Category Archives: Sanaa

More Yemeni Manuscripts Online

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Title page of a collective manuscript containing several writings by the founder of the Zaydi state in Yemen, Imam al-Hadi ila l-haqq (d. 910). The codex (copied around 1200 CE) is one of the oldest among the Yemeni manuscripts of the Munich Caprotti collection.

The Institute for Advanced Study, the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML), and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich, announce that digital copies of 53 additional South Arabian manuscripts are now available online through vHMML (Virtual HMML) Reading Room and the digital repository of the Bavarian State Library. Convenient access is further provided through the Digital Portal of the Zaydi Manuscript Tradition website at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey. The digitization has been generously funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities.

The South Arabian manuscripts held by the Bavarian State Library were brought together by the Italian merchant Giuseppe Caprotti, who arrived in Yemen in 1885 and spent the next 34 years there. During his sojourn in South Arabia, Caprotti collected 1,790 manuscripts. A small portion, 157 manuscripts, was offered in 1901 through the mediation of Eduard Glaser to the Bibliotheca Regia Monacensis at Munich (now Bavarian State Library), and the purchase was concluded in 1902. The bulk of the Caprotti collection belongs, since 1909, to the Biblioteca Pinacoteca Accademia Ambrosiana, in Milan, and another portion of 280 manuscripts was donated in 1922 to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.

“With close to 1,800 codices, the Caprotti collection is the largest collection of South Arabian manuscripts outside Yemen, and it is very helpful that some more of this precious material is now available to scholars worldwide in digital form,” said Sabine Schmidtke, Professor of Islamic intellectual history in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study.

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R. B. Serjeant’s Work on Yemen

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Last year a memorial issue on the 25th anniversary of the passing of the major scholar of Yemen, R. B. Serjeant, was published. Serjeant, who held the Adams Chair of Arabic at Cambridge, had personal experience in Yemen and made a variety of contributions to Yemeni Studies.

A copy of this issue is available here:

Chroniques du manuscrit au Yémen

Numéro spécial 2, 2018

Robert Bertram Serjeant (1915-1933).
Écosse-Yémen

Edité par Anne Regourd

Table des matières

Le volume complet (format pdf)

Anne Regourd (CNRS, UMR 7192). Vingt-cinq ans après : Hommage à Robert Bertram Serjeant (1915-1993). L’homme et ses archives

Aline Brodin (Cataloguing archivist, Special Collections, University of Edinburgh). An overview of the Robert Bertram Serjeant Collections at the University of Edinburgh Main Library

Ronald Lewcock (UNESCO consultant on architecture in the Yemen). Three Medieval Mosques in the Yemen: architecture, art, and sources
Plates and photographs

Philippe Provençal (Natural History Museum of Denmark). La question des noms d’espèces de poissons en arabe : la liste de Robert Bertram Serjeant

Mikhail Rodionov (Peter-the-Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, St. Petersburg State University, Russia). Ibāḍīs in the written-oral tradition of modern Ḥaḍramawt

G. Rex Smith (University of Leeds). Two literary mixed Arabic texts from the Yemen

​Modern Yemeni Theatre: A Brief History

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Yemeni novelists and playwrites  Nadiah al-Kokabany, Wagdi al-Ahdal, Ali al-Moqri and Samir Abdul-Fatah

by Sara Forcella

Over the past two centuries, Yemen has been the scene of an important literary flowering. Despite the never-ending struggle of play-writers against the socio-political difficulties of the country, the emergence of the Modern Yemeni Theatre doubtless represents an example both of an innovative and high value literary production. Continuously facing social, political and cultural problems, Yemeni authors and players have always shown a great capability of keeping up with the times. Their works talk about doubts, questions, passions and issues of the modern man, going beyond the “local” dimension and constantly dialoguing with their Western counter-parts.

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Sa‘īd ‘Awlaqī

According to Saʿīd ʿAwlaqī (Sabʿūna ʿāmān min al-masraḥ fī-al-Yaman [Seventy Years of Yemen Theatre], 1983), the first information available about the early Yemeni dramas dates back to 1904 when the Indian acting company of Jamlat Shah came to Aden. The company went on stage with a mostly musical performance involving all its members, namely actors, dancers, musicians and circus animals. However, it was not until 1910 that the first Yemeni theatrical company was established in Aden, consisting of students that acted out a western play, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, in Arabic. As al-Mubarak (Arabic Drama, A Critical Introduction, 1986) wrote, these first companies adopted the western model of playwriting once they came in direct contact with it during the 19th century, both in Greater Syria (the ancient region including Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestine territories till the collapse of the Ottoman empire in 1918) and Egypt. Western models melded with previous forms of Arabic art performances, spanning the traditional shadow play, storytelling and poetry recitation.
Continue reading ​Modern Yemeni Theatre: A Brief History

An Iraqi Heart in Yemen

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Qalb al-Yaman (The Heart of Yemen) is a book published in 1947 in Baghdad by the Iraqi military advisor Muḥammad Ḥasan. This is a fascinating account of Yemen about an Iraqi Military Mission to Yemen in 1940-1943 with details on Yemen at that time under the rule of Imām Yaḥyā.  It is now available for reading online and downloadable.

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first page of the author’s text

The text consists of 256 pages with a detailed table of contents, illustrations and a large map. The major chapters deal with Yemen’s geography and resources, history, the author’s travel experience to Yemen, the capital Ṣan‘ā’, Imām Yaḥyā, social life, major routes, local medicine, the government and soldiers, social and regional groups, women, marriage customs, festivals and greeting behavior, Yemenite Jews, the Iraqi advisors in Yemen, diplomatic relations and correspondence, Islamic sects, and his return to Iraq. There are numerous photographs, which unfortunately did not reproduce well in the publication.

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photograph of Imām Yaḥyā (who did not want his image copied as noted in the bottom left)

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beheading of soldier overseen by Sayf al-Islām Ibrāhīm

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one of the earliest photographs of Yemeni bara‘

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respective genealogies of Iraqī King Faysal and Yemeni Imām Yaḥyā

Thanking Mulk for her service to AIYS

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Mulk with her grandchildren and Dr. Salwa Dammaj

On Thursday, March 7, a reception party was held at AIYS in Ṣan‘ā’ to bid farewell to Mulk, who started working for AIYS in 1998 until 2018. Her daughters and granddaughters were in attendance. She is from the Manākha district of Ṣan‘ā’ governorate. Mulk noted that when she was working for a Yemeni family in 1998, that family introduced her to an American woman called Barbara, who helped her to get a job opportunity in the AIYS. She started working in the AIYS office when Marta Colburn was the Resident Director. Afterwards she kept her job with directors Chris Edens and Stephen Steinbeiser and most recently Salwa Dammaj.

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Mulk served in the three buildings that used to be the AIYS headquarters. After her husband died in 2006 she had to support and was responsible for the  upbringing of her six siblings.

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Mulk with an AIYS friend

She holds a lot of reminiscences about the foreign visitors and researchers who came to AIYS over the past two decades. Mulk said that she was deeply impressed by the late Selma al-Radi, describing her as very kind and helpful lady. She is very grateful for AIYS, considering her work for the institute as a very positive experience in her life. AIYS deeply appreciates Mulk’s services and loyalty, wishing her good health and welfare.