Yemen


Figure 1.--The photo shows a Yemenite mother with her children. It seems that the family had some African ancestors, probably Africans sold as slaves. The photo comes from 'The Secret Museum of Mankind' (New York, 1935). The Muslim rules about modesty don't require any clothing for little children. One factor in Yemeni poverty is the large number of girls who do not attend chool and marry in their mid-teens. There is support for this, both as part of thge country's traditionsl society and now as part of tge growing influence of Islamic fundamentalists.

Yemen is very mountainous and located at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen dominates the Straits of Bab al Mandeb straits between the Arabian Peninsula and Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean. The population is mostly Sunni Muslem with a Shia minority. Both geography and religion have dominated Yemeni history. Despite being located on important world trade routes, Yemen is a very conservative part of the Arab world with few modern influences. Yemnis played an important role in the Arab trading that pre-dated the European outreach (15th century). Many Indonesians are of Arab (especially Yemeni) origins. The economy is largely agricultural, although the climate is arid. Major crops are fruits, grains, coffe, and qat. Incomes levels are very low. We do not know a great deal about clothing and fashion, but traditional Arab styles appear to be very common. Literacy and educational levels are very low, even by Arab standards. Despite the country's location close to Africa, Yemenis are primarily of Arab origins. There used to be a substantial Jewish minority. Africans are looked on a separate hereditary caste, a cultural matter without foundation in the Koran. We do not know much about boys' activities in Yemen. Religionn is certainly important. Sport seems of much less interest than in most countries. This is in part a function of poverty as many children have to work from an early age. Girls have even fewer opportunities in Yemen.

Geography

Yemen is very mountainous and located at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen dominates the Straits of Bab al Mandeb straits between the Arabian Peninsula and Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean.

History

Yemeni history has been dominated by two forces, geography and religion. The country is located in the mounbtsnious region at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula where it almost touches Africa. The Straits of Bab al Mandeb lead from the Arabian Sea to the Red Sea and Suez Canal. Thus Yemen has traditionally been an important trading center between the Middle East and Africa, important for a country with few natural resources. . Important commoditities included iviry, gold, and slaves. Yemen was an important link in the African slave trade. The second major force in Yemeni history has been religion. Many scholars separate Yemeni history into a pre- and post-Islamic period. The country became involved into a vicious civil war competing conservative factions allied with Saudi Arabia with Arab Socilist factions backed by Egypt. The country is today one of the poorest most backward Arab countries with little modern infrastructure. A basic question which must be addressed in Yemeni history is why the country is backward and poorly developed.

Economics

Despite being located on important world trade routes, Yemen is a very conservative part of the Arab world with few modern influences. Yemnis played an important role in the Arab trading that pre-dated the European outreach (15th century). Many Indonesians are of Arab (especially Yemeni) origins. The economy is largely agricultural, although the climate is arid. There are fertile regions in Yemen, in cotrast to the more arid areas to the north. Major crops are fruits, grains, coffe, and qat. Incomes levels are very low. Yemen has attracted the interest of Western tourists interested in exotic locations. Tourism in Yemen can be an adventure. Foreigners especially Westeners in Yemen's tribal society can become targets. Groups have kidnapped Westerners in an effort to gain concessions from the Government.

Garments

We do not know a great deal about clothing and fashion in Yemen. Our archive is very limited. Traditional Arab styles appear to be very common in Yemem. We do not have much information on these traditional styles. There are regiomal differences. The clothing thus varies by area. The principal regional differences are colors and designs. Clothing is affected by factors like religion, weather and raditions. Islam thgrough the Koran does not establish certain styles znd garments. It does strongly promote the idea of modesty. This affects women's clothing more than mebn's clothing. One of thr most important traditioinal garments in Yemen is the Thobe. This is a tailor made white robe. A destinctive Yemeni accessory is the Jambia. It is composed of three part., the first is the Jambia itself, a curved steel blade. The handle of the blade is usually made from the horns of animals--rhinoseous is especially popular. The second is Asib. This is the case that holds the blade. The third part is the Mahazaq or Hisam. This is the belt which carries the blade and case. The whole set is callthe Jambia to stress the importance of the blade and handle. These Jambia in many cases are pasdsed doiwn from generation to generation. Modern Western clothing is also worn, but the traditional garmebts are widely worn even in the larger cities.

Activities

We do not know much about boys' activities in Yemen. Religionn is certainly important. The population is mostly Sunni Muslem with a Shia minority. Literacy and educational levels are very low, even by Arab standards. The country has only recently begun to build a public ducation system. We have some limited ingormation on Yemeni schools. Sport seems of much less interest than in most countries. This is in part a function of poverty as many children have to work from an early age. Girls have even fewer opportunities in Yemen.

Ethnicity

Despite the country's location close to Africa, Yemenis are primarily of Arab origins. The social structure of Yemerni Arabs Arab consists of four classes of people: the Sayyid, or wealthy (who trace their decent to the grandson of Muhammad), the Qatani, (tribesmen), the Shafi'ite townsmen (merchants, artisans, and craftsmen), and the Akhdam (slaves). Despite prejudices toward Africans by Arab Yemenis, academic studies hsve found thst Yemenite Arabs have 35% Black African genes in their mtDNA (maternal line)), while some other Middkle Eastern people have less. The most obvious explanation is that Yemen is very close geographically to Sub-Saharan Africa and is not separated by the Saharan barrier. Middle Eastern countries far away from the Arabian peninsula, have as little as 10 percent African blood in their mtDNA. One possibility is that the African gene was merely diluted by the introduction of non-Arab (and non-African) genes to the pool when Arabs began to conquer other Middle East people with the Islamic outburst (7th century AD). The "real" Arabs -- those who have Arab ancestors stretching beyond the last 1,400 years are actually 35 percent black in their mtDNA. These Arabs like Yemebis are from the Arabian peninsula. [University of Chicago Study] Another study found evidence of similar levels of African likneages in Yemeni populations. [Richards et. al.] There used to be a substantial Jewish minority with a destinctive culture. There were reprtedly about 50,000 Jews in Yemen in the early-20th cedntury. They dominated important industries such as silversmiths. Most Yemeni Jews after the establishment of Israel emigrated to the new nation. Operation Magic Carpet was particularly important (1949-50). Only a few hundred Jews remain in Yemen. Africans are looked on a separate hereditary caste, a cultural matter without foundation in the Koran. Aden was an important slave market in the Arab African slave trade that lasted more than a milenium. Africans form the Al-Akhdam minority group which are subject to discriminatory treatment. It is uncklear at this time just when African DNA was introduced into Arab populations. The gene flow probably occurred within the past 2,500 years. [Richards et. al.] It is, however, unclear to what extent it occurred during the Islamic period when the slave trade was a factor. The fact that the the gene flow was female-mediated, does suggest that the slave trade was a factor.

Minorities

Yemen has a historic Jewish community. The few remaining Jews in Yemen are under great threat from Islamic fundamentalists.

Sources

Richards, Martin "Extensive female-mediated gene flow from Sub-Saharan Africa into Near Eastern Arab populations," American Journal of Human Genetics (April 2003) Vol. 72 No. 4, pp. 10581064.

University of Chicago study. We do not yet have the specific citation.






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Created: 7:48 AM 10/9/2011
Last updated: 8:03 AM 12/30/2011