Michal Zurawski on AIYS

michal1Michel at Sabanco place (Old Sanaa, Harat at-Talh)

In October 2010, I arrived Sanaa for a 10 months scholarship to practice Arabic language and get experience of Arabic culture. It was a basic scholarship set on agreement between the Polish and Yemeni governments. From the Polish side it has been used mostly by students of Arabic language studies, however Yemen was not a popular destination. That year only I and one girl came (and there were 5 places).

The scholarship was a great chance to gather material for my B.A. thesis on an introduction to Yemeni dialects. Because of that, I reached out to AIYS about its facilities in Sanaa. I got some directions from Faraj, but getting to AIYS was quite challenging as it was in an uncharacteristic house, located in a small alley near the Republican Hospital in al-Qa’a Street. There I met Faraj and Stephen (AIYS director at the time).

Date seller near Bab al-Yaman

I have spent some long hours in AIYS library going through dialectological books and dictionaries. It contained everything that was written on Yemeni dialects. It was a very enjoyable time, but also crucial for my B.A. thesis. Unfortunately, at my home University of Warsaw, there were not any positions for dialectology.

Suq al-‘Arj (Donkey Market)

My research coincided with turmoil times that shadowed the whole Arab world. My stay was cut short and I left Yemen on 3rd June, 2011, the same day bomb exploded in Presidential Palace and was supposed to kill Ali Abdullah Salih.

Beginning of Arab Spring in Yemen –
demonstration next to Sanaa University

All my experiences with AIYS were great and fundamental for my academic success. Footnote 1 in my thesis states: “I got access to books in greatly supplied library of American Institute for Yemeni Studies, which contains, not only positions on Yemeni dialects, but also on South Arabic languages. Not to mention other subject areas”.

This post is part of the anniversary of AIYS at 40. Click here for other reflections.