Yemen: The Unknown Arabia eBook  Yemen: The

[Download] ➾ Yemen: The Unknown Arabia Author Tim Mackintosh Smith – Help-buy-essay.co.uk Prefatory NoteYemeni history is at times bewilderingly complex Although in Chapter I have tried to sketch in the general lines of pre Islamic history I have avoided doing so for later periods so as no[Download] Yemen: The Unknown Arabia Author Tim Mackintosh Smith Help buy essay.co.uk Prefatory NoteYemeni history is at times bewilderingly complex Although in Chapter I have tried to sketch in the general lines of pre Islamic history I have avoided doing so for later periods so as no Prefatory NoteYemeni history is at times bewilderingly complex Although in Chapter I have tried to sketch in the general lines of pre Islamic history I have avoided doing so for later periods so as not to overload the reader with dates and dynasties To compensate the Glossary includes brief notes on some of theimportant rulers of Yemen also the Bibliography is fuller than is usual in a book of this nature It is a book which I admit treads the thin line between seriousness and frivolity If Yemen: The PDF/EPUB or at times it veers towards the latter as it does for example when I relate theuestionable anecdotes of the medieval traveller Ibn al Mujawir I can only repeat his near contemporary Yauts apologia concerning the edible monopod poets of Hadramawt I have merely uoted from the books of learned menIn transliterating Arabic words I have followed the most commonly accepted system but minus the macrons and subscript dots I have omitted initial ayns and hamzahs but have retained final ayns the two letters are not distinguished when they occur within a word A few readers may find this annoying but it makes for clearer typography Thus the capital city of Yemen ana otherwise Sana Sanaa and Sanaa appears in this book as Sana As for my rendering of Suutri words I apologize in advance to the half dozen or so scholars of that language for any deficiencies they may findIntroductionA definition is the enclosing of a wilderness of idea within a wall of wordsSamuel Butler NotebooksTHE RAIN BEAT DOWN Horns rasped against the door a sheep trying to get in I didnt blame it spring was late in the Isle of Harris and it was cosy inside all peat smoke and roll ups An easterly gale was whistling across the Sound from Skye and flinging sackfuls of hail at the tin roof of the croft house The noise was deafeningYou have to be somewhere uiet like Harris in the early stages of learning Arabic somewhere you can walk around unheard muttering strange strangulated syllables limbering up minute and never used muscles of tongue and glottis I got up to make tea Hhha I said to the matches when I found them Ghghgha when they refused to light I mouthed to the hooded crow on the fence outside the window that innocent looking sign represented the trickiest letter of all a guttural stop pronounced with constriction of the larynx my grammar said The hoodie croaked back and flapped off to peck out lambs eyesThe fire let out a rich belch of smoke I threw on another sod of peat and drew up a chair Cowans Modern Literary Arabic lay open at The Dual not content with mere singulars and plurals Arabic also has a form for pairs The two beautiful ueens it said are ignorant The odds against ever uttering the sentence were high grammars like theatre call for a suspension of disbelief Under Cowan was an Arabic reader produced for British officers in the Palestine Mandate At the bottom of the pile as yet untouched was a dictionary I reached for it and looked at the title page The dictionary had been compiled for the use of students and published Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam by the Catholic Press Beirut in As I turned its foxed pages I broke through the wall of words into a wilderness of idea It was another world a surreal lexical landscape whose inhabitants lived in a state of relentless metamorphosisOver there was a zabab a messenger or possibly a huge deaf rat while in the distance grazed anaamah an ostrich although it might have been a signpost a pavilion on a mountain or even a membrane of the brain Nearer to hand someone was maljan sucking his she camels out of avarice hed be in for a shock if he had istanwa them mistaken male camels for she camels He could just be suffering from sada thirst also a voice an echo a corpse a brain or an owl Maybe his well was makul holding little water and much slime He was in a bad mood so I passed on uickly worried that he might tara me strike me upon the clavicleIn Dictionary Land you could come across a malit a featherless arrow or a hairless abortive foetus That at least showed a clear semantic link So did firash a mat wife and siffarah an anus whistle fife But other entries defied rational explanation seeming nothan the word associations of a hopeless head case you could take your utrub your puppy demon restless insect melancholia for a walk arurah could be the apple of ones eye also a urinal With a single verb nakha you could both slay someone and bear them sincere friendship with another istawsham you could look for a tattooist and if you were a calligrapher you could be adept at yayyaya forming a beautiful letter ya perhaps thus On the culinary side you might be akra fond of trotters or thin in the shank while with the verb karrash you could contract your face or prepare a haggis the latter could be accompanied by a helping of wahisah a dish made of locusts and grease and washed down byadasiyah an aromatized soup of lentils or bat dung used as a medicine Alkhan doubled for a rotten walnut and a stinking uncircumcised person The sounds of Dictionary Land included inad the sueaking of eagles the noise of fingers being cracked the smacking of lips to call goats or even the noise made by truffles being extracted The truffles might be of a species called faswat al dab also the name for a kind of poppy and rendered literally the noiseless flatulence of a male hyenaSomebody once said that every Arabic word means itself its opposite or a camel But to me the world of the amus the dictionary or ocean was evenbizarre To do it justice called for the descriptive faculties of the pre Islamic poet Taabbata Sharra whose name means He Who Carried An Evil Under His Armpit And this dictionary was a shadow of Lanes which in ten folio volumes over a period of thirty four years only got as far as the letter af Lanes was based on works like The Bridal Tiara of al Zabidi the great Yemeni educated lexicographer and a contemporary of Dr Johnson As a small boy I used to stare for hours at the fanciful oriental watercolours on my grandmothers walls dreamed recurringly of flying over desert encampments in a telephone box was shown by my father a strange misshapen red globule which he produced from his bureau and said was the blood of an Arabian dragon Now out of these pages the exotic beckoned once and I was hookedThe door opened I turned round expecting to see a black woolly face or a Person from Porlock but it was Roddy the person from next door He had been out gathering his flock and was soaked A bottle stuck out of his poachers pocketOch youve let the fire burn out He looked briefly at the dictionary sighed and snapped it shut Lets have a drop of the GrouseThe vision was not shattered just temporarily blurred Time and again in the years that followed some verbal curiosity or weirdness of phrase would sidetrack me out of the corridors of the Oxford Oriental Institute and back into Dictionary LandI didnt get the drift of lines Could you erVerily I have seen upon your mandibles the belly and tail fat of a lizard Your words reveal the buttocks of your meanings Im sorryYour words reveal the buttocks of your meanings OhThey taught us abstruse and arcane mysteries how to compound the base elements of syntax into glittering and highly wrought prose We were apprentices in a linguistic alchemy And like alchemy Arabic seemed to be half science and two thirds magic The Arabs themselves are spellbound by their language Look at the effect on them of the uran the Word divinely beautiful terrifying tear inducing spine tingling mesmerizing inimitable was sufficient in itself It did not need to become flesh But uranic Arabic is only one manifestation of the language You can be preacher poet raconteur and fishwife in a single sentence You can with the Arabic of official reports say next to nothing in a great many words and with enormous elegance You can compose a work of literature on the two lateral extremities of the wrist bone You can even be cured of certain ailments by procuring a magic chit infusing the ink out of it and drinking the water word power at its most literal They taught us all this but they didnt teach us how to speak it After two years of Arabic I couldnt even have asked the way to the lavatoryMy tutor spun round from his computer screen Yemen Why do you want to go there It must have been a shock Usually only a truly major disaster a wrong case ending or a misplaced definite article would unstick him from his corpus of Andalusian erotic verseI I met a Yemeni who said Yemeni Arabic was the closest dialect to ClassicalHe smiled a painfully long smile like the rictus on a ventrilouists dummy They all say that you stupid boy Yemen His mouth puckered around the word as if it were some disagreeably bitter fruit Lemon Why dont you go somewhere respectable Cairo Amman Tunis Cairo was out a bedlam of smog smugness and touts where the last Wonder of the World was disintegrating under acid rain and tourists feet Amman I had been told was the most boring city in the Arab world Tunis was well complexeIn fact Id lied Id never knowingly set eyes on a real live Yemeni But I felt that my tutor would find the true reason for my demanding a sabbatical in Yemen even less palatable Some years before the Museum of Mankind in London had recreated a corner of the market of Sana the Yemeni capital as part of Britains World of Islam Festival Yards from Piccadilly was a secret labyrinthine microcosm of the su Even its sounds and smells were reproduced The swiftness of transposition was unreal although littleso than the ten hour flight from London to Sana The exhibition wasnt Yemen but over the years it became a Yemen of the imagination which I peopled with faces seen in books faces which were proud but not arrogant grave but not severe delicate but not weak their eyes intensified by kohl and calligraphic eyebrowsMy reading revealed that others too had been bewitched by Yemen Never wrote one medieval visitor have I seen glancespenetrating than those of the Yemenis When they look at you they dive into you Many references however were hardly complimentary Yemen was seen as at best a backwaterusually as backward For example a Yemeni who had been extolling his country at court in eighth century Baghdad was attacked thus What are you Yemenis Ill tell you Youre nothing but tanners of hides weavers of striped shirting trainers of monkeys and riders of nags You were drowned by a rat and ruled by a woman and people had never even heard of Yemen until a hoopoe told them about it I was not put off My first glimpse of Yemen had been at far too impressionable an ageBesides Yemen the Yemen I was seeing at second hand had something of Dictionary Land about it as well as the talking hoopoes and dambusting rodents men chewed leaves and camels lived on fish they the men wore pinstriped lounge suit jackets on top skirts below and wicked curved daggers in the middle the cities seemed to have been baked not built of iced gingerbread Yemen was part of Arabia but the landscape looked like well nowhere else on Earth and definitely not ArabiaIn the end my tutor relented even gave me his blessing though he warned me not to be away too long So I set out to explore Dictionary Land on the ground and perhaps eventually to understand the people who lived in itIve been there ever sinceHard by HeavenThou coveredst it with the deep like as with a garment the waters stand in the hillsPsalm vLONG AGO shortly after the waters of the Flood had begun to recede and the Himalayas the Andes and the Alps were still islands on the face of the deep some two thirds of the way along a line from Everest to Kilimanjaro and just inside the Tropic of Cancer a few eddies marked Arabias re entry into the worldIt was not a dramatic rebirth the Mountain of the Prophet Shuayb is an unremarkable hump Shuayb himself was still seventeen generations off by his time mankind would be back to its wicked old ways But for the moment it was a clean start the world an empty stageEnter Sam Sam ibn Nuh or Shem the son of Noah knew that the future of humanity lay in his loins and in those of his brothers Ham and Yafith He was to beget and give his name to the entire Semitic race perhaps it was the weight of this awesome responsibility which the medieval traveller Ibn al Mujawir says he wished to alleviate by finding a place with light water and a temperate healthy climate This stony and windswept mountain would not do but feet below and half a days journey to the south east was a plain ringed by rocky peaks where the flood had left a rich layer of siltThis was the spot Sam bounded down the mountain and pegged out a foundation trench only to have his guideline stolen by a bird The bird flew off with the line and dropped it on the east side of the plain To Sam this was a clear sign So it was there on the future site of the Palace of Ghumdan under the rising of Taurus with Venus and Mars in conjunction that he came to build the worlds first city SanaElsewhere the receding floodwater had revealed a chain of mountains running from north to south broken by occasional hollows and plateaux where as in the plain of Sana alluvial deposits would attract settlers To the west and south the mountains ended abruptly in jagged escarpments overlooking plains the plains lay just above sea level and were hot and sticky butfertile still Eastwards the mountains shelved into a desert which even when Sams progeny had multiplied would remain empty except for outlaws and oilmen Far to the south east and close to the deserts fringe was a deep scar of a valley hemmed in by barren steppes where one of Sams descendants would settle giving it his nickname Hadramawt Death Has ComeSo the veil was drawn back from the rucked up corner of Arabia called Yemen being on the right sideyamin of the Kabah of Mecca or because it is blessed with yumn felicity or after Yamin the brother of HadramawtAll this some say is nonsense Around the beginning of the Christian era Sana grew from an outpost where the road from Marib capital of the ancient kingdom of Saba meets the watershed Hadramawt is just another pre Arabic name the traditional etymology a fanciful back projection Yemen al yaman simply means the southThe truth is that Yemens distant past is still obscure Archaeology has hardly begun to come up with solid facts Early Yemeni historians though produced their own interpretation using genealogy At the base of the family tree comes Sam Higher up is Sams great grandson the Prophet Hud Huds son ahtan is at the top of the trunk and from him spring all the South Arabian tribes branching across the map of Yemen and beyond In the process the names of people and places have become inextricably intertwined the family tree has grown luxuriantly fed by the genealogists on a rich mulch of eponyms and toponyms To get to know Yemen as the Yemenis see it means clambering around this tree one which spreads vertically through time and horizontally through space History and geography people and land are inseparableThe new school of historians are doing a hatchet job on the family tree uestioning the very existence of the traditional ancestors But in the end it hardly matters who is right Whether ahtan the central figure the South Arabian progenitor was an actual person or not he represents a people who share a distinctive culture one which has lasted for at least three thousand yearsAs for the story of Sam even if it is a legend it is the South Arabians GenesisMy landfall in Sana wasprosaic than Sams The Ethiopian Boeing lurched and creaked its way down through layers of turbulence For the last couple of minutes before landing the plane circled over the city It was not as I had expectedLike those desert plants which grow suddenly after decades of suspended animation Sana had shot out suckers tentacles of development In the past arrival had always been through its gates the principal entrance Bab al Yaman h.

Ad come to be seen as an architectural statement of the citys famed introversion emphasized perhaps by a row of severed traitors heads along the parapet its gates shut at night putting a stop to all movement Now you arrived along roads of half finished buildings The statement of entry had been upstaged by a preamble of petrol stationsI was afraid that Sana with the dissipation of its dramatic presence might have lost something of its soul But just as Ingres had conjured up the East in his Paris studio and sanitized it giving us the odalisues but not the odours the eunuchs but not the screams of castration so I had invented Sana in Oxford The mistake had been to think of it as a museumToday the ribbons of building have joined into an all but seamless urban weave Sana is busy at times frenetic It suffers from traffic jams and lack of planning But it is lively diverse and even with the countrys current economic difficulties still prosperous What I had imagined to be the timeless calm of an ancient walled city was stagnation a comatose sleep ended by the brute kiss of revolutionIn the Old City the heart still beats The noise of al Zumur the uarter named after a mosue founded in by Uzdimir Pasha the Ottoman conueror of Sana pulsates outside the front door car horns motor cycle taxis two egg sellers competing with loudhailers the cassette shop across the road the crackle and pop of roasting black peas Yesterday there was a man with wild hair and a drum extemporizing songs lays of old Baghdad not about Harun al Rashid but Saddam Husayn and his adversary George Bush O would that I were a bird says Saddam For I would land on Bushs head and the crowd is in suspense and shit on it And last Ramadan every day before the sunset prayer a fettered man would call for alms beneath my window a taxi driver who had crashed he was in gaol until he could collect the blood money for his dead passengers His insurance policy had been with God now coin by coin the Faithful were paying out his claim The sounds all float up from four floors below a distraction to writing So Sanani houses being tall Ill move up another coupleFrom here the ring of mountains surrounding the Sana plain can be seen in full a tradition says they flew from Sinai to Yemen in shock when Moses asked to see the face of God Over there is the place where Sam first began building and through the other window is Jabal Nuum near the base of which the bird dropped his guideline Even this is hardly the best place to be writing this belvedere on the roof it is too easy to get carried away by the skyline of which you are a part But up here among the birds and the occasional flying plastic bag street noises are far away and you could be sitting in a jewelled casket the room is tiny eight feet by five and lit by coloured glass windows It is sometimes called a zahrah in the dictionary a flower beauty brightness My house is a few centuries old but the changeless style of Sanani architecture makes it hard to date Only yards away a man is putting the final cursive plaster frieze on to a similar room hanging on a swing above the chasm of the street Behind him the dust is beginning to obscure Jabal Ayban and the road to the sea A west wind is blowing up banging the shutters And with it comes the call to prayer not the effete recorded invitation of other lands but a live human roar COME AND PRAY gusting across Yemen from Zabid to Zinjibar from Hizyaz to Habarut and all the way to Suutra the Island of Dragons Blood off the Horn of AfricaI must go down and pick up somecigarettes down the seventy seven I think steps into the dark entrance hall I slide back the bolt of the massive door and light and noise and piles of alfalfa tumble in my neighbour sells the plant for fodder alongside jars of marigolds roses basil and rue She is veiled and wrapped in a sitarah a large blue and red cloak like a tablecloth Next to her a man from the Red Sea coast has tobacco from the other side of al Mukalla on the Indian Ocean then a boy with a headscarf full of walnuts from Hajjah in the mountains north west of Sana In front of them is a line of barrows some with oranges some with plastic shoes some with knives razors nailclippers torches and mechanical drumming monkeys Across the street are the secondhand clothes sellers All the synthetic textile wealth of the Far East is here in a mle of colours and patterns Behind the clothes is a row of gold shops tarts parlours of carat glitter set off by pink and peach velvet walls andmirrors than a hairdressers The sharshaf maker who runs up a ladies all enveloping outer garment of Ottoman origin any colour as long as its black any number of pleats as long as they froufrou adds a sober note a crow among peacocksThe secondhand clothes sellers are a long way from the subfusc mustiness of an Oxfam shop They are lost in a maelstrom of flying cloth and brown forearms thrusting from under sitarahs glinting with gold bangles Only the man selling platform shoes is alone Menswear is often startling with lots of fake fur and checks that shriek but Ive picked up a dove grey jacket lined in scarlet which could have been from Huntsman of Savile Row except for the stitching Another find was a smart barathea tailcoat I tried it on but it was tiny shrunk by the sea and cast up on a beach from a s PEternal Father Strong to Save as the sharks of al Shihr scented the supper of their lives Well maybeOne day I saw on the street something that stopped me dead It was a piece of clothing as familiar to me as my own body but translated into another sartorial idiom A boy was wearing it over a zannah an ankle length shirt and a miniature jambiyah a curved dagger He was scuffing a deflated football along I called him to stop There it was grey flannel with navy piping and a fleur de lis on the breast pocket my prep school blazerI looked inside Steer s Outfitters There was the ghost of an inkstain on the pocket where my birthday Parker had sprung a leak in The space for the name tape was emptyAs he kicked the ball away a wave of nostalgia flooded over me It passed leaving behind a strange deep stillness of spirit It was the calm of completeness of the wheel turning full circle of being in the right place at the right timeIf that had been an intimation of spiritual completion a later experience in Sana Airport customs shed provided a fair simulacrum of Limbo The place is a vast metal box echoing with cries of supplication owners begging for the redemption of their goods To get to it I had to cross a great Stygian lake where the citys sewage had bubbled upInside the shed I found the crate containing my motor cycle It had come here via Addis Ababa and appeared to be in one piece I gave it a pat and made for the low buildings which house the Customs masulin the responsibles literally those who are asked uestions To get in I waved a piece of paper the central portion of which was a typewritten reuest to import the machine into Yemen addressed to the Director of Customs Over the weeks it had sprouted marginalia each ending with the enigmatic suiggle which in Arabic passes for a signatureOn my first visit to the Customs Authority I had buttonholed the Director as he was getting out of his car Using the wing as a writing desk and with a flourish of his costly pen he wrote what I eventually deciphered as No objection For the attention of the Secretariat Beginners luck The Head of the Secretariat had no objection either and with a second marginalium written with a less costly but still desirable pen passed the matter on to the Head of External Affairs In External Affairs it was the same story no objection refer to another department I noticed that the lower the position in the hierarchy thecomplex the signature became At the same time the pens decreased in uality until in a nameless department where bottom drawer bureaucrats sat reading the newspaper or practising their signatures someone was persuaded to write something with a chewed and leaking biro By now time was beginning to distort I had been in Customs for a good part of each working day for a fortnight Where could they refer the case to now Only the tea boy hadnt been consulted I looked at the latest addition to the document No objection For the attention of Director of Customs The buck it seemed was in perpetual and slow motion Like the Buddhist soul it had described a complete circle while the officials were reincarnated in ever lowlier forms As I left the office my eye caught the main front page headline of a newspaper Minister of Civil Service and Administrative Reform Calls for Immediate Shake Up The paper was a month oldAs a last desperate ploy I returned in a suit and tie the letter in a smart imitation leather attach case and headed for the Directors office Over the past two weeks a bond of camaraderie had grown between us co petitioners but now the disconsolate men suatting by doorways didnt recognize me The soldier on the door of the Directors antechamber cleared a way through the crowd I entered the sanctum sanctorum the eye of the storm The few people in the room addressed the Director in hushed voices The costly pen glidedMy turn came You may remember me Ah he interrupted smiling The man with the fiery bicycleEveryone else called it a mutur even if fiery bicycle was what you used in written Arabic The Director leaned back and stroked his moustache Their importation into Yemen is prohibitedI recited to myself the mantra of a British Resident Adviser to one of the sultans of Hadramawt in colonial days Never get angry be uiet very uiet speak and act softly I may be mistaken but you have already written No objection I beg to be allowed the honour of contributing to the excheuer by paying duty Besides there are thousands of fiery bicycles in Sana Indeed I came here today on a fiery bicycle taxi I paused No sign of softening I went on But perhaps that was an illusion Perhaps I who appeared to be moving so swiftly and noisily through the traffic was in reality riding on air and I looked out of the window fartingThe Director snorted I looked at him and saw he was laughing He wrote in the last empty bit of margin No objection Refer to Airport Customs Department Calculate sum due I had broken out of the circle achieved a minor nirvanaAt Airport Customs I watched the responsible concerned make his calculations The process seemed to be based not on simple addition but on logarithms and exponentiality The sum due was thirty thousand riyalsHe saw my dumbstruck look crossed out the three and wrote a two Is that better I said I was most grateful but it still seemed a lot for two wheels He scrubbed out the whole figure and wrote fifteen thousand Happy now Such transactions are like painting in watercolour or cutting hair go too far and the thing is ruined I said I was delighted and left clutching the papersIf the customs shed is Limbo then Alis Restaurant is a foretaste of Hell The Sananis possess culinary skills unsurpassed in any other land wrote the great tenth century historian and geographer al Hamdani Measured against the rest of the Arabian Peninsula the comment is true Sana has an old and indigenous cuisine My lunch was the same as that described by Ibn al Mujawir in the thirteenth century wheat bread hulbah fenugreek flour whisked to a froth with water and meat Ali himself stands in a cloud of smoke on a platform high above the ground ladling beef broth eggs rice and peppers into a row of stone bowls In front of him is a rank of cauldrons each one big enough to boil a missionary Below him minions tend gas cylinders that send great blasts of flame shooting up Conversations are impossible in the roar explosions are not unknown The bowl of saltah as they call the mixture is brought to you red hot carried with a pair of pliers and topped with a seething yellowish green dollop of hulbah Lumps of meat are flambed in a wok like vessel and ten feet above this the ceiling is black from years of fireballs Men suat on the floor on benches on tables the ones in suits and ties are from the Foreign Ministry across the road Those who have not yet been served wail and shriek for attention Ya Ali Ya Alayyy while Ali stands erect and unhearing his body immobile within a parabola of arms all his own like those of a Hindu idol The lucky ones who have been served eat with the saltah spitting in their faces sweat pouring from their brows The walls are covered with a huge photographic mural of the gardens at Versailles parterres statues of nymphs cooling fountainsLunch at Alis is not merely a matter of eating It is the first step on the way to kayf The meaning of the term has been discussed by Sir Richard Burton One might call it he wrote The savouring of animal existence the result of a lively impressible excitable nature and exuisite sensibility of nerve it argues a facility for voluptuousness unknown to northern regions but in the end the translator of The Arabian Nights admitted defeat kayf is a word untranslatable in our mother tongue Lexicographers who cannot be so realistic have described it as a mood humour or frame of mind I who chew the leaf of the at tree shall attempt a definitionAlis Restaurant is all to do with the humours Blood phlegm yellow and black bile must be in balance to ensure perfect health and to enable the at chewer to attain his goal of kayf since at excites the cold and dry black bile prophylaxis against its ill effects means that the blood which is hot and wet must be stimulated Hence the heat the sweat the bubbling saltah Hence also the visits to the public baths before chewing at the insistence on keeping windows and doors shut during chewing the elaborate precautions to avoid the dreadedshanini a piercing and potentially fatal draught of cold airAn old joke illustrates this obsession with heat The angels it is said periodically visit Hell to make sure the fires are turned up One day a group of them are detailed to check on the really wicked sinners who spend eternity in individual ovens Inside the first oven is a Saudi He screams to be let out Roasting nicely they think and slam the door on him In the next oven is an Englishman then come an American an Egyptian and so on All beg to be let out but the angels show them no mercy Eventually they open the last door Inside sits a Yemeni chewing at and apparently oblivious of the flames around him He draws languidly on his water pipe turns to the angels and says Hey could you shut that door Ill catch my death of coldThe other day it might in fact have been almost any day I had lunch at Alis then bought my at from blue eyed Muhammad across the road He swore I wasnt giving him what hed paid for it the oaths of atsellers are notoriously unbinding I argued All right he said take it for nothing A present I folded somenotes stuck them behind his dagger and walked off with my purchase Wrangling over the price is part of the business of working up a sweat Real mawlais that is those inflamed with passion for at used to run halfway up Jabal Nuum singing before they chewed It was half past two and I was ready to start My molar as they say was hotIn a house in the centre of Sana I climbed the stairs to another room on a roof grander than my own On the way up I called Allah Allah to warn women of my presence Perhaps I should make the point here if it needs to be made that this is a very male book As a man I am excluded from the society of women as they are from that of men Outsiders tend to see this dual parallel system as a form of repression The idea never occurs to most Yemeni women They know that they wield power in many spheres notably in the choice of marriage partners which given an endogamous system is a major influence on the distribution of wealth Women play only a small role in the public domain as they did in the West until uite recently at least in Yemen in contrast to Saudi Arabia women are able to drive cars enter Parliament become top ranking civil servants But it is in the private realm of the home that the woman dominates in practice if not in theory men often gather to chew attogether because their homes have been taken over by visiting womenThe veil so overlaid with symbolic meaning for Westerners is for Yemeni wom.

yemen ebok unknown kindle arabia pdf Yemen The pdf Yemen The Unknown Arabia ePUBAd come to be seen as an architectural statement of the citys famed introversion emphasized perhaps by a row of severed traitors heads along the parapet its gates shut at night putting a stop to all movement Now you arrived along roads of half finished buildings The statement of entry had been upstaged by a preamble of petrol stationsI was afraid that Sana with the dissipation of its dramatic presence might have lost something of its soul But just as Ingres had conjured up the East in his Paris studio and sanitized it giving us the odalisues but not the odours the eunuchs but not the screams of castration so I had invented Sana in Oxford The mistake had been to think of it as a museumToday the ribbons of building have joined into an all but seamless urban weave Sana is busy at times frenetic It suffers from traffic jams and lack of planning But it is lively diverse and even with the countrys current economic difficulties still prosperous What I had imagined to be the timeless calm of an ancient walled city was stagnation a comatose sleep ended by the brute kiss of revolutionIn the Old City the heart still beats The noise of al Zumur the uarter named after a mosue founded in by Uzdimir Pasha the Ottoman conueror of Sana pulsates outside the front door car horns motor cycle taxis two egg sellers competing with loudhailers the cassette shop across the road the crackle and pop of roasting black peas Yesterday there was a man with wild hair and a drum extemporizing songs lays of old Baghdad not about Harun al Rashid but Saddam Husayn and his adversary George Bush O would that I were a bird says Saddam For I would land on Bushs head and the crowd is in suspense and shit on it And last Ramadan every day before the sunset prayer a fettered man would call for alms beneath my window a taxi driver who had crashed he was in gaol until he could collect the blood money for his dead passengers His insurance policy had been with God now coin by coin the Faithful were paying out his claim The sounds all float up from four floors below a distraction to writing So Sanani houses being tall Ill move up another coupleFrom here the ring of mountains surrounding the Sana plain can be seen in full a tradition says they flew from Sinai to Yemen in shock when Moses asked to see the face of God Over there is the place where Sam first began building and through the other window is Jabal Nuum near the base of which the bird dropped his guideline Even this is hardly the best place to be writing this belvedere on the roof it is too easy to get carried away by the skyline of which you are a part But up here among the birds and the occasional flying plastic bag street noises are far away and you could be sitting in a jewelled casket the room is tiny eight feet by five and lit by coloured glass windows It is sometimes called a zahrah in the dictionary a flower beauty brightness My house is a few centuries old but the changeless style of Sanani architecture makes it hard to date Only yards away a man is putting the final cursive plaster frieze on to a similar room hanging on a swing above the chasm of the street Behind him the dust is beginning to obscure Jabal Ayban and the road to the sea A west wind is blowing up banging the shutters And with it comes the call to prayer not the effete recorded invitation of other lands but a live human roar COME AND PRAY gusting across Yemen from Zabid to Zinjibar from Hizyaz to Habarut and all the way to Suutra the Island of Dragons Blood off the Horn of AfricaI must go down and pick up somecigarettes down the seventy seven I think steps into the dark entrance hall I slide back the bolt of the massive door and light and noise and piles of alfalfa tumble in my neighbour sells the plant for fodder alongside jars of marigolds roses basil and rue She is veiled and wrapped in a sitarah a large blue and red cloak like a tablecloth Next to her a man from the Red Sea coast has tobacco from the other side of al Mukalla on the Indian Ocean then a boy with a headscarf full of walnuts from Hajjah in the mountains north west of Sana In front of them is a line of barrows some with oranges some with plastic shoes some with knives razors nailclippers torches and mechanical drumming monkeys Across the street are the secondhand clothes sellers All the synthetic textile wealth of the Far East is here in a mle of colours and patterns Behind the clothes is a row of gold shops tarts parlours of carat glitter set off by pink and peach velvet walls andmirrors than a hairdressers The sharshaf maker who runs up a ladies all enveloping outer garment of Ottoman origin any colour as long as its black any number of pleats as long as they froufrou adds a sober note a crow among peacocksThe secondhand clothes sellers are a long way from the subfusc mustiness of an Oxfam shop They are lost in a maelstrom of flying cloth and brown forearms thrusting from under sitarahs glinting with gold bangles Only the man selling platform shoes is alone Menswear is often startling with lots of fake fur and checks that shriek but Ive picked up a dove grey jacket lined in scarlet which could have been from Huntsman of Savile Row except for the stitching Another find was a smart barathea tailcoat I tried it on but it was tiny shrunk by the sea and cast up on a beach from a s PEternal Father Strong to Save as the sharks of al Shihr scented the supper of their lives Well maybeOne day I saw on the street something that stopped me dead It was a piece of clothing as familiar to me as my own body but translated into another sartorial idiom A boy was wearing it over a zannah an ankle length shirt and a miniature jambiyah a curved dagger He was scuffing a deflated football along I called him to stop There it was grey flannel with navy piping and a fleur de lis on the breast pocket my prep school blazerI looked inside Steer s Outfitters There was the ghost of an inkstain on the pocket where my birthday Parker had sprung a leak in The space for the name tape was emptyAs he kicked the ball away a wave of nostalgia flooded over me It passed leaving behind a strange deep stillness of spirit It was the calm of completeness of the wheel turning full circle of being in the right place at the right timeIf that had been an intimation of spiritual completion a later experience in Sana Airport customs shed provided a fair simulacrum of Limbo The place is a vast metal box echoing with cries of supplication owners begging for the redemption of their goods To get to it I had to cross a great Stygian lake where the citys sewage had bubbled upInside the shed I found the crate containing my motor cycle It had come here via Addis Ababa and appeared to be in one piece I gave it a pat and made for the low buildings which house the Customs masulin the responsibles literally those who are asked uestions To get in I waved a piece of paper the central portion of which was a typewritten reuest to import the machine into Yemen addressed to the Director of Customs Over the weeks it had sprouted marginalia each ending with the enigmatic suiggle which in Arabic passes for a signatureOn my first visit to the Customs Authority I had buttonholed the Director as he was getting out of his car Using the wing as a writing desk and with a flourish of his costly pen he wrote what I eventually deciphered as No objection For the attention of the Secretariat Beginners luck The Head of the Secretariat had no objection either and with a second marginalium written with a less costly but still desirable pen passed the matter on to the Head of External Affairs In External Affairs it was the same story no objection refer to another department I noticed that the lower the position in the hierarchy thecomplex the signature became At the same time the pens decreased in uality until in a nameless department where bottom drawer bureaucrats sat reading the newspaper or practising their signatures someone was persuaded to write something with a chewed and leaking biro By now time was beginning to distort I had been in Customs for a good part of each working day for a fortnight Where could they refer the case to now Only the tea boy hadnt been consulted I looked at the latest addition to the document No objection For the attention of Director of Customs The buck it seemed was in perpetual and slow motion Like the Buddhist soul it had described a complete circle while the officials were reincarnated in ever lowlier forms As I left the office my eye caught the main front page headline of a newspaper Minister of Civil Service and Administrative Reform Calls for Immediate Shake Up The paper was a month oldAs a last desperate ploy I returned in a suit and tie the letter in a smart imitation leather attach case and headed for the Directors office Over the past two weeks a bond of camaraderie had grown between us co petitioners but now the disconsolate men suatting by doorways didnt recognize me The soldier on the door of the Directors antechamber cleared a way through the crowd I entered the sanctum sanctorum the eye of the storm The few people in the room addressed the Director in hushed voices The costly pen glidedMy turn came You may remember me Ah he interrupted smiling The man with the fiery bicycleEveryone else called it a mutur even if fiery bicycle was what you used in written Arabic The Director leaned back and stroked his moustache Their importation into Yemen is prohibitedI recited to myself the mantra of a British Resident Adviser to one of the sultans of Hadramawt in colonial days Never get angry be uiet very uiet speak and act softly I may be mistaken but you have already written No objection I beg to be allowed the honour of contributing to the excheuer by paying duty Besides there are thousands of fiery bicycles in Sana Indeed I came here today on a fiery bicycle taxi I paused No sign of softening I went on But perhaps that was an illusion Perhaps I who appeared to be moving so swiftly and noisily through the traffic was in reality riding on air and I looked out of the window fartingThe Director snorted I looked at him and saw he was laughing He wrote in the last empty bit of margin No objection Refer to Airport Customs Department Calculate sum due I had broken out of the circle achieved a minor nirvanaAt Airport Customs I watched the responsible concerned make his calculations The process seemed to be based not on simple addition but on logarithms and exponentiality The sum due was thirty thousand riyalsHe saw my dumbstruck look crossed out the three and wrote a two Is that better I said I was most grateful but it still seemed a lot for two wheels He scrubbed out the whole figure and wrote fifteen thousand Happy now Such transactions are like painting in watercolour or cutting hair go too far and the thing is ruined I said I was delighted and left clutching the papersIf the customs shed is Limbo then Alis Restaurant is a foretaste of Hell The Sananis possess culinary skills unsurpassed in any other land wrote the great tenth century historian and geographer al Hamdani Measured against the rest of the Arabian Peninsula the comment is true Sana has an old and indigenous cuisine My lunch was the same as that described by Ibn al Mujawir in the thirteenth century wheat bread hulbah fenugreek flour whisked to a froth with water and meat Ali himself stands in a cloud of smoke on a platform high above the ground ladling beef broth eggs rice and peppers into a row of stone bowls In front of him is a rank of cauldrons each one big enough to boil a missionary Below him minions tend gas cylinders that send great blasts of flame shooting up Conversations are impossible in the roar explosions are not unknown The bowl of saltah as they call the mixture is brought to you red hot carried with a pair of pliers and topped with a seething yellowish green dollop of hulbah Lumps of meat are flambed in a wok like vessel and ten feet above this the ceiling is black from years of fireballs Men suat on the floor on benches on tables the ones in suits and ties are from the Foreign Ministry across the road Those who have not yet been served wail and shriek for attention Ya Ali Ya Alayyy while Ali stands erect and unhearing his body immobile within a parabola of arms all his own like those of a Hindu idol The lucky ones who have been served eat with the saltah spitting in their faces sweat pouring from their brows The walls are covered with a huge photographic mural of the gardens at Versailles parterres statues of nymphs cooling fountainsLunch at Alis is not merely a matter of eating It is the first step on the way to kayf The meaning of the term has been discussed by Sir Richard Burton One might call it he wrote The savouring of animal existence the result of a lively impressible excitable nature and exuisite sensibility of nerve it argues a facility for voluptuousness unknown to northern regions but in the end the translator of The Arabian Nights admitted defeat kayf is a word untranslatable in our mother tongue Lexicographers who cannot be so realistic have described it as a mood humour or frame of mind I who chew the leaf of the at tree shall attempt a definitionAlis Restaurant is all to do with the humours Blood phlegm yellow and black bile must be in balance to ensure perfect health and to enable the at chewer to attain his goal of kayf since at excites the cold and dry black bile prophylaxis against its ill effects means that the blood which is hot and wet must be stimulated Hence the heat the sweat the bubbling saltah Hence also the visits to the public baths before chewing at the insistence on keeping windows and doors shut during chewing the elaborate precautions to avoid the dreadedshanini a piercing and potentially fatal draught of cold airAn old joke illustrates this obsession with heat The angels it is said periodically visit Hell to make sure the fires are turned up One day a group of them are detailed to check on the really wicked sinners who spend eternity in individual ovens Inside the first oven is a Saudi He screams to be let out Roasting nicely they think and slam the door on him In the next oven is an Englishman then come an American an Egyptian and so on All beg to be let out but the angels show them no mercy Eventually they open the last door Inside sits a Yemeni chewing at and apparently oblivious of the flames around him He draws languidly on his water pipe turns to the angels and says Hey could you shut that door Ill catch my death of coldThe other day it might in fact have been almost any day I had lunch at Alis then bought my at from blue eyed Muhammad across the road He swore I wasnt giving him what hed paid for it the oaths of atsellers are notoriously unbinding I argued All right he said take it for nothing A present I folded somenotes stuck them behind his dagger and walked off with my purchase Wrangling over the price is part of the business of working up a sweat Real mawlais that is those inflamed with passion for at used to run halfway up Jabal Nuum singing before they chewed It was half past two and I was ready to start My molar as they say was hotIn a house in the centre of Sana I climbed the stairs to another room on a roof grander than my own On the way up I called Allah Allah to warn women of my presence Perhaps I should make the point here if it needs to be made that this is a very male book As a man I am excluded from the society of women as they are from that of men Outsiders tend to see this dual parallel system as a form of repression The idea never occurs to most Yemeni women They know that they wield power in many spheres notably in the choice of marriage partners which given an endogamous system is a major influence on the distribution of wealth Women play only a small role in the public domain as they did in the West until uite recently at least in Yemen in contrast to Saudi Arabia women are able to drive cars enter Parliament become top ranking civil servants But it is in the private realm of the home that the woman dominates in practice if not in theory men often gather to chew attogether because their homes have been taken over by visiting womenThe veil so overlaid with symbolic meaning for Westerners is for Yemeni wom.

Yemen: The Unknown Arabia eBook  Yemen: The En tant u’auteur connu certains de ses livres fascinent les lecteurs comme dans le livre Yemen The Unknown Arabia ui est l’un des lecteurs les plus recherchés Tim Mackintosh Smith auteurs dans le monde.

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