AIYS member Flagg Miller spoke recently in Capetown about hunger strike activism in Yemen at the Moral and Ethical Performances in Religion Conference in Capetown, South Africa..
AIYS member Flagg Miller spoke recently in Capetown about hunger strike activism in Yemen at the Moral and Ethical Performances in Religion Conference in Capetown, South Africa..
Trolling through archive.org can yield surprising and very obscure finds. Such is the case for this Orientalist book by Daniel Wise from 1885. The author has written it for boys (not sure if girls were on his mind) about a trip that a boy could make from Boston to Baghdad and back again. The author splices information from various travel accounts into his fanciful narrative, which has a missionary side as well.
What I found of interest was a brief discussion of coffee, probably taken from Niebuhr’s late 18th century travels. There is nothing new here, but the style is fun to consider. It is interesting to note that even back then it seems that not all Mocha coffee was coming from Mocha.
Cafes is a short documentary about Samaser, the old and modern cafes in Sana’a. The film chronicles these spaces in a beautiful and artistic way, and weaves their history, development and social role for the elderly and youth alike. In his film, Zakaria Mohammed focuses on the social and cultural importance of cafes for young men and women who have turned to them because of today’s war and crisis – especially as the country lacks safe spaces and suffers from a decline in leisure and recreational spaces. In addition, they value the facilities and services that these cafes are able to offer, against a background of collapsing public services across the country. Electricity and an Internet connection are among the main services that cafes provide, and that many people across the country have been unable to access at home. In his story, Zakaria oscillates poetically between the past and the present. Through a series of clips he conveys the suffering of his generation to the world, and highlights the ways in which youth resist the circumstances of war and escape their painful reality.
Continue reading here.
This post continues the story of Joseph B. F. Osgood (1823-1913), whose Notes of Travel or Recollections of Majunga, Zanzibar, Muscat, Aden, Mocha, and other Eastern Ports (Salem: George Creamer, 1854) describes the Arabian coastline, like a 19th century Ibn Baṭūṭṭa. For Part #1, click here; for Part #2, click here; for Part #3, click here; for Part #4, click here; for Part #5, click here; for Part #6, click here.
Osgood continues his account of Mocha, the climate, locusts and water.
“[p. 185] The temperature of the climate of Mocha during the spring and autumn months is about that of a New England midsummer. The average height of the mercury throughout the whole year is between the ninetieth and hundredth degrees. But during the summer months the heat is intolerably intense, and the wonted cool and unnoticed flow of blood in a New England microcosm is so quickened into heated and nervous throes by the impulsive engine within, that one is obliged to keep perfectly quiet at noon-day, with the mercury sometimes at the one hundred and twentieth degree, and hope that the heat may not increase a single degree for fear his body would actually melt. The nights are but little cooler than the days, and the south-west winds continually blown from the African deserts have their high temperature but little reduced by their short passage over the Red Sea. Some one thus speaks of such nights as are experienced in this region :
[p. 186] ‘ ‘Tis night: but here the sparkling heaven shews
No genial showers, or soft distilling dews.
In the hot sky the stars, of lustre shorn,
Burn o’er the pathway of the wanderer lorn;
And the red moon from Babel-Mandeb’s strand,
Looks as she climbs through pyramids of sand
That whirled aloft, and gilded by her light
Blaze the lone beacons of the desert night.’
[p. 186] Frequently during the year, but especially during the months of July and August, heavy black clouds gathering in the heavens, accompanied with distant lightning and thunder, give timely warning of the approach of the much dreaded simoon, which is generated in the extensive inland deserts. As the terrific gale passes over the country it whirls and drives with great violence a mass of moving sand in every direction. During the continuance of this sand storm, the air for several hours sometimes, is as hot as a blast from a furnace, parching and drying the skin in a most painful manner, almost suffocating persons exposed to its virulence and rendering it dangerous to leave the house. The boatmen navigatmg the Red Sea keep a
continual look out for these violent gusts of wind and sand. They sometimes mistake for them the first distant appearance of the immense swarms of locusts that come up afar off during the months of August and September, like dark, thick clouds, spreading over and darkening the heavens in their flight, for four or even eight hours or more together. It is no strange event for swarms to pass over Mocha of such astonishing magnitude that they could be numbered by hundreds of [p. 187] trillions, and measured by hundreds of miles in length, hundreds of yards in depth, and tens of miles in width. These “daughters of heat” make a loud noise with their wings while flying. They are often eaten by the Arabs, who broil and fry them ; though they sometimes eat them without being cooked, and liken their flavor to that of nice sardines.
[p. 188] Though the soil in the immediate vicinity of Mocha is sandy and barren, not far inland from the city there are large elevated tracts of land where copious showers and dews are frequent in certain seasons of the year and the country is fruitful in coffee, dates, wheat, grains of many varieties, mangoes, bananas, pomegramates peaches, apricots, quinces, plantains, limes, lemons, melons, brinjals or egg-plants, corn, radishes, onions, beans, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and other vegetables.
At Mocha good water is scarce and dear. All that used for drinking and culinary purposes is drawn from three wells located a mile from the city, named respectively, Shathalee, Belayley and Naaman. These wells are surrounded, at a level from the ground, by…[p. 189] stones, in which troughs are hollowed out for wintering camels and other animals. The water, when first drawn, is unpleasantly brackish, and its quality at any subsequent time is but little improved by the filthy skin vessels in which it is conveyed to the city, on consumptive looking jackasses.
Among the domestic animals are horses, mules, camels, sheep, cows, asses, cats, dogs, gazelles and rabbits. The sheep here obtained are inferior to the Abyssinian sheep. The cows have a hump on their backs, and yield but little milk. Birds are plenty in number and variety, yet among them are found very few good singers.”
more to come
Coffee hills of Yemen (from Niebuhr’s travels)
This post continues the story of Joseph B. F. Osgood (1823-1913), whose Notes of Travel or Recollections of Majunga, Zanzibar, Muscat, Aden, Mocha, and other Eastern Ports (Salem: George Creamer, 1854) describes the Arabian coastline, like a 19th century Ibn Baṭūṭṭa. For Part #1, click here; for Part #2, click here; for Part #3, click here; for Part #4, click here; for Part #5, click here.
Osgood provides details on the coffee plant and its distribution to the port of Mocha:
“The coffee plant grows sixteen or eighteen feet high, with an upright stem covered with a light brown bark. Its branches grow horizontally and opposite, crossing each other, and form a pyramidical appearance. The leaves grow on the opposite side of the branches, to the length of four or five inches, and to half that width in the middle. The flowers, growing in bunches at the junction of the leaves, are white, maturing first into green, then red berries resembling bunches of cherries, [p. 181] each of which contains two kernels. But one crop is annually produced, which is gathered in the months of January and February. For the purpose of being dried in the sun, the gathered coffee is spread on the house-tops, or cleared spaces of ground, where it is frequently watered to open the koke, or shell, which is always separated by grinding before packing. The coffee raised at Annas and Sana, which is held in the best estimation, is generally dried upon temporary floors, covered with a compost of clay and cow ordure, which protects the coffee from vermin and also gives it a permanent yellowish color. How perceptibly such a compost may affect the taste of the coffee would doubtless be a matter of inquiry with the tidy, cow-loving Hindu house-wife, who uses a solution of it to purify her parlors, ornament her walls and doorways, and for numerous other purposes.
Large quantities of coffee arrive at Mocha, from March to the latter part of July, from the coffee districts within twenty days’ journey. Camels are employed in its transportation, each of which carries about six hundred pounds, contained in two sacks. They are driven in long trains of fifty or more, arranged one behind another, the head of each being tied to the tail of the camel immediately before him. Thus arranged but few drivers are necessary.
On July 3 Dr. Najwa Adra will present a talk at the Institute for Social Anthropology in Vienna, Austria entitled: “What Does it Mean to Be Tribal in Yemen?”
On July 5 Dr. Daniel Martin Varisco will give a talk at the same institute on “Agriculture in the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen.”
Both talks are free and open to the public. For details, see https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/isa/events/upcoming-events/
Details on both talks are provided below:
What Does it Mean to Be Tribal in Yemen?
A large majority of Yemen’s population self-identifies as qabili /pl. qaba’il, terms normally glossed in English as “tribal.” Qabyala a uniquely Yemeni term that can be translated as “tribalism” comprises tribal ideology, customary law, behavior in formal contexts and a set of presumed personal characteristics ascribed to tribal Yemenis. This talk, based on long term field research, explores the behaviors and events associated with qabyala, in contrast to activities that do not connote tribalism; describes the interaction of tribes with urban elites; and suggests ways in which Yemeni tribes can collaborate with the state in peacebuilding and national development.
Najwa Adra (www.najwaadra.net) holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Temple University. She is a cultural anthropologist with long-term experience in field research and development consulting in Yemen. She has studied tribal identity and customary law in Yemen’s Central Highland Plateau as these have changed over the past 30 years and the ways in which these indigenous institutions can contribute to state building. She has written on Yemeni tribal mediation for ISA and is currently completing a book on tribal identity in Yemen. Her research also extends to Yemeni dance traditions, women’s role in Yemeni agriculture and literacy.
Yemen has a rich tradition of agriculture, stemming from the South Arabian kingdoms through the Islamic era. Yemeni scholars, anthropologists and agricultural experts have written about Yemen’s agriculture in the past half century, but less is known about the state of agriculture during the Mutawakkilite Kingdom in Yemen of the Zaydi Imams Yahya and Ahmad (1918-1962). This talk draws on Arabic resources, accounts by foreign travelers and the report of a 1955 FAO agricultural mission to Yemen in describing the role of agriculture and cultivated crops in the area ruled by the imams in the first part of the 20th century.
Daniel Martin Varisco holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania for ethnographic research on water resource use and agriculture in Yemen. He has also conducted ethnographic and historical research in Yemen, Egypt and Qatar. He serves as President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, editor-in-chief of CyberOrient (www.cyberorient.net), and was editor of Contemporary Islam (2006-2016). He has published on the history of Yemeni agriculture in the Journal for the Economic and Social History of the Orient, the Journal of Semitic Studies, History and Anthropology and in his Medieval Agriculture and Islamic Science (1994).
The British traveler H. St. J. Philby is best known for his writings on Saudi Arabia, but he also visited the Hadramawt in the late 1930s, driving down from Najrān through the eastern extent of the Empty Quarter to Shabwa and then into the Ḥaḍramawt. It is a chatty text like an extended diary, with names of people met and places visited, including archaeological ruins with inscriptions. Philby has his bias, as is evident throughout, but the photographs are good documentation of life at the time.
As the British extended their trade through the Red Sea and Indian Ocean in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, there were a number of books written about the trade items and how to procure them at various ports. One of the most important was William Milburn’s Oriental Commerce, first published in 1813 and revised in an 1825 edition [https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001123449] after the death of the author. The full text of the 1825 edition is available at archive.org. There is a lengthy discussion on trade through the port of Mocha, although very little on Aden, which was not very important at the time until the British took it over after 1839. I attach below the section on trade items available at Mocha (Milburn 1825:71-77).
ARTICLES TO BE PROCURED AT MOCHA, WITH DIRECTIONS
ACACIA, the inspissated juice of a thorny plant, growing in Arabia, and other parts:—two sorts are known, Vera and Germanica. The former is a gummy substance, usually firm, but not very dry. It is met with in round masses, enclosed in thin bladders, from four to eight ounces weight; outwardly a deep brown, inclining to black; of a lighter brown within, inclining to red or yellow. The Germanica is a juice expressed from the unripe fruit of the sloe bush, and differs from the preceding, in being harder, heavier, darker, sharper in taste, yielding its astringency to rectified spirit; whereas the other is not at all dissoluble by spirit. The Vera should have little or no smell; applied to the tongue, it should soften quickly, imparting a rough, not very ungrateful taste, followed by a sweetness. If quite pure, it dissolves totally in water; if otherwise, the impurities remain.
ACORUS, or CALAMUS AROMATICUS, (Bach, Hind. Vacha, S an.) is a reed, or knotty root, about the size of a little finger, several inches long, reddish externally, internally white, full of joints, somewhat flatted on the side, of a loose spongy texture ; smell strong, taste warm, bitterish, and aromatic. They should be chosen tough, cleared from fibres, and free from worms, to which it is very subject.
ASPHALTUM is a solid shining bitumen, of a dusky colour outside; within of a deep black, found in many parts of Egypt. A thin piece appears of a reddish colour, when placed between the eye and the light. It has no smell when cold, but acquires a slight one by friction ; when exposed to heat, it liquifies, swells up, and burns with a thick smoke, the smell of which is strong, acrid, and disagreeable. It is occasionally adulterated with pitch; but the fraud may be discovered by means of spirits of wine, which dissolve the pitch, and only take a pale colour with Asphaltum.
BALM OF GILEAD, or Balsam of Mecca, is a resinous juice that distils from an evergreen tree, or shrub, growing between Mecca and Medina; it is much used by the Asiatic ladies as a cosmetic. The tree is scarce; the best sort is said to exude naturally, but the inferior kinds are extracted from the branches by boiling. It is at first turbid and white, of a strong pungent smell, a bitter and acrid taste; upon being kept some time, it becomes thin, limpid, of a greenish hue, then of a golden yellow, and at length of the colour of honey. This article, being scarce and valuable, is very liable to adulteration. The following methods are recommended to discover imposition Cause a drop or two of the liquid balsam to fall into a glass of clear water; if the drop go to the bottom without rising again to the surface, or if it continue in a drop like oil, the balsam is adulterated. If, on the contrary, it spreads upon the surface of the water, like a very thin cobweb, scarcely visible to the eye, and being congealed, may be taken up with a pin or small straw, the balsam is pure and natural. Or if the pure balsam be dropped on woollen, it will wash out; but if adulterated, it will not. The genuine, dropped into milk, coagulates it. When a drop of the pure balsam is let fall on red hot iron, it gathers itself into a globule ; but oil or spurious balsam runs, and sheds itself all round. The genuine balsam also feels viscid and adhesive to the fingers. If sophisticated with wax, it is discovered by the turbid colour, never to be clarified; if with honey, the sweet taste betrays it; if with resins, by dropping it on live coals, it yields a blacker flame, and of a grosser substance than the genuine. When the balsam is too thick to be taken out of the bottle, it need only be placed near the fire, the smallest degree of heat liquifying it. The bottles must not be quite full, lest they should break, as the balsam is apt to rarify.
Some of the 2017 AIYS Yemeni Fellowship Recipients
Despite the continuing crisis, AIYS has been able to offer fellowship research grants to Yemeni scholars. This year, with limited funding, a total of 15 proposals out of 47 were awarded. Seven researchers out of fifteen who received AIYS Fellowship grants for 2017 gathered on Friday May 26, 2017 in the AIYS premises. Each researcher gave a brief presentation about his/her own research. The Resident Director of AIYS welcomed the scholars and congratulated them on winning the fellowship grant, wishing them success in their studies. The researchers belonging to different academic specialties, including history, medicine, agriculture, science and literature.
Those present included:
1- Dr. Amat Al-Maliq Al-Thawr, Professor of History at Sanaa University, whose research is aimed to study the cultural relation between Yemen and Mecca during the reign of the Al-Qasimi Imamate State. She discussed the main objective of her research, highlighted the importance of such study and explained her methodological approach. Dr. Al-Thawr suggested that the Yemeni Imams paid great attention to the relation between Yemen and Mecca so that they had the final word on the religious and cultural activities in the Holy Mecca. She stated that her research is designed to provide a detailed study about Yemen’s relations with Mecca during that period.
2- Dr. Ebtisam Shamasan, a professor at Sanaa University College of Science, will study the nutritive value of the Indian mackerel fish species. She explained her research’s objectives, methods and importance. The researcher suggested that her study is mainly intended to explore to what extent freezing may affect the nutritive value of Indian mackerel fish.
3- Arif Al-Afeef, a Master degree student at the College of Medicine, Sanaa University, gave an overview about his research on the liver disease Cirrhosis.
4- Dr. Nabilah Al-Wasi’aee talked briefly about her research topic which focuses on a poetry collection entitled “Sanaa” by Yemen’s great poet Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh. The researcher said that her study aims to shed light on one of the most distinguished poetical works by Dr. Al-Maqaleh, who is one of the most celebrated and influential figures in Arab literature and culture in the temporary history of the Arab world. Al-Wasi’aee argues that this book “Sanaa” can be described as one of Al-Maqaleh’s most impressive poetical works. “It is filled with poetical images, symbols, rhythm and metaphors,” she said.
5- Dr. Monirah Jamel, head of the Psychology Department at Sanaa University, dedicated her research to study psychological impacts upon the teenagers of Internally Displaced People (IDP). She explained the objectives of her research that aims to explore the negative impacts of displacement upon the internally displaced students. “My research is intended to study to what extent displacement can undermine ‘self-esteem and achievement impetus’ among IDP students in the secondary schools,” Jamel said.
6- Dr. Amirah Qasim, a professor at Sanaa University’s College of Agriculture, gave a brief presentation about her research on “Livestock Food Substitution.” She gave details about her research’s objectives, approach and importance. Her research aims to study how leaves of the Prickly Pear plant can be used as a food to feed animals, mainly sheep.
7- Saleh Al-Faqeeh, a doctoral degree student in the Antiquities Department, Dhamar University, will study “Ottoman Facilities in Yemen.” The scholar gave a detailed presentation about his research that aims to document the Ottoman civil facilities in the city of Sanaa.
At the end of the gathering, the researchers received the grant funds. As usual every researcher received 80% ($1000) of the total amount. The remaining 20% is held back and will be paid as soon as researchers get their studies accomplished and have submitted a copy of it. The researchers expressed their pleasure to get the Yemeni Researcher Fellowship, highly appreciating AIYS assistance at this critical moment. Some Yemeni Students who study abroad for master and doctoral degrees also received the fellowship. They made presentation about their researches via the Internet, so their funding was transferred to them.
Here we have to express our deep thanks to Mrs Heidi Wiederkehr of CAORC for her continuous contacts and tireless efforts she made to get the money allocated to the Sanaa AIYS office amid very difficult conditions.
Dr. Salwa Dammaj
American Institute for Yemeni Studies