News and events
About the Society
Lectures and events in 1999
Joint meeting with the Middle East Association at which Captain
Roy Facey, Adviser to the Yemen Ports Authority gave a progress report on the container
terminal project in Aden Port.
Dr Derek Harvey gave an illustrated talk on Wildlife Conservation Initiatives in Yemen.
Mr Richard Schofield, Director, Geopolitics and International
Boundaries Research Centre, SOAS, spoke on Yemens border with Saudi Arabia.
Following the AGM, the film LArabie Interdite
(made by Rene Clement about the visit of the explorer Jules Barthous to Yemen in 1937) was
shown, and during the reception kindly arranged by the Yemeni Embassy, members had the
opportunity to view an exhibition of photographs of Yemen taken by Iason Fowden, a student
of Arabic at Oxford.
Joint meeting with the Middle East Association to discuss recent
developments in Yemen and prospects for the economy. Speakers included Mr Alan Duncan MP,
Mr Gianni Brizzi (World Bank Representative, Sanaa), Mr Stephen Day, and Mr Jonathan
Joint meeting with the Anglo-Omani Society at which Professor Fred
Halliday, London School of Economics, spoke on Yemeni-Omani relations.
Lectures in 1998
Joint meeting with the Middle East Association. Captain Roy Facey, Adviser to the Port of
Aden, spoke about plans for the development of Aden Port and Free Zone.
Douglas Scrafton, former British Ambassador in Sanaa,
presented snapshots of his tour of duty in Yemen ending on 27 September 1997.
He touched on economic problems exacerbated by the Gulf conflict in 1991, the dramatic
results of World Bank/IMF inspired restructuring, and Yemens efforts at political
fence-mending with its Arab neighbours. These and the relatively free and fair
elections in 1997 had helped to change international perceptions of Yemen and to create a
favourable climate for increased foreign aid.
A lecture by Tony Milroy (Arid Lands Initiative) and Abdul Rahinan
al-Iryani on Yemens water situation had to be postponed. Instead, members were able
to attend a lecture by Professor Tony Allen (SOAS), organised by the Society for Arabian
Studies, on water resources in the Peninsula.
Joint meeting with the Anglo-Oman Society. Dr Jenny Balfour-Paul,
whose book Indigo in the Arab World (1997)
was reviewed in last years journal, gave us a spirited lecture on this subject
drawing on her researches of the past 15 years. She described the historical background to
indigos use, the complicated art of its manufacture, and the mystique which indigo
had acquired from its cosmetic, ritual and medicinal applications. Synthetic dyes had now
almost completely supplanted the natural substance, and with changing social and economic
patterns, the industry, even in Oman andYemen, was virtually extinct.
Following the AGM, a video was shown of films taken by John Hewitt
in 1948-50 in Hadhramaut and other parts of Yemen during his service with Desert Locust
Control. George Popov, a locust expert (see article)
provided a commentary. Afterwards, H.E. the Yemeni Ambassador hosted a reception which
was, as usual, an animated and most enjoyable occasion.
Mr Victor Henderson, British Ambassador in Sanaa, offered us
some impressions of his first year in Yemen. His talk was attended by Dr Hussain al-Amri
and members of aYemeni delegation visiting Britain for talks on privatisation.
Tim Mackintosh-Smith, recent winner of the Thomas Cook/Daily
Telegraph Travel Writer of theYear Award for his book, Yemen:
Travels in Dictionary Land, and Kevin Rushby, author of Eating the Flowers of Paradise (1998),
spoke about their visit together to the remote island of Soqotra, with its distinctive
culture and folklore, and illustrated their talk with slides.
Bishop John Brown, formerly Bishop in Cyprus and the Gulf, spoke
on Christian-Muslim Relations.
November 16-December 2
The Societys annual tour of Yemen led by Alan DArcy.
Members were warmly received by the Yemeni-British Friendship Association, and by the
British Embassy, and were entertained to a musical evening at the Health and Culture
Centre, Sanaa by Dr Nizar Ghanem. Representatives of the group were also invited to
a televised meeting in Sanaa with the Prime Minister, Dr Abdulkarim al-Iryani.
Dr Ulrike Freitag, lecturer in history at SOAS, spoke on Hadhrami Migration in the 19th and 20th centuries
to a joint meeting with the Society for Arabian Studies.
Lectures in 1997
Stephen Day, who had served in the Western Aden
Protectorate for seven years 1961-67, spoke on The return of the shaikhly families
to southern Yemen". He said that the tribal shaikhs with Treaty relations with
Britain up to 1967 (numbering twenty and a half, the last of uncertain allegiance) had
been over-elevated in status by the British; to regard them as rulers had been a false
appreciation. Following Britains disorderly withdrawal from Arabia, many of these
families had survived thirty years in exile with great tolerance, "without losing a
sense of the past nor a vision of the future". In 1996 the Sanaa Government
began to permit these families to return to their lands and resume their traditional role
of involvement in tribal affairs and resolving problems, but without other official
capacity. From his continuing personal friendship, Stephen Day described with sympathy and
understanding the particular positions of those who had already taken advantage of the new
John McHugo, having recently led a fact-finding
mission of British commercial and industrial interests to Yemen, reported on the visit and
ouflined the legal framework and favourable legislation for foreign investment. The visit
had been a success with interest shown by many British firms in opportunities for
investment and business in Yemen. They had visited Sanaa, Taiz and Aden where the
port facilities and future Free Trade Zone had been seen.
A Gallery Talk at the British Museum had been
arranged by Western Asiatic department and Julian Reade kindly conducted a party of
Society members first round the permanent display of South Arabian artefacts and then to
the basement to view the antiquities in the reserve collection. The party was intrigued to
have the objects fully explained and to have unexpected details pointed out.
HE Dr Hussein al Amri gave a lecture on "Two
Important Documents in Contemporary Yemen: the Sacred National Charter of 1948 and the
National Charter of 1982". Dr al Amri explained the historical significance of each
Charter at its point in time, relating them to the constitutional developments that have
culminated in the present unified Republic of Yemen.
Brian Whitaker, Managing Editor of the Guardian, spoke on
"The April 1997 Elections in Yemen", providing a knowledgeable insight into the
multiparty electoral process.
Society visit to the Mu'ath Welfare Trust, Birmingham. Our party
received a warm welcome and generous hospitality and were much impressed by the variety
and scope of the educational and other services which the Trust is undertaking (see BYS Journal, Vol 5, p30). A number of
ways in which the Trust and the Society could work together more closely were identified.
John Harding gave an illustrated talk on his days as a young
political officer in the Aden Protectorates in the early 1960s.
Jim Ellis again led the Societys annual tour of Yemen. This
was the third such tour and some 23 members participated.
Joint lecture meeting with the Society for Arabian Studies. Dr
Geoffrey King described the precarious condition of the Dar al-'Izz, or Queen Arwas
Palace in Jiblah, resulting from the ravages of time, Nature and Man. He mentioned the
rapid increase in dilapidation since his last visit a few years previously and the
possibility of UNESCO assistance in conserving what remains of the monument.
Lectures in 1996
Brian Whitaker of the Guardian spoke on "Unity and Democracy
in Yemen". In his clear analysis of the trends leading up to the civil conflict of
1994, he said that, despite a wide felt desire for national unity and the democratic
process of government, the incompatibility of the complex political hierarchies and the
uneven demographic weighting in the two parts of the country had inexorably led to a
struggle for power and control. (AJML)
Carl Phillips, Institute of Archaeology, spoke on
"Archaeological Exploration in Yemen." His lecture appears in this edition of
the Journal. (AJML)
Brigadier Martin Lance, British Defence Attache in Sanaa in
1994, gave an account of the military aspects of the civil war in Yemen. Starting with the
disposition of the unamalgamated forces of the north and south, he gave a detailed account
of the campaign from the outbreak of shooting in February 1994 to the ultimate collapse of
southern resistance. He brought out the superior strategy of the northern command and
stressed the fundamental popular desire of the southerners and northerners to maintain the
unity of their country. (AJML)
Following the Annual General Meeting, Maria Holt, of CAABU, gave a
report on the recent visit of the British parliamentary delegation to the Yemen. The five
M.Ps met numerous senior Yemeni parliamentarians and officials and were impressed by the
process of democratization in the Yemeni context; they had discussions with members of the
Yemeni British Friendship Association and others on a wide range of subjects incluiding
press freedom, the position of women and the countrys economic problems. A lobby
group for Yemen now exists in the House of Commons. (AJML)
Dr Lain Murray-Lyon spoke about medical matters, including medical
education, in Yemen. With its already high and fast increasing population, despite high
infant mortality, malnutrition and low life expectancy, he forecast a crisis brewing due
to shortages of basic resources such as fuel and water, not to say food. He described an
alarming incidence of endemic diseases in a quite different spectrum from those in western
Europe. A team he heads is looking into the medical effects of chewing qat and of chronic
viral liver diseases such as hepatitis B and C. In education, more doctors are graduating
in Sanaa and Aden than ever before, including women who generally attain a high
standard, but the number of doctors per head of population is still lamentably low. (AJML)
Dr Aviva Klein-Franke gave an illustrated talk of
Yemeni Jewish silverwork. She described the historical position of Jewish silversmiths and
the demand for their work in all social sectors. She explained the use of the silver coin
as their base material and the constant re-use of melted silverwork for new articles. Her
talk was illustrated by slides of superb examples of old silver jewellery in the
possession of Jews in Israel who had emigrated from Yemen. She explained the intricate
decorative features from these examples.
Dr Francine Stone gave an illustrated
lecture on The ruined city of aI-Mahjam on Tihama; an excuse to tell tales".
With her detailed knowledge of the background and the city of al-Mahjam in particular, she
entranced the audience with snippets of an earlier age, and colourful, if gruesome,
incidents gleaned from the writings of contemporary observers.
Lectures in 1995
Carl Phillips, lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology discussed
recent archaeological excavations in the Yemen, focussing in particular on his excavation
at al-Hamid, close to Bajil, a South Arabian site in Tihama and one of the projects
associated with the British Archaeological Mission in the Yemen. (VP)
Bernard Haykel, St Johns College, Oxford, spoke on Shawkani
and modern Yemeni history. Shawkani was an important Zaydi jurist who sought to bridge the
gap between religious groups in 19th century Yemen. Haykels talk was based on
extensive research into his writings and fieldwork carried out in the Yemen for his
doctoral thesis. (VP)
Dr Venetia Porter, Curator at the British Museum, spoke on the
architecture of the Tahirid dynasty of the Yemen. This dynasty, ruling the Yemen between
1454 and 1517, has left few cultural remains other than a number of fascinating monuments
lavishly decorated with wall paintings and stucco ornament, which were the subject of the
Dr Nicholas van Hear, Centre for Refugee Studies, Oxford, spoke on
the impact of the mass return of Yemenis after the Gulf War in 1990, and discussed the
problems faced by the return of approximately 800,000 Yemenis previously in the Gulf and
Saudi Arabia, expelled as a result of their countrys stance during the war. (VP)
Amin Tibi, Faculty of Business Administration, University of
Singapore, gave a talk on the Yemeni community of Singapore. (VP)
An evening of traditional Yemeni music, sung and played on the
ud by Hamud al-Gunaid following his performance in the Llangollen Festival. (AJML)
Paul Dresch of St Johns College, Oxford, gave a talk on
"Tribalism - the pros and cons." (AJML)
Laila Noman, University of Wales, gave a talk on "The Education of Women in Yemen"
which was published in the Journal. (AJML)
Patrick Seale recounted his "Anecdotal Recollections of 1962
in Yemen" when he was foreign correspondent for the Observer and Economist covering
the upheavals taking place in North Yemen at that time. (AJML)
Lectures in 1994
Dr Abdul Galil Shaif from Sheffield gave an enlightening account
of "The Yemeni communities in Britain." Describing first the problems still
besetting the first generation of immigrants who came to work in British heavy industries,
he explained the reasons for their having preserved their sense of Yemeni identity and
community. He went on to describe how the younger generation is now stimulating an
improvement in social and welfare assistance and education within the communities, while
still maintaining the cohesion and sense of identity. (AJML)
Ms Ianthe Maclagan, speaking on "Food and family in a Yemeni
highland community", described vividly her time spent doing anthropological research
in the northern region of Yemen, her life and lasting friendships she made with the
community within which she lived. (AJML)
Mr Richard Porter, leader of the 1993 Ornithological Society of
the Middle Easts expedition to Yemen, spoke on "The birds of southern Yemen and
Socotra", illustrated by slides from all seven of his visits to Yemen. He first
described the objectives of the 1993 survey as being to identify areas of particular
importance to bird life so as to assist in the development of a national conservation
strategy. His team had carried out systematic transects of desert areas, wooded mountain
terrain and coastal regions, observing large numbers of species including many endemic to
the Yemen. He observed that since rural Yemenis still live in relative harmony with their
surroundings, many bird species have as yet not suffered greatly from the destruction of
their habitats; this was true most notably in Socotra. (AJML)
The Societys AGM was followed by a talk by Sarah Posey with
Dr Mark Littlewood on "Contemporary Yemeni pottery", describing its manufacture
and use today in every aspect. The lecture was followed by a tour of the important
exhibition of Yemeni pottery which was on display, arranged by Sarah Posey, in the Museum
of Mankind. (AJML)
Mr Ian Davison, lecturer in structural geology at Royal Holloway
University of London, spoke on "The geology of Yemen: the past thirty million
years." He nobly stood in for the published lecturer, Prof Martin Menzies, who was
unfortunately unable to attend. Outlining the distribution of rocks from the very earliest
times throughout Yemen, Mr Davison went on to describe in more detail the latest field
work of his research team on the upthrust of the sedimentary layer to become the mountains
which form the spectacular scenery of Yemen today, a process which, using the very latest
technology, can now be seen to have taken place within a relatively short space of
geological time, between twenty five and twenty seven million years ago. His talk managed
brilliantly to reduce a highly complex technical subject to an enthralling account,
readily comprehensible in laymans terms. (AJML)
Dr Gabriele vom Bruck, lecturer in the Department of Anthropology
London School of Economics, gave a lecture entitled Sayyids and Merchants in Sanaa:
Different ways of being History This study was based on fieldwork she had undertaken in
the Yemen in the 1980s and the subject of her doctoral thesis. (VP)
Dr Nizar Ghanem, Professor of Medicine at Sanaa University
and also one of the Yemens leading ud players, gave a talk entitled
Contemporary Music in the Yemen: the Cultural Exchange. He discussed the different styles
of Yemeni music and the influences that have affected it such as Turkey and, in recent
times that of Egypt, India and East Africa. His talk was illustrated by a video film and
his own delightful music. (VP)