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Daniel Martin Varisco is President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies.

Why Yemen Matters


Yemen’s war and humanitarian crisis are in the news, but very little is known about the rich cultural heritage of the southwestern corner of Arabia throughout history. Also largely unknown are Yemen’s geographic and economic diversity or their impact on recent events. Yemen’s diversity owes much to conquest, trade, and migration between Yemen and Christian Ethiopia, Sassanian and Islamic Iran, Fatimid and Ayyubid Egypt, Ottoman Turkey, the African coast and Southeast Asia. In this panel experts on different periods of Yemeni history and its diverse contemporary contexts probe beyond current politics to share their insights and discuss potentials for future scholarly research on Yemen.

There will be a Near Eastern Studies Seminar, Why Yemen Matters: The Heritage of a Land in Crisis,at the School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton on Feb. 19, from 5:00-6:30 pm. This Panel Discussion presents current IAS Scholars:  Najwa Adra (IAS), Hassan Ansari (IAS), Glen Bowersock (IAS), Nathalie Peutz (New York University Abu Dhabi), Christian Robin (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris), Sabine Schmidtke (IAS), and Daniel M. Varisco (American Institute for Yemeni Studies).

The meeting will be held in the White-Levy room at IAS. This event is part of the Near Eastern Studies Workshops sponsored by Professor Sabine Schmidtke (IAS). RSVP to

Ecumenical Scene in Aden in 1888


صورة نادرة في عدن تجمع كل الجنسيات والديانات
عدن بلاد التعايش السلمي والتسامح ولقاء الحضارات.. اعتبرها سكانها أم الدنيا الثانية ومدينة عالمية!

صورة قديمة تعود لعام 1888 ميلادية للسكان في عدن آنذاك وهم من الجنسيات التالية: [صومالي ، بارسي (ايراني) ، صيني ، نوبي(سوداني) ، عربي ، سيخي وبينيان (هندي) ، يهودي …].
وهذا لا يعني بأن هذه الصورة توحي بأن عدن مفروغة من اهلها العرب الاقحاح ، لكن نسبة كبيرة من الوافدين بقوا وآخرين رحلوا..وهذا طبيعي في مدن منفتحة على الخارج بالنظر لموقعها مثل غيرها من المدن الساحلية في اليمن وسواها . والتشدق بالعرق الواحد واللون الواحد والسلالة الواحدة بداهة هو ضربا من العنصرية.
كانت صنعاء ومدن شمال اليمن تستورد الاحذية الجلد الاصلية من عدن صنع محلي بينيان ، ولهذا تسمى ” قنطرة بينيان” من صناعة الجالية الهندية في عدن وربما تستورد عن طريقهم من الهند باعتبار عدن محطة في طريق شركة الهند الشرقية .
وإذا كانت القاهرة قد وصفت بجدارة بأنها أم الدنيا، اي انها احتضنت عبر تاريخها ما لا يحصى ولا يعد من مختلف جنسيات العالم بل من كل جنسيات وطوائف وملل ونحل وأديان العالم..يرى سكانها : “ ان مدينة عدن هي ايضا يجب ان توصف بأنها أم الدنيا -الثانية على الأقل- ولا يحتاج القارئ الحصيف ذو العقل المشرق النبيه المنصف المنطقي الى أدلة تلو الادلة ليقتنع بأن عدن مدينة عالمية مثلها مثل هونج كونج لكن مع فارق التطور الاقتصادي لكن بالنسبة للتطور الحضاري فهي لا تقل درجة عن غيرها من المدن المتحضرة لكن حضها عاثر للأسف انها المدينه التي تميزت بقدرتها على استيعاب كل الثقافات وكل من سكن فيها من البشر على اختلاف ثقافاتهم وجنسياتهم ودياناتهم وعاشوا وتعايشوا مع غيرهم من الطوائف والجنسيات فيها بوئام وسلام وطمأنينة وتسامح فهل نجد عدن الام الحاضنة ونجد ناسها الطيبين”. هذا على حد تعبيرهم..

من شبكة فيسبوك لمحمد محمد احمد البعجري‎

Nancy Um on Mocha in Chicago

“From City to Text to Image: Pieter van den Broecke and Safi ibn Vali in Seventeenth-Century Mocha”
by Nancy Um (SUNY Binghamton)

Friday, February 14
, 12:00 – 1:30 pm
Neubauer Collegium
University of Chicago
5701 S. Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL

In this talk, Nancy Um will examine two seventeenth-century images of the Red Sea port of Mocha in Yemen. The first is an etching by Adriaen Matham, which was published in the journal of the Dutch East India Company merchant Pieter van den Broecke. The other is a painting that appeared in a pilgrimage narrative written by Safi ibn Vali, a Persian scholar who was sponsored by Zib al-Nisa, the daughter of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. The two images will be placed in dialogue, with a consideration of the complicated relationships that were sustained between port city spaces, travel narratives, and image genres in the seventeenth century, a time when Red Sea travel, for both trade and pilgrimage, generated considerable visual interest.

This event is sponsored by the Interwoven project at the Neubauer Collegium. This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who need an accommodation in order to participate should contact the Neubauer Collegium at or 773.795.2329.


Ottomans in Southern Yemen, 1918


Hussain Alamree has posted this old photograph on his Facebook site, noting:

صورة نادرة من عام 1918م اثناء الحرب العالمية الاولى وتظهر مجموعة من الضباط العثمانيين الى جانب مجموعة اعتقد انهم من ابناء ال فضل حيث قاتلوا الى جانب العثمانيين في لحج 1915-1918م

In the comments to the blog post it was also suggested that this was taken in Oman and features Mahris.

Peacebuilding in Yemen


A new article on peacebuilding efforts in Yemen.

“This bleak assessment of the role of CS [civil societies] during war seems to confirm the growing critique of international CS peacebuilding policies and indeed of aid more generally. However, these issues do not apply in similar weight to all CSOs in Yemen. As discussed by Dibley (2014), various circumstances shape the ability of CSOs to exercise independent agency. Our categorisation of organisations into three types sheds some further light on this. Donor-driven organisations, operating at the national level, best fit the picture painted by the critics. But this is less true of the other types of CSOs active in Yemen: local-level grassroots self-help organisations, often with a tribal or religious background, and new activist organisations originating from the Yemeni Spring.
Whilst these actors, too, are severely affected by the violence and prone to political capture, grassroots CSOs, which are less of a target for political actors due to their lowkey activities, continue to offer vital support to the victims of the war. Meanwhile, new activist CSOs attempt to avoid political co-optation and to continue to speak out politically, even though this presents severe risks. This group also includes e-activists who operate from abroad; these are able to raise awareness on the Yemeni conflict, rights violations, and strategies for peacebuilding, without risking life and limb.”


Epigraphy of pre-Islamic South Arabia


A series of five hands-on lectures will be given by Christian Robin, a Member of the School for Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and of the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique in France, in the Near Eastern Studies Workshops sponsored by Professor Sabine Schmidtke. These will provide an overview of the epigraphic documentation of pre-Islamic Arabia and existing tools, as well as presenting the state of the art on issues for which significant progress has been made in recent years through new epigraphic discoveries and the re-examination of older documents.

This will be held over five days: January 21, 23, 27, 28, 30, 2020 in Fuld Hall, room 307 of IAS.

The topics include:
• Arabs and Ḥimyarites; sha‘b and ‘ashīrat; the introduction of the horse
• territorial expansion of the kingdom of Ḥimyar; the “kingdom” of Kinda
• Judaism of Ḥimyar; the names of God, especially Raḥmānān
• reign of Abraha; the Christianity of Ḥimyar; Christian Arabs
• polytheistic god al-Lāh (comparison with al-Lāt); daughters of Īl
• tribal map and Arab-Islamic genealogies; permanence and breaks
• Arab-Muslim scholarly tradition and archaeology (writing, ritual practices, political history, chronology)
• Arabic and South Arabian languages
• long distance trade
• public finances

Knowledge of a Semitic language, ideally Arabic, is recommended.


Tribal Dynamics and Nation Building in Yemen


On February 5, 2020 Najwa Adra, a Visitor at the School for Social Sciences of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, will give a talk in the  Near Eastern Studies Seminar on “Tribal Dynamics and Nation Building in Yemen.”

The meeting will be from 4:00-6:00 pm in the West Seminar room at IAS. All are welcome.

For details, click here: