From the Seminar for Arabian Studies

The Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, vol. 24, 1994

Reviewed by Daniel Martin Varisco

Yemen Update 35(1994):42-43

The Seminar for Arabian Studies is one of the oldest forums with a major annual component of papers on Yemen. The next seminar will be held at Newnham College, Cambridge July20-22, 1995. The Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies for the 1993 meeting held in London was published in 1994as Volume 24 in the series. This contains fourteen articles, seven of which relate directly to Yemen, spread over 230 pages. There are abundant illustrations and black-and-white photographs as well. Those wishing to purchase a copy (22 British Pounds plus postage and packing) should contact The Secretary, Seminar for Arabian Studies, Institute of Archaeology, 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H OPY (fax44-171-383-2572).

This brief review will deal only with the articles relevant to Yemen. One of these is Michael Jung, "A Map of Southern Yemeni Rock Art with Notes on Some of the Subjects Depicted"(pp. 135-156). Jung provides a map with a description of each site and the nature of the rock art. The concern is with rock art or grafitti and not with pre-Islamic inscriptions. The author notes that the number of sites in both the north and south of Yemen is about 100. Accompanying the article is a major bibliography of references to this rock art.

Andrey Korotayev writes "The Social Sense of Middle Sabaean Epithet Names" (pp. 157-164). He documents epithets used in inscriptions of "qayls," the Sabaean aristocracy, ordinary tribesmen and clients. "So the general impression," he concludes, “is that the use of epithets was confined to the upper and middle brackets of the social scale, whereas for the clansmen in its middle bracket it was much more difficult to get an epithet than for those in the upper bracket."

Hiroshi Matsumoto contributes "The History of 'Uzlah and Miklaf in North Yemen" (pp. 175-182). The article is divided into three parts. First the author looks at the recent regional divisions in the Yemen Arab Republic before unity. There are some rather simplistic assumptions here, such as the statement that "the nahiyah level corresponds to the tribe and the 'uzlah level to the tribal section in general." This is not a hard and fast rule and it begs the question of how a tribe is defined in the first place. The second part of the article examines the usage of the terms mikhlaf and 'uzla in five Yemeni texts. These are the Kitab al-Buldan of Ya'qubi(died 258/872), al-Hamdani's Sifa, al-Muqaddasi's 10th centuryAhsan al-taqasim, Yaqut's Mu'jam al-Buldan andal-Hajari's recent geographical work (this last being based primarily on the earlier sources). Finally, the author briefly looks at some of the historical changes in regional divisions, especially since the first Ottoman period. Unfortunately, it appears that only “geographical" texts have been used. There is no reference, for example, to the work of Paul Dresch, Andre Gingrich or other Yemeni studies of the tribes.

"Temples of Ancient Hadramawt" (pp. 183-196)is the subject of the article by Alexander V. Sedev and Ahmad Batayi'. This discusses results of the French Archaeological Mission and the "Russian-Yemeni Joint Expedition." Much of the information relates to the site of Raybun, excavated by the latter expedition. "The core of each temple was a building, rectangular in layout, with a hypostyle hall, where, probably, the major cults connected with the god’s worship were officiated," write the authors.

Yosef Tobi writes "Inheritance Rights of Jewish Women and Moslem Women in Yemen" (pp.201-208). The issues dealt with in the article include: (A) Jewish law and Islamic law regarding a woman's inheritance; (B) conflict between Islamic law and customary law, application of Jewish women to the Islamic courts in matters of inheritance; (C) attitude of Jewish courts to women’s inheritance rights; and, (D) attitude of Jewish courts to Islamic law in modern times. Information is provided on Rabbi 'Amram Qorah, chief rabbi in Sanaa from 1934 until his immigration to Israel in1949.

Giovanni Ventrone Vassallo is the author of “The Al-Farawi Mosque in Yemen" (pp. 209-219). This is a result of research by the Italian Archaeological Mission in 1989. The village lies in the mountains west of Ibb and was mentioned by Yaqut as ahijra qadima. The author examines references to the village in the Yemeni sources and devotes the bulk of the article to a description of the mosque and madrasa. The mosque dates from A.D.1415 and the madrasa is a distinctive nine-bay domed building, of which eight are recorded for Yemen.

There is also a short description of three papers delivered on "The Texts of Medieval Yemen." These were: A.B.D.R. Eagle, "The Capture of Sanaa' by Abu' l Qasim Muhammad ibnal-Hadi in 294/906-7: the Sirat al-Hadi and its Apparent Deliberate Suppression of an Important Event;" M.A.R. al-Thenayian, "A Preliminary Evaluation of al-Rada'i's Pilgrimage Urjuzah as a Primary Geographical Source for Surveying the Yemeni Highland Pilgrim Route between Sanaa and Mecca;" and, G. Rex Smith, "The Language of Ibn al-Mujawir's Tarikh al-Mustabsir and Lofgren’s Edition of the Text."

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