Category Archives: Books on Yemen

New Book on Yemenis in Britain

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The Last of the Lascars: Yemeni Muslims in Britain, 1836-2012 charts the fascinating and little-known history of Britain’s oldest Muslim community. Originally arriving as imperial oriental sailors and later as postcolonial labour migrants, Yemeni Muslims have lived in British ports and industrial cities from the mid-nineteenth century, marrying local British wives, and established a network of ‘Arab-only’ boarding houses and cafes. They also founded Britain’s first mosques and religious communities in the early twentieth century, encountering racism, discrimination and even deportation in the process. Based on original research, this book brings together the unique story of a British Muslim community that stretches across 170 years of history from empire to modern multicultural Britain.

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New Work on South Arabic

Maraqten

Maraqten, Mohammed
Altsüdarabische Texte auf Holzstäbchen
Epigraphische und kulturhistorische Untersuchungen
2014. 500 Seiten mit zahlreichen Abbildungen – 170 x 240 mm. Festeinband
ISBN 978-3-95650-034-3

Für die Erforschung des antiken Südarabiens in sprachlicher, historischer und kultureller Hinsicht ist die vorliegende Untersuchung von großer Bedeutung. Sie befasst sich mit neu entdeckten altsüdarabischen Schriftdokumenten, die auf Holzstäbchen eingeritzt wurden.

Die hier publizierten Stäbchendokumente spiegeln nicht nur die verschiedenen Gattungen der Schriftdokumente wider, sondern erstrecken sich auch über die Zeitepochen, in denen diese Schriftdokumente verfasst wurden, nämlich vom ca. 10. Jh. v. Chr. bis zum 6. Jh. n. Chr. Diese Texte der Publikation stellen eine wichtige Quelle für die Kulturgeschichte Arabiens in vorislamischer Zeit dar. Sie bezeugen die Entwicklung der Schrift- und Dokumentenkultur im altsüdarabischen Raum in dieser Periode. Unter den Textgattungen finden sich unter anderem Privatbriefe, Rechts- und Wirtschaftsurkunden, Schultexte, Privatverträge, Inventartexte, Quittungen.

Im ersten Kapitel werden die verschiedenen Gattungen der Stäbchentexte und deren sprachliche und kulturelle Aspekte im arabischen Bereich und im altorientalischen Kontext aufgeführt und dargestellt. Im zweiten Kapitel werden hundert Texte ausgewählt, entziffert, übersetzt, kommentiert und durch Faksimile und bildliche Darstellungen zur besseren Anschauung ergänzt. Diese hundert Stäbchentexte gehören zu der entsprechenden Sammlung des Nationalmuseums von Ṣana, Jemen. Sie werden nun erstmals veröffentlicht.

Wavell in Yemen: #2

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[Illustration, Guests in Turkey, from John Clark Ridpath, Ridpath’s History of the World (Cincinnati: The Jones Brothers Publishing Company, 1899), vol IV.]

[Note: Arthur John Byng Wavell (1882-1916) was a British soldier and adventurer who traveled in disguise to Mecca in 1908 and went on to Yemen in 1911 to witness fighting between the Zaydi imam’s troops and the Ottoman Turks. This account was originally published in 1912. For Part One of this series, click here.]

The hour was late and the smoking room almost deserted when the conversation about to be reported took place. My companion the Pasha was a tall, heavy man, on whose sunburned and lined countenance a long life in the open air and many hard-fought campaigns in tropical countries had left their traces. He had been a field marshal once, but that was in the days of Abdul Hamid, when as some one said after the American civil war, “you could not spit out the window without hitting a major-general.” It was to this latter rank that the reshuffle which followed hard on the constitution had reduced him…

The Pasha regarded me with some curiosity.

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Wavell in Yemen: #1

lahjmart

Market in Lahj

[Note: Arthur John Byng Wavell (1882-1916) was a British soldier and adventurer who traveled in disguise to Mecca in 1908 and went on to Yemen in 1911 to witness fighting between the Zaydi imam’s troops and the Ottoman Turks. This account was originally published in 1912.]

The events in that country [Yemen] are worthy of a chapter in the history of these prosaic days. The counter-currents of human interest and activity that run up and down the Red Sea, linking the civilizations of the East and West, leave undisturbed this backwater. Western Europe knows little and cares less about what goes on there.

Yet for the last twenty years, while the Turks and Arabs have been struggling for the mastery, the history of the Yemen has been one of fire and sword. It is a record of battles and sieges, places taken by storm and garrisons starved into surrender; of savage massacres and fierce reprisals. Generals have made and lost great military reputations there. The campaign of 1911, with which this book deals, probably cost nearly as many lives as did the Boer War. Nor is this conflict over; it will be renewed and fought out to the end, for both sides mean to win.

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Manzoni’s Travel Book in Arabic

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One of the classic late 19th century travel books on Yemen was by the Italian Renzo Manzoni.  In addition to an informative account of his trip to Sanaa, the illustrations are fantastic.  The original Italian version, El Yèmen: Tre Anni nell’ Arabia Felice, was published in 1884 and is available as a pdf online at archive.org. Recently the Social Fund for Development has sponsored an Arabic version, also available for free in pdf online.

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A Jewel of a Book by Marjorie Ransom

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AIYS member and long-time supporter Marjorie Ransom has just published her beautifully illustrated and diligently researched book on Yemeni silverwork.  This is a must for anyone interested in Yemeni culture.  It can be purchased from AUC Press or Amazon.  Get your copy today…

The photographs are exquisite as the sample here shows.

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Here is the description of the book by the publisher:

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Merchant houses of Mocha

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The most important historical port on Yemen’s Red Sea coast is no doubt the old port of Mocha, which gained fame in the West for its association with the Yemen coffee trade.  In her book, The Merchant Houses of Mocha:  Trade and Architecture in an Indian Ocean PortNancy Um provides a fascinating social history of the trade through this seaport during the Ottoman period.  Here is how the book is described on the publisher’s website.

Gaining prominence as a seaport under the Ottomans in the mid-1500s, the city of Mocha on the Red Sea coast of Yemen pulsed with maritime commerce. Its very name became synonymous with Yemen’s most important revenue-producing crop – coffee. After the imams of the Qasimi dynasty ousted the Ottomans in 1635, Mocha’s trade turned eastward toward the Indian Ocean and coastal India. Merchants and shipowners from Asian, African, and European shores flocked to the city to trade in Arabian coffee and aromatics, Indian textiles, Asian spices, and silver from the New World.

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Osgood on Mocha

mocha

[Joseph Osgood was a Black American sailor who visited the Yemeni port of Aden about a dozen years before the start of the American Civil War. He offers a rich, descriptive account, including information on the coffee cargo that may have brought his ship to this Red Sea port in the first place. The following is his rendition of a popular origin tale for the popular brew.]

Any communicative Arab will tell the following story about the early history of Mocha, with more or less modification.

A little over two centuries ago, there dwelt near the beach, enclosed by two sandspits forming the harbor, a worthy fisherman, whose learning, wisdom, and pious observance of all the tenets of the Moslem faith, had collected around his humble hut the dwellings of a band of devoted pupils to be instructed in the religion of their great Arabian legislator and prophet. One day a ship from India, and bound to Jiddah, was driven by adverse winds into the cove, and, while there detained, the crew visited the settlement near the beach, and were entertained by the holy Sheik, who regaled them with coffee, a beverage till then unknown to his guests. The Sheik, learning that the captain was ill on board his vessel, extolled the sanative virtues of coffee, and sent some as a present to the captain, by the returning crew. The prescribed medicine was taken, the captain recovered his health, visited the shore, made confidence with the people, bartered his cargo for coffee and sailed for home, where the worth of the rare and newly discovered product was quickly acknowledged, and successive voyages soon established a lucrative commerce, and thus founded and gave a world wide repute to the city of Mocha and many of the neighboring inland towns. The holy Sheik’s reputation was continued to him among his people till his death, when a costly mosque was erected as a memorial of his virtues, on the site of his fisher’s hut. In so high veneration was this edifice held by the Mocha Arabs, that when the Bedoween Arabs seized Mocha they destroyed the building, jealous that Sheik Shathalee was more reverenced than Allah. It was afterwards rebuilt and remains at the present day, inside the walls of the city. A well and one of the gates of the city also bear the name of this patron saint…

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Flipping through Yemen a Millennium Ago

omarah

There was a time when books were hard to come by.  Either they cost too much or were inaccessible in a private or exclusive university library.  Whatever else the world wide web has done (and that is a mouthful), it now functions as an archive.  More and more, the rare and out-of-print books I used to be forced to read in a library reading room are becoming available online.  Mr. Gutenberg might roll over in his Grab at the very thought of a pdf file, but print has taken a new and universal turn.  I especially enjoy the “flipbook”, which simulates turning the pages of images of the original.  For an enjoyable read on the early history of Yemen, there is the flipbook version of Henry Cassels Kay’s translation called  YAMAN, ITS EARLY MEDIAEVAL HISTORY, published in London in 1892.  This has excerpts (not always trustworthy in their translation) from Umarah ibn Ali al-Hakami (1120/21-1174), Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), and Muhammad ibn Yaqub al-Janadi (d. 1332?).

The sad thing is that well over a century ago, Kay lamented that there was virtually nothing available on the history of Yemen, which had become of strategic interest to the British empire.   More  sadly,  the same can be said today.  There is no single, critical history of Yemen’s Islamic history in English or another European language, while there are many valuable historical texts written by Yemenis in Arabic.  Here is Kay’s comment:

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