المدرسة المعتبية في تعز

This word just in.  An AIYS panel proposed for the 2014 MESA annual meeting in Washington, D.C. has been accepted. The panel was organized by AIYS President Varisco and the abstract of the panel is provided below:

Making Yemen’s Islamic History: Engineering, Endowments, Monuments and Qat

Panel Abstract:
Scholarship on Islamic history has paid less attention to Yemen than to Iraq, Syria or Egypt.  Despite an important corpus of manuscripts and the publication of several significant primary sources, the historical reconstruction of Islamic Yemen lags behind these other regions.  This panel brings together historians who work on various periods in Yemen to illustrate how the current historiography is being made.  Archaeological fieldwork on the Islamic era has been limited with the notable exception of the Royal Ontario Museum project on Zabid.  Based on the excavation of water works in Zabid, one paper compares the material evidence with the description of water engineering schemes in the 16th century Yemeni text History of Zabid by Ibn al-Dayba’, thus showing the importance of archaeology for fleshing out the tantalizing details in written texts.  Another paper focuses on the 10th century multi-volume al-Iklil of the Yemeni savant al-Hamdani, who provides a rhetorical landscape of monuments as an aid in the formation and maintenance of the South Arabian political identity in a fashion akin to modern cultural heritage texts. At the same time, al-Hamdani’s reconstruction of Yemen’s pre-Islamic past serves as a mirror of the politics of his own time, with the retreat of the Abbasid presence and the recent arrival of both Zaydis and Isma’ilis to northern Yemen, more than a century before the Ayyubid invasion.  The Zaydi presence in Yemen’s north since the late ninth century is the focus of a paper on the tax policies of the Zaydi imams, especially the tension between the traditional zakat on production and other kinds of taxes.  This paper discusses both the theological debate about tax collection and recorded information on how taxes were actually collected. Another paper examines the evidence for the introduction of both coffee (Coffea arabica) and qat (Catha edulis) into Yemen, probably during the Rasulid era. Recent research has resolved the issue of the origin of the term “qat” and there is a need to update discussion of the stimulant in previous sources, including the EI.  This paper will examine historical, literary, legal and lexical sources as well as Yemeni folklore.  Overall the panel provides both an indication of current research and an invitation for other scholars to help make Yemen’s history as well.

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Marriage Customs in Yafi‘


The internet is a vast resource for learning about Yemen’s traditions and customs.  For those interested in marriage customs and songs in the southern tribal area of Yafi‘, there are excerpts posted from Dr. ‘Ali Salih al-Khulaqi’s book here.  I attach here Dr. Al-Khulaqi’s introduction, but go to the website for a major excerpt.

تقديم كتاب ( عادات وتقاليد الزواج وأغانيه في يافع) يرجع الاهتمام بدراسة عادات وتقاليد الزواج وغيرها من العادات الاجتماعية, للحرص على رصد ملامحها وتوثيق خصائصها وسماتها في مجتمعنا المتغير, خشية اندثارها نهائياً, خاصة وأنها تتلاشى تدريجياً أمام أعيننا وكثير منها قد اختفى بفعل المتغيرات الحضارية التي تجرف من طريقها مثل هذه العادات والتقاليد. ولا يمكن لكتاب واحد أن يشتمل على رصد وتدوين لكامل العادات والتقاليد والتعابير والأمثال التي سادت في منطقة يافع الغنية بموروثها الفلكلوري الغني, ولهذا رأيت أن أتناول موضوعات محددة بعينها من دوحة التراث الشعبي بغية تعميم الفائدة وتدوين أكبر قدر مما أمكن جمعه من صنوف وألوان هذا التراث. وعلى هذا الطريق بدأت بجمع وشرح أمثال يافع في كتاب أسميته (الشائع من أمثال يافع) صدرت طبعته الأولى عن دار جامعة عدن عام 2000م Continue reading Marriage Customs in Yafi‘

Socotra Film


One of the remaining marvels off the east coast of Africa is the island archipelago of Socotra, historically associated with Yemen, the nation which it belongs to. Socotra is a preserve of biodiversity with a local population not yet catapulted into the under-development pains of the 21st century. There is a fascinating film about the need to protect Socotra’s unique environment and its people from the devastating impact of uncontrolled “development.” Among the individuals speaking is Dutch ecologist Paul Scholte, who has extensive research experience both in Yemen and Africa. Check out both parts of the film here and here. There are a number of Youtube videos on Socotra, but most are tourist oriented and do not match the information level of this film.

Serjeant’s “Prose and Poetry” now in Arabic


There is now an Arabic edition of R. B. Serjeant’s classic South Arabian Poetry: Prose and Poetry from Hadramawt (1951).

كتاب (نثر وشعر من حضرموت) للمستشرق البريطاني روبرت سارجنت في المكتبة العربية الآن

صدر عن دار ثقافة للنشر والتوزيع كتاب (نثر وشعر من حضرموت) للمستشرق البريطاني روبرت سارجنت، وترجمة الأديب الحضرمي سعيد محمد دحي. الكتاب يُعد أحد أهم ما كُتب عن خصائص المجتمع الحضرمي في النصف الأول من القرن العشرين وعن طريق قراءة عميقة للنثر والشعر العامي الذي تم انتاجه في حضرموت في تلك الفترة.

ويصف المترجم سعيد دحي في مقدمته للكتاب روبرت سارجنت بأنه خير من يمثل الباحثين الأوروبيين الجادين والنشطين والموضوعين الذي درسوا تراث أمتنا العربية ونظمها الثقافية والمعرفية والشعبية والدينية وتلمس شخصية الأمة العربية في إطارها الحضاري المتميز ويهتز طربا لاحتفالاتها ومواسمها الشعبية والأعراس والمناسبات التي يتجلى فيها إبداعها بأبهى مظاهره وصوره وتنوع فنونه من خلال اللهجة العامية والأشعار الشعبية والأغاني والأهازيج والزوامل.

Continue reading Serjeant’s “Prose and Poetry” now in Arabic

Facebook Yemen: الجمعية الفلكية اليمنية


The Astronomical Society of Yemen has a Facebook site created by the distinguished scholar of Yemeni astronomy, Yahya Yahya al-Ansi.  Check it out at

أهلا وسهلا بك إلى الجمعية الفلكية باليمنية. مخصص لطرح ومنافشة انشطة الجمعية المختلفة … مخصص لطرح كافة الانشطة الفلكية عربيا وعالميا

الاستاذ يحيى يحيى العنسي


Najwa Adra on Yemen

AIYS member and fellow, Najwa Adra, now a Visiting Scholar at the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University, has been active speaking about her research and consulting experience in Yemen over the past academic year. Dr. Adra first arrived in Yemen in 1978 to conduct ethnographic research in the highland valley of al-Ahjur.  She has returned many times since then on projects for the Population Council, FAO, UNICEF, USAID and the World Bank.


• 2013 – 2014 Women and Peacebuilding in Yemen: Challenges and Opportunities. Policy Brief, Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF). Available online:  Republished in Open Democracy, January 21, 2014

Seminars, Professional Papers and Lectures:

Continue reading Najwa Adra on Yemen

South Arabian antiquities fellowship

Wendell Phillips (right)

The Freer and Sackler Galleries are pleased to announce a new curatorial fellowship for fall, 2014

The Ancient Art Curatorial Fellowship at the Freer and Sackler Galleries is intended to promote collection-based research and curatorial training in one of two focused areas of ancient art. The incumbent will work with the Freer|Sackler curator of Islamic art and other staff as necessary and participate in the museums’ activities as requested. Fellowship duties will include exhibition-related work with the relevant collection, carried out in consultation and collaboration with Freer|Sackler staff.

Depending on the scholarly background and interest of the successful applicant, the fellowship will be awarded in one of two collections areas: ancient art of South Arabia or the art of the Sogdians. This is a one-year fellowship, with the possibility of renewal.

Please visit the fellowship webpage for more information and application instructions.
The application deadline is May 15, with notification in early June and a start date in the fall.

Nancy Micklewright
Head, Scholarly Programs and Publications
Washington, DC

Qat banned in China

Forget about being banned in Boston (which the Yemeni stimulant qat (Catha edulis) already is), since now it is illegal to possess, circulate or chew qat in China.  According to a report in Yemen Press, it seems that the Chinese authorities have been cracking down on Yemenis bringing qat with them at the major airports.  This has forced the Yemen Embassy in China to issue a letter to its citizens warning them about the ban.  It appears that China is following the lead of Britain, which banned qat in Britain despite the fact that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) concluded there was no evidence that chewing the fresh leaves was harmful.

As is found elsewhere, the fresh leaves of Catha edulis are mislabeled as a “drug” or “narcotic” , as on this website for a drug-free China.  There is a market for qat in China, as shown in this youtube video, although ironically it is Ethiopian qat that is being imported.