Arabian Studies Anew

New Arabian Studies (ISBN 0 85989 408 8 and ISSN 1351-4709), Vol. 1

Reviewed by Daniel Martin Varisco

Yemen Update 35(1994):38-39

After a hiatus of several years the important work begun by Serjeant and Bidwell in Arabian Studies has reappeared in the form of New Arabian Studies, now published by the University of Exeter Press. Joining Serjeant, who passed away before the first volume was published, and Bidwell is Prof. G. Rex Smith of Manchester University. The first volume of New Arabian Studies (ISBN 0 85989 408 8 and ISSN 1351-4709) came out in 1993and contains 15 articles, 8 of which have direct relevance to Yemeni studies. The editors solicit scholarly articles on the Arabian Peninsula; these should be sent to the editors, c/o Centre for Arab Gulf Studies at the Old Library, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX44JZ, United Kingdom. It is strongly recommended that anyone interested in Arabia subscribe to this annual volume. Subscriptions should be sent to University of Exeter Press, Reed Hall, Streatham Drive, Exeter, Devon EX4 4QR United Kingdom.

This brief review will discuss only the articles on Yemen. The first of these in the volume is by Suleiman Mousa, a Jordanian specialist on Arab history in this century. The article "Sharif Husayn and Developments Leading to the Arab Revolt"(pp. 36-53) includes references to the activities of the sharif of the Hejaz in Yemen and the 'Asir region of what is now Saudi Arabia.

Eric Macro, who lives in Kitchener, Ontario, is no stranger to Yemenophiles for his previous bibliographic and historical analyses. Macro contributes an interesting article on “The Austrian Imperial Academy's Expeditions to South Arabia1897-1900: C. de Landberg, D. H. Müller and G. W. Bury" (pp.54-82). This imperial academy, the Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften, was founded in Vienna, Austria in 1846. One of the initial interests of associates of the academy in Yemen related to the discovery and decipherment of the South Arabian inscriptions. Eduard Glaser traveled to Yemen in the 1880s and later wrote a major text on the South Arabian history of the region. But one of the most important Austrian enthusiasts was the Semitic language specialist David Heinrich von Müller (1846-1912), who is perhaps best known for his edition of al-Hamdani's Sifat jaziratal-'Arab. The Austrian Academy, in large part due to the inspiration of Müller, sponsored several philological expeditions to Yemen. The first of these included a Swede by the name of Carlo de Landberg and an Englishman named G. Wyman Bury, both of whom went to Socotra in February-March, 1897. Landberg, a wealthy scholar who was also a Swedish diplomat in the Middle East, published monumental dialect studies for the Hadramawt and Dathina regions of Yemen. Bury would go on to write two travelogues on his various travels in the north and south. There were seven expeditions sponsored by the academy and these are summarized by Macro in his article.

In order of appearance the next article is my own "A Rasulid Agricultural Almanac for 808/1405-6" (pp. 108-123),which provides the English translation of a Yemeni almanac I edited in Dirasat Yamaniya (20:192-222, 1985). This article also corrects the numerous and irritating printing errors in the earlier Arabic article and thus it should be consulted in conjunction with the Arabic text. I provide only a minimum of annotation, since much of the material is covered in my new study Medieval Agriculture and Islamic Science: The Almanac of a Yemeni Sultan (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994).

Colin Barnes, an engineer, writes "Water, Risk and Environmental Management: Agriculture and Irrigation in South Yemen (PDRY)" (pp. 124-136) loosely based on his experience in Yemen, but more dependent on the earlier study of Maktari. This is a superficial survey that reads more like the introduction to a development study than a scholarly article.

Alexander Knysh, who served as a member of the Soviet-Yemeni mission in South Arabia (described in Yemen Update No. 33, Summer/Fall 1993, pp. 12-14), contributes an excellent study on "The Cult of Saints in Hadramawt: An Overview"(pp. 137-152). This is a worthy update on the seminal work of R. B. Serjeant, published on shrines in the area several years ago.

'Abd al-Muhsin al-Mad'aj, a professor in the history department of Kuwait University, contributes "The Founding of the Great Mosque (al-Jami' al-Kabir) in Sanaa" (pp. 175-188). This is based on the primary sources and addresses the issues of when the mosque was first built and who the founder was. He weighs the evidence for four reputed founders and concludes that the mosque was built in the second half of the year A. H. 11/A.D. 63.

Ja'far Muhammad al-Saqqaf presents "A Legal Document from Saywun relating to Vessels, House and Carriages Owned by a Saqqaf Sayyid in 19th Century Java" (pp. 189-202). A photocopy of the document is provided, along with a translation and short commentary (including remarks by Serjeant). Finally there is a short notice by the late Prof. Serjeant on "Yemenis in Mediaeval Quanzhou(Canton)" (pp. 231-234), which includes reproductions of two Arabic inscriptions in China. There are hundreds of stone tablets with Arabic inscriptions in the Museum of Overseas Communication History at Quanzhou, the important Chinese port which emerged at about the same time as Islam.

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