Category Archives: Culture

Cairo Heritage Workshop

Cairo2Workshop participants. Dan Mahoney is in the back, 5 from the left. Photo courtesy of Peter Heredrich.

On behalf of AIYS, board member Daniel Mahoney attended a “Strategic Planning for Regional Cultural Property Protection” workshop organized in Cairo on February 22-23, 2020. This was organized by the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) for the CAORC member centers and allied organizations in regard to two main topics: (1) an update and explanation of the bilateral agreements the U.S. is making with countries in MENA with the most immediate aim of stopping the importation of looted/stolen archaeological and ethnographic cultural property, and (2) the planning for two future workshops (sponsored by ARCE from a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo) aimed at bringing together CAORC members and government officials from the MENA countries to discuss topics such as site management and collection documentation and inventory systems.

The major outcome of the meeting was the planning of the next two workshops. The first will take place at ACOR (Jordan) when possible, with its theme of ‘site management’.
It is hoped that these workshops will further communications between MENA government antiquities professionals in order to share and promote best practices for cultural heritage/property protection.

In regards specifically to Yemen and the ‘MoU’ (Memorandum of Understanding) for the bilateral agreement for cultural property protection, this is the current status: On February 7, a unilateral emergency order was issued by the U.S. via the Federal Register for import restrictions imposed on archaeological and ethnological material from Yemen. This can remain in place for up to eight years, but cannot be renewed beyond this. During this period of time, a bilateral agreement must be settled, which will last for five years and can be renegotiated and renewed every five years thereafter. There was a hearing and meeting for this bilateral MoU in Washington, D.C. this past October, but the final results have yet to come about. It is expected later this year. The MoU is necessary because the 1970 UNESCO Convention for Cultural Property Protection is not automatically enforced in the U.S. without an additional agreement.

The reason for the recent upsurge in agreements for the MENA region is partly because the U.S. government sees them as a tool towards national security because the illegal trafficking of cultural property is often used to fund terrorism. In addition, increased regional/local MENA interest in the protection of cultural property leads to the strengthening of civil society and local communities.

New Post on Zabid Project

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One of the major archeological projects conducted in Yemen was the Royal Ontario Museum expedition in the 1980s under the directorship of Ed Keall.  Dr. Keall has provided an update on the project and this is now online on the AIYS website.

Below is the outline:

Formal Start of the Project in 1982 >
Study of Zabid’s urban form >
Traditional brick houses of Zabid >
Zabid Citadel Excavations >
al-Asha’ir mosque probe
>
Ceramic Typology >
The Mosques of Zabid >
Commemorative Monuments in Islamic Tihamah >
Spate Irrigation and Water Delivery Systems >
Megalithic site of al-Midamman >
Rock paintings of al-Mastur >
Bibliography

Trust in Yemen

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The recent report issued by ESCWA in 2019, entitled Arab Society: A Compendium of Demographic and Social Statistics, No. 13 is well worth reading and contains useful information on Yemen. One of the most interesting facts about Yemen is that although it is the poorest state on the Arabian Peninsula and is currently being bullied and devastated by its wealthy neighbors, the Yemeni people have the highest regard of trust for their fellow citizens of any country in the region.

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Zāmil lives in War-torn Yemen

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Photographic Source: اليمن الجمهوري

by Emily Sumner
Graduate Student in Arabic Literature, Culture & Media
Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
College of Liberal Arts
University of Minnesota

In the celebrated Yemeni novel الرهينة (The Hostage) by Zayd Mutee‘ Dammaj, the protagonist, a hostage of the imam, is greeted by the soldiers living in the governor’s palace with verses of a zāmil:

يا دويدار قد أمك فاقدة لك.

دمعها كالمطر

Oh Duwaydar, your mother misses you

Her tears are like rain[1]

The inclusion of zawāmil in a Yemeni novel is indicative of their place in Yemeni life. Zawāmil accompany Yemen’s poignant historical moments, such as the fall of the imamate and establishment of the Republic. They are a lively component of Yemen’s cultural heritage, shedding light on its people’s social, political and literary history.

The footnote to the above zāmil in The Hostage defines it as a “traditional communal chant,”  نشيد جماعي تقليدي. A reductionist definition, yet it does get at the heart of what scholars have consistently said about this poetic genre: it expresses communal feeling and is performed by a group in response to a social occasion. In the case of The Hostage, the arrival of the Duwaydar prompts the zāmil; other moments that may inspire Yemenis to perform zawāmil are as divergent as the joy of weddings and the trials of war.

In his book Folk Literature Arts in Yemen (1988), ‘Abd Allāh al-Baraddūnī suggests that the zawāmil were dwindling at that time for a variety of reasons, chief among them the advent of modern weapons, which he claims stifle the zāmil’s pervasive sounds and rhythm. He contrasts the days when lines of men marched to battle while chanting a zāmil, their voices echoing in the air and overtaking their surroundings, with soldiers’ voices contained within moving cars. He concludes by asserting the zāmil is being reduced to “merely moral incitement, or the extension of a declining practice.”[2]

Yet the proliferation of zawāmil during the current war indicates their continued salience in Yemeni life and the ways in which Yemenis adapt cultural forms to suit novel circumstances. Al-Baradduni is not wrong—the zāmil is “moral incitement,” but perhaps the term “merely” is misplaced. The various sides of the current armed conflict, whether Houthis, pro-government forces, or supporters of the Coalition, compose zawāmil that are available not only to Yemenis but to a much wider audience on social media. The zāmil reverberates within Yemen and beyond its borders.

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By way of example, below is one popular Houthi zāmil retrieved from YouTube, along with my translation:

أداء: عيسى الليث

كلمات: محمد الجرف

وقت النقا حان ويل المعتدي ويله 1.     إستنفري ياجيوش الله في مأرب
والجن والإنس والأملاك تصغي له 2.     جنود ربي حماة الدار تتأهب
وبندقي في الخصم يدي مواويله 3.     الله أكبر صداها في الحشا يلهب
يابندقي لاهنت سامرني الليله 4.     صنعاء بعيده قولوا له الرياض أقرب
كلاً حزم عدته واسرج على خيله 5.     القوم شبت نكفها للقاء ترغب
حتى ولو في بطون الأرض نأتي له 6.     قولوا لسلمان ماله مننا مهرب
المعتدي يالغبي يبشر بتنكيله[3] 7.     هذا اليمن من تجاهلنا فقد جرب

 

Vocals: ‘Isa al-Laith

Words: Mohamad al-Jaraf

  1. Get ready for war, armies of Allah in Ma’rib!

The time for honesty has come. Woe to the aggressor, woe to him!

  1. My Lord’s soldiers, the protectors of the land, are getting ready.

The jinn, humans and angels all heed Him.

  1. “Allah is great!” Its echo blazes inside [of them].

My rifle in the conflict performs its songs.

  1. Sanʿaʾ is far away, tell him Riyadh is closer!

Oh my rifle  – may God protect you from humiliation – keep me     company tonight.

  1. The people’s disdain blazes and they crave an encounter.

Everyone has fastened their weapon and saddled their horse.

  1. Tell Salman he will never escape us!

Even in the bowels of the Earth we will get to him.

  1. This is Yemen! Whoever ignored us has learned his lesson!

The aggressor – that idiot – heralds his own destruction!

————————————————————————————-

[1] p. 18, translation my own.

[2] p. 147.

[3] Al-Laith, ʿĪsā, “Zāmil Ṣanʿāʾ baīdah qūlū lahu ar-Riyāḍ aqrab.” YouTube video, 5:36, posted by

Shamūkh Yamānī, December 31, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tRFJdzQwZw. Accessed February 23, 2020.

الإعلان عن إطلاق موقع يمن ابديت اون لين

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الإعلان عن إطلاق موقع  يمن ابديت اون لين

ينشر موقع يمن ابديت اون لاين البحوث والدراسات اليمنية بما في ذلك المقالات المهنية بلغتين العربية والانجليزي و مراجعات الكتب والتقارير التي يصدرها باحثو وزملاء المعهد الأمريكي للدراسات اليمنية. تتم الإضافات والتحديثات على مدار العام بعد تقديمها والموافقة على نشرها من قبل المحررين. وان كانت المقالات اقل من الف كلمة فسيتم نشرها كنص في الإنترنت. بينما يتم نشر المقالات والموضوعات الأطول بصيغة بي. دي. أف لأمكانية نسخها من الموقع. ويتخذ المحررون قرار الموافقة على نشرها. ان رغبتم في تقديم صور او رسومات يجب ان تكونوا اصحاب الحق في نشرها اولديكم اذناً بذل. أما بقية حقوق الطبع فهي للكاتب. التفاصيل على الموقع

Announcing Yemen Update Online

Yemen Update Online publishes research in English and Arabic in any field of Yemen Studies. This includes professional articles of any length, book reviews and AIYS fellowship reports. Items will be added throughout the calendar year as they are submitted and approved by the editors. If the article is less than 1,000 words it will be published as text online, but longer articles will be published as pdfs to be downloaded from the site. Decisions on publication are made by the editors. If you are submitting photographs or drawings, make sure that you have permission to do so.  All rights remain with the author. For details, check out the website.

Why Yemen Matters

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The forum “Why Yemen Matters: The Heritage of a Land in Crisis” was held at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton on February 19, 2020, sponsored by the Near Eastern Studies program under the leadership of Dr. Sabine Schmidtke. Speaking at the event were AIYS members Najwa Adra, Nathalie Peutz and Dan Varisco. Present in the audience was AIYS board member Tarek Al-Wazir.

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(left to right): Dan Varisco, Nathalie Peutz, Hassan Ansari, Najwa Adra, Glen Bowersock, Sabine Schmidtke, Christian Robin

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.

whyprogram

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Dan Varisco speaking on the historical diversity of Islam in Yemen.

Why Yemen Matters

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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 nitschke@ias.edu.

Peacebuilding in Yemen

peacebuilding

A new article on peacebuilding efforts in Yemen.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21647259.2019.1686797

“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

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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.

RSVP to nitschke@ias.edu