Yemeni Novels


Political crisis and Yemen’s literary resurgence

by Fareed Al-Homaid, Yemen Times, March 23, 2015

“I have sold hundreds of novels since last June—not world literature masterpieces, but ones written by Yemeni authors. Do you believe that?!” said Abduljabar Al-Attoani, owner of Abu Thaar Bookstore in the capital Sana’a.

Despite ongoing political and economic turmoil, national literature saw an unexpected surge in 2014. Twenty novels were published by Yemeni authors last year, and while that figure may seem insignificant in a regional or global context, it is considerably more than the eight books produced the previous year. Indeed, it is about ten percent of all the books ever published by Yemeni writers, and considering the hardships facing the country today it is an extraordinary achievement.

The Yemeni novel in history

Ahmed Al-Sakkaf’s Qarot’s Girl, published in 1927, is considered modern Yemen’s first work of fiction. Since then, a mere two-hundred books by Yemeni writers are thought to have been published. Until the publication of Mohammed Abdulwali’s celebrated work They Die Strangers in 1971, marking the beginning of popular literature in Yemen, just eight books were produced.

Continue reading Yemeni Novels

Water still matters

Cistern at Saraha, al-Ahjur in 1985
Photograph by D. M. Varisco

There is a new report out on water management in Yemen.  At a time when the spilling of blood takes obvious priority over the lingering water supply crisis, it is still useful to consider the environmental danger on top of the political quagmire…

The Political Economy of Water Management in Yemen: Conflict Analysis and Recommendations

An acute water crisis looms over Yemen which suffers intense water scarcity. To address this problem, The Hague Institute published a report detailing the political economy of water conflicts in Yemen. The report, Commissioned by the Dutch Embassy in Yemen offers insights and recommendations to address the threat of conflict from water related issues.

On Socotri language

Russian roots and Yemen’s Socotra language

by Mansur Mirovalev, Al Jazeera, March 11, 2015

Moscow, Russia – The Semitic language spoken by more than 50,000 inhabitants of Yemen’s Socotra island is a linguistic time machine.

Socotri is the most archaic and isolated of several archaic and isolated tongues spoken in Yemen and Oman known as “modern South Arabian languages”. Its vocabulary is immensely rich – for example, there are distinct verbs for “to go” according to the time of the day, or for “to give birth” depending on the animal involved.

Socotri’s roots are close to the oldest written Semitic tongues that died out thousands of years ago – and it has grammatical features that no longer exist in Arabic, Hebrew or Aramaic. The study of Socotri helps understand the deep, prehistoric past – and the subsequent evolution – of all Semitic tongues.

“This is a very archaic linguistic and literary system that in many ways, I think, has preserved what we, the scholars, are used to perceive as the Biblical world or the ancient Arabic world,” Leonid Kogan, professor of Semitic languages at Moscow’s Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies, told Al Jazeera.

Then how is it that Socotri’s first alphabet was invented five millennia after the cuneiform tablets in Akkadian – the first written Semitic tongue – and it happened some 5,000km north of Socotra, in Russia’s Moscow?

Continue reading On Socotri language

International Women’s Day


Yemeni rapper Amani Yahya performs at the photo exhibit celebrating International Women’s Day

Yemen celebrates female photographers on International Women’s Day

Yemen Times,  9 March 201

With the closure of embassies and the country’s few galleries, the prospects for finding a sponsor and host for an International Women’s Day event were looking grim. Despite Yemen’s serious political situation—the UN Envoy to Yemen has described the country as being on the “brink of civil war”—photographer and women’s rights activist Bushra Al-Fusail made it happen.

“I said, ‘Fine. We’ll celebrate at a coffee shop. That’s where everyone gathers anyway.”

She approached Nina Aqlan from the Dutch organization, SPARK, and the two women moved forward with their plans for a photo exhibit featuring the photography of Yemeni women. SPARK sponsored the event, which was attended by dozens of people and hosted at Coffee Corner Monday evening.

In the entrance, photos in black frames celebrating Yemeni women were displayed. The photos were by Al-Fusail, as well as Maha Senan, Arwa Al-Hubaishi and Rooj Al-Wazir.

Continue reading International Women’s Day

Change Square


In February 2011, protesters set up tents outside the gates of Sana’a University, demanding “an end to the regime”. Day after day, the tents multiplied and the areas they occupied throughout Yemen became known as Change and Freedom Squares.

This photo book (also available for free as a PDF by going to this website) recalls a time in Sana’a’s Change Square when people dared to dream, a time when they did extraordinary things because they believed in their own strengths, talents, creativity, and resilience.

The preservation of this collective consciousness is essential not only for an accurate portrayal of history, but also to sustain hope and inspire future generations. Just as the 2011 revolution was an extension of previous acts of resistance, the future will surely build on the shared memories of that year.

The following photos were taken over a one-year period, beginning in February 2011 and ending in February 2012. Without any manipulation of the photographs, the images were selected primarily based on their ability to capture a range of activities inside the square, rather than their artistic qualities or technical composition.

To illustrate life inside the three-kilometer area, the photos are organized around two main themes: tent city and peaceful demonstrations.

Atiaf Z. Alwazir & Benjamin Wiacek

Download the photobook in English

Yemen’s Agricultural Marker Stars

The Yemeni scholar Yahya al-Ansi

No scholar in Yemen has done more to document and explain the rich tradition of Yemen’s indigenous knowledge on the stars and agricultural seasons than Yahya al-Ansi.  In addition to several published volumes, he has also created charts of the 28 المعالم الزراعية (agricultural marker stars). He was instrumental in founding the Astronomical Society of Yemen, which has a Facebook page. One of his latest contributions is a chart explaining these stars with their scientific identification.  This can be found here or by going to the Facebook group site, which is worth surfing.


AIYS is pleased to provide support for Yahya al-Ansi to continue his publishing work.

OXFAM Report: Safe Age of Marriage and Women’s Economic Empowerment


Last year OXFAM  released an important report on the safe age of marriage in Yemen, which can be accessed as a pdf here:

Here is a description:

The Safe Age of Marriage and Women’s Economic Empowerment project aimed to raise awareness about the negative impacts of early marriage and to reduce its prevalence, as well as to improve the opportunities available to women, through employment and self-employment. The project was implemented by Oxfam in two governorates of Yemen, Hodeidah and Hadramout, in coordination with a network of local partner organisations.

This report documents the findings of a quasi-experimental evaluation carried out in March and April 2013 that sought to assess the impact of some of the activities of this project.