist is nearly universal. The word “artist” is nearly synonymous with “struggle” for those who make the pursuit their life’s full-time work, whatever their geographic location.
Artist Radfan Al-Mohammadi, who is also the head of the Arabian Forum for Fine Arts, has paid a high-price for his art, including the breaking-off of an engagement when the uncle of his future bride learned of his profession. Like concerned relatives around the world, he feared that Al-Mohammadi would not be able to support his daughter.

There was a secondary concern as well. Like many—but not all—Muslims, he feared that his daughter’s fiancé was pursuing a haram (“forbidden”) activity under Islamic doctrine. The subject has been widely debated by religious scholars.

“[The] rulings come from God and his prophet. It is not permitted to re-create the image of a human being under any circumstance,” said Mo’amar Al-Dhafree, an imam at Al-Sunna Mosque in Taiz and a Salafi clergyman.

However, a high-ranking official from the Rashad Union, a Salafi political party, told the Yemen Times the situation was not so straight forward.

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New Report on Poverty and Gender in Yemen


Poverty, human capital and gender: a comparative study of Yemen and Egypt

[There is a new report by Eldis, an NGO co-ordinated from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in Brighton, United Kingdom, about poverty and gender in Yemen and Egypt.  For a pdf of the report, click here. Here is the summary from the website.]

The objective of this study is to examine the impacts of poverty on children’s health status and educational attainment in Yemen and Egypt. The hypothesis is children from poor families, particularly girls have lower health status, lower educational attainment, and are most likely to engage in child labour. We will test for wealth and gender inequalities in educational attainment and health status of children.

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Is there a “Middle Arabic”?


Map of Aden in Ibn al-Mujāwir’s text

There is an important new article on so-called “Middle Arabic” from historian Rex Smith and Alex Bellem in the Supplement to the Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 44 (2014): 9–18. Below are the title and summary.

‘Middle Arabic’? Morpho-syntactic features of clashing grammars in a thirteenth-century Arabian text

by Alex Bellem & G. Rex Smith

There is a body of texts in Arabic the language of which has traditionally been called ‘Middle Arabic’ (MA). The term persists,
although often taken to relate to chronological and historical ‘middleness’ rather than linguistic intermediacy. One perhaps less well-known text composed in this style is Ibn al-Mujāwir’s thirteenth-century Tārīkh al-Mustabṣir.  As is typical of so-called ‘MA’ texts, Classical Arabic (CA) appears to dominate the style, with many non-CA features mixed into the CA base. Often, the non-CA features are essentially typical of Spoken Arabic (SA), so that the language is generally said to be a mix of CA and SA. There are, however, many non-CA features of Tārīkh al-Mustabṣir that do not conform entirely to either CA or SA, yet their use is not unsystematic. For these reasons we reject the term ‘MA’ in favour of ‘Literary Mixed Arabic’ (LMA).

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