Tarim.. The Fragrance of the Hadramis

Tarim.. The Fragrance of the Hadramis

Photos: Sulaiman Haidar

As my plane was flying over Yemen and approaching the airport of the town of Sayun in the heart of Hadramawt valley, I looked through the small window to see the legendary geography with its formations and topography which looks like numberless cakes of rocky sand, perhaps similar to the bottom of a sand-filled ocean. From a height it is a rugged, rough terrain, with no rivers, lakes or green spaces. I was thinking it is the land of ascetics and people devoted to learning, not distracted by any of the pleasures of life. It is in this environment that Tarim exists. It is the Yemeni city chosen as the capital of Islamic culture for the year AH 1341. How is life like in the heart of this city of the faithful, eminent scholars, which has been humble since it came into being?

The temperature was 44ْ C in the shade. We were right to decide to fly from Aden to Sayun, as 400 km of desert in the scorching sun is not a short distance.

Heat was not our only enemy. Long distances killed a lot of the time we wanted to spend visiting places we specified beforehard. We were welcomed in Tarim by Said Alshadadi, the general coordinator of the Tarim, Capital of Islamic Culture activities. We discussed our itinerary. We would stay in Sayun and make it our base. Twenty minutes after leaving Sayun the road to Tarim looked like an asphalt blackboard turned into water because of mirage: on which countless caravans appeared, including traders and preachers. I spent minutes listening to cameleers songs after which I listened to prayers, as if going back to an invisible point.

On the right and left of the road there were white tomstones, including the grave of Ahmad bin Eissa which looks like a clove flower on the mountain. It is reached on a white rose-like stair, as if it were the location of a film about life in the past. The sound of the car horn alerted me as we were going through the city gate at a small roundabout. The car made passers-by aware of our arrival and warned motorcylists not to play in the middle of the road. That signalled our return back to the present time. The entrance to Tarim is its characteristic emblem with Almihdar mosque minaret in the middle. The emblem was designed by the Hadrami (of Hadramawt) Silan Jamaan Alaijam. The minaret reflects the city s architecture and religious character.

In front of Almihdar minaret

We had more than one guide in Tarim, though small it is. The first was Muhammad bin Abdullah Aljeneid, who took us to Almihdar mosque s courtyard. He wrote a book about Awad Salim Afif who came from the Arabian Kindah tribe who lived in the Hadrami town of Alhajrin. Master Afif was born in Tarim, and was the most famous among his brothers who inherited the job of building, with over seventy builders under him. He dided in AH1345. The mosque was built by Omar Almihdar bin Abdul Rahman Alsaqaf in AH 823 (Ad 1419). Its sminaret, the most famous in Yemen, is built on a square base, getting thinner upwards to a height of 40 m. This extraordinary height with the rectangular windows, which was new to Hadramawt, was inspired by pyramid building, without neglecting the local traditions in construction and decoration, a sign of architectural mastery and understanding of the secrets of mud building, as Aljeneid said.

On the way to our next destination we passed by other mosques built by Master Afif, including Baharum, Shihabuddin and Alzahra mosques at Tanwira, all with cylindrical minarets, indicating that Almihdar s is exceptional both in height and shape. When our car driver knew that we are from Al-Arabi he fetched an old record by another Mihdar, the composer/poet Hussein Abu Bakr, which expresses deep love of Kuwait where many Yemenis live and is talked fondly and endlessly about everywhere in Yemen. The song showed that Yemeni songs are easy to understand and appreciate, Aljeneid gave us a brief account of the history of Tarim, about which and its eminent figures many books were written as the religious capital of Hadramawt valley and a beacon of religion since the advent of Islam.

In his Muajam Albuldan , Yaqut Alhamawi wrote, There are two cities in Hadramawt: Shibam and Tarim, named after two tribes. In his Taj Alarous , Mortada Alzubaidi says Tarim is named after its builder Tarim son of Hadramawt. Some historians say it dates back to the fourth century BC. According to Awad Bawazir in his Maalim Aljazira Alarabiya , it was founded during Sabaean times; that s why its name was derived from the name of Sabaean. In his Sharh Alsodour , Ali bin Ahmad Almashhour says Alranad fort, a prominent landmark in Tarim, was built four centuries before the advent of Islam. The city has expanded, and it is approx. 3500 km2 in area today, with a population of over 100,000.

At Alranad fort

We passed by workers restoring this historical fort in the scorching sun, then went through the huge gate which was wide open, crossed the court to the middle of the building located in the centre of the old town near the souk. It is a fort/magnificent palace, also called the Sultan s Castle. The fort witnessed the foundation of the city. A white marble animal head with inscriptions in the Musnad script was excavated there. It also witnessed the first Muslim ruler, the companion Ziad bin Labid Albayadi, sent by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in AH 10 after he received a delegation from Hadramawt who declared its people s adoption of Islam.

I d like to outline the historical background to the fort, though sources deal with renovations only by Sultan Abdullah bin Rashid Alqahtani (AH 600) and Tarim s ruler Muhammad Hassan Alkuthairi (AH 1352) undertaken by engineer Alawi Alkaf. The fort s function has changed over the ages. It was the seat of rule, and a party headquarters during the socialist era before unification. It was also a prison and it housed a number of government departments (Court of Law, Public Prosecution, Police, Personal Status Affairs, Popular Militia, Conscription). These offices moved to other locations after unification, and the fort has been restored and named the Revolution Palace as it has been turned into a museum!

The museum s excellent design is credited to the pioneer of mud building engineer Alawi Alkaf, who comes from a family some of whose members were judges, scholars and muftis. They also established the first modern school in Hadramawt and a guest house to the north of the old vegetable market, and built the first (Kaf or Banader) road connecting Hadramawt coast and valley, ending the valley s isolation. The 1921 United Youth Club with its football team in Tarim, run by Omar Sheikh Alkaf, was the first sporting/cultural club in Hadramawt.

The Alkaf family also contributed to the early press in Hadramawt. Muhammad bin Hassan Alkaf was chief editor of Alikhaa paper in 1938, and Abu Bakr bin Sheikh Alkaf supported the typing of the literary magazine Okaz whose chief editor in 1929 was the Hadrami poet Ali Ahmad Bakathir. Tarim s early press relied on its scholars writings. Alsayl was founded by Muhammad bin Aqeel bin Yahia in 1911, followed by Hadramawt published by Sheikh bin Abdul Rahman bin Hashim Alsaqaf in 1917, Alaqza by the poet Saqaf bin Muhammad Taha Alsaqaf and Alhalaba in 1938. Two papers are published overseas: Albashir by Muhammad Hashim, and Hadramawt by Idaroos Omar Almashhoor in Indonesia in 1920.

They also launched a number of development initiatives, including setting up the first battery-operated phone network linking 15 houses in the city. Interestingly, local coins were struck in Hadramawt, including Khomasi (Pentagon) Bin Sahl , and when coins were in short supply, Sheikh bin Abdul Rahman Alkaf, a well-known rich man, struck his own coins. These coins were replaced by the Indian rupees and African shillings in 1943 and 1951 respectively.

Before leaving the palace, our guide fetched a book from his private library which he co-authored with Hussein bin Muhammad Alkaf about engineer Alawi, after whose name and between brackets the local name of the masked weaver is written. It is a beautiful common bird in the valley known for its accuracy in building its nest, likening it to Alawi s accuracy in building. His travels to south-east Asia inspired him with innovative architectural styles. He designed Omar mosque as the first polygonal two-minaret mosque in Tarim whose minarets are cylindrical. He even designed his house front like the windows of a famous hotel in Singapore.

The city of palaces

We visited other palaces, most of which are used as residence and cultural centres. In Almihdar lane we looked carefully at Isha palace, built between AH 1339 and 1349. (All sources and most people use the Hijra (Islamic) calendar). The palace may be named after the land there. Its architecture is a mixture of Hadrami and eastern styles: iron, wooden and glass windows and doors in addition to local mud, straw and plaster.

Following the death of its owner, Omar bin Sheikh Alkaf, in Cairo in 1969, the palace was nationalized and was neglected by the people who lived in it, but after the nationalized properties were returned to their owners by a presidential decree in 1990, Alkaf heirs restored the palace. Dr Salma Samar Damlooji had headed a UNESCO mission to establish a centre for mud architecture, and the palace was chosen as the main site of the project which was discontinued later, but the palace, according to UNESCO, remains among a hundred endangered antiquities, especially after parts of it were damaged in the period 1995-2002. In 203, the palace became part of a joint project involving Yemen Antiquities Authority supervised by Dr Salma Radi, Columbia University represented by Dr Pamela Jerome, Yemen History and Heritage Preservation Society in Tarim. Urgent and subsequent repair work was carried out by this joint, documented effort.

and of mosques

Palace-like houses are in every lane, a sign of mud architecture, recalling part of Tarim s history. Along the road we saw the following palaces: Almunaisoura, Alqubba (AH 1355), Darusalam (Ah 1375) and Altawahi (1356). These palaces were built for residence as well as celebration purposes. Altorjuman paper, which was published by Muhammad bin Aqil in Indonesia, gave an account of the ceremony held in honour of Abu Bakr bin Sheikh Alkaf who had been awarded two CBEs. The ceremony took place at 9 pm, Thursday AH 5/11/1356 (AD 6/1/1938) in the newly-built palace of the progress advocate Omar bin Sheikh Alkaf Alalawi and was attended by a large number of prominent figures.

Tarim is par excellence the city of mosques as well. Suffice it to say that it has 360 mosques (equivalent to the number of days in a year). We walked along the lanes and stopped in front of its characteristic mud mosques which, together with its buildings, libraries and scholars, qualified it to be the capital of Islamic culture. Among these mosques are: Alwaal in the Khulaif area, Tarim s oldest (built in AH 43), attributed to Ahmad bin Abbad Ansary Alawsi; Aljamei in the market area (said to be first built between AH 375 and 402); Iman Idaroos (Ah 551); Baalawi , and Imam Alsaqaf (AH 268). Other mosques include the one built by Bajarash (d.AH 828), and Alawabin at Alnuweidra lane, which dates back to AH 1074, according to a poem by its builder Imam Abdullah bin Alawi bin Muhammad Alhaddad; Ashiq , formerly called Abu Hatims , after a family of religious scholars. It is said that three hundred scholars/muftis lived at a time in Tarim, forty of whom came from this tribe.

An audience with the Mufti of Tarim

An appointment was arranged for us to see Alhabib Ali Almashhoor bin Muhammad bin Salim Hafeez, Chief Mufti of Tarim/Director of Almustafa Islamic Studies Institute. He met us in his room where he receives people who seek fatwas on religion and life. We sat opposite the mosque s mihrab. I told him that was the first time I had been to Tarim, but my colleague Sulaiman Haidar s second visit; the first was 25 years ago. Oh, during the totalitarian rule era! the Chief Mufti said. I took the opportunity to ask him about those days, but he wouldn t go into detail because it was a dark period, particularly as far as scholars are concerned, and as a Hadrami proverb says, Don t complain to a person who can t help you. However, he said, My father was arrested by the Communists on charges of plotting against the state. We were closely watched by security agents to the point of death because they wanted to deceive people by telling hem we deliberately hid him! When he was kidnapped the eldest of his five sons was nine years old, but we persevered because if we had run away our family would have been ruined. As my father was trustworthy, people kept trusts with him. Praise be to God, we, by His grace, were able to return these trusts to their owners in Yemen and abroad.

Asked about Hadrami immigrants abroad, particularly to south-east Asia he said, Those are Muslim scholars and preachers. When they come back they bring knowledge with them through the books they carry. Some stay for 40 years abroad then come back from Iraq, e.g., with 40 camels laden with books. These and other books are kept in the Institute s library. Asked about his travels abroad to spread the call to Islam he said those were too few to compare with his father s travels to Asia and Africa. My effort is too modest compared with my predecessors, he said. I asked him about his attitude to the too many fatwas on satellite channels, and he said that when the learned companions of the Messenger (pbuh) were asked to give fatwas they referred them to others to avert error or omission. Fatwas should be given based on full knowledge of all aspects of a specific matter. Before we said goodbye to the Mufti he asked us to do two things: to write about the good things we saw in Tarim, and to send him what is published.

Hadrami proverbs

Mahmoud Bawazir, our Hadrami driver, is such a witty person that nothing escapes him. All the way he keeps telling stories, anecdotes and lessons he had learned from the elderly, just to reduce the heat.

A man was angry with his neighbour who decided not to lend him anything because anything he borrowed he spoilt or didn t return. One morning the neighbour wanted to borrow a donkey from the home owner who said it had died, but the donkey brayed then! The neighbour blamed the owner who angrily said, Did you come to make a plea or to borrow a donkey?

I decided to compete with him as far as proverbs are concerned. I had previously met Radio Sayun broadcaster Rashad Thabet and asked him to get me a book of Hadrami proverbs to assist me in this connection. The book he brought is entitled 2000 Proverbs from Hadramawt compiled and explained by Hassan Ahmad bin Talib Alamri.

Hadrami proverbs draw from many sources. One proverb draws from the Prophetic Tradition The wolf only eats the sheep that s stray from the flock. A leopard cannot change its spots.

Some proverbs are similar to those of other Arab peoples despite using a different vocabulary: All brawn and no brain . They also draw from classical Arabic proverbs: When the two thieves wrangle, the stolen objects appear.

Some Hadrami prove draw from the people of Tarim and Hadramawt s experience in the area of agriculture. Don t sow your seeds in the sand , since seeds do not grow in land unsuitable for cultivation, i.e., not to waste money and effort uselessly. Hadrami proverbs many religious, literary and living sources reflect the depth of oral culture which is based on a rich recorded history.

Priceless manuscript treasures

Whenever my colleague and I returned to the hotel, we felt rather gloomy; we were perhaps the only guests there. I was told how Hadramawt attracted tourists and researchers in the past! But the media hype and exaggeration fuelled rumours. Anyone who heard the news when we were there thought as if we wouldn t come back from Yemen! The country was amazingly safe and extremely quiet, but the high temperature was not the only thing that discouraged tourism. The state takes many security measures. When I wanted to buy a mobile phone card, the seller didn t only take a copy of my passport but made me put my fingerprint and signature on the sales voucher. That meant my mobile was linked to me and if I had misused it I would have been easily reached. But I found real security not in measures but in Hadramis warm hospitality extended to all visitors Arabs and non-Arabs alike. It is the fragrance of the Hadramis, human interaction through culture and knowledge, travel and communication. They have always been travellers and carriers of their values without denying others their love of their own culture.

As the Mufti told us, Hadramis were keen on libraries as well as writings. That was what led us to visit Alnour Studies and Research Centre where manuscripts are preserved using innovative local methods. As necessity is the mother of invention, during our tour of the centre, the best innovation we saw was a locally-manufactured machine for manuscript and document restoration in association with the Yemeni Manuscript Department in Sanaa and supervision by the manuscript expert Ahmad Masoud Almiflihi. The machine was later registered with the Department of Intellectual Property as the first of its kind in Yemen, not only in terms of cost but also in training on using local resources. That s what I saw in Tarim s characteristic mud architecture which uses local raw materials for building and domestic appliances.

A voluntary effort, like most of the organizations we visited, the centre s activities also include the classification, binding and photocopying of manuscripts and rare books in over twenty libraries following the initial survey of about fifty ones. It also republishes some authentic manuscripts and provides training for the youth on related matters including photocopying.

When we returned to the hotel at noon I was pleased to see some visitors and guests. In the lobby we met Khalil Rajab Hammad, a friend of Al-Arabi s, who told me he met Al-Arabi s team on their visit to Sayun in 1965. Al-Arabi was the best visitor to that town. It introduced Hadramawt s civilization to the world, he said. He was extremely happy and repeated the words of the singer Abu Bakr Salim Belfaqih s song Welcome, good man, who gave me the honour of visiting me after many years absence. He said Al-Arabi published a report about a project for building the school of the century over 44 years ago, which led Hadrami immigrants to support that project.

In search of a cover girl

The vast majority of Al-Arabi s covers carry women s pictures, not only because with their beauty, clothes and smiles they best introduce their cities, but also because we don t neglect half members of society. But finding a cover girl in Tarim was not an easy thing at all, as the moment my colleague Sulaiman Haidar was ready to snap, his attempt failed. That may happen in Arab and Western cities alike, but the problem is that the residents of a conservative city think that the appearance of a woman may harm her. This is strange in a country which, I believe, has made great strides in recognizing women as creative writers and artists, academics and scientists.

Haidar s flight to Sanaa was scheduled for a full day earlier than mine. On the following morning I was happy to know that at last the cover would carry the picture of a Tarim girl. I checked my watch. I was at Sayun. I said to our friend Said Alshadadi, who arranged all our activities in and around Tarim, The plane will take off within two hours. How come we go to Tarim in 30 minutes and come back having taken the picture and I don t miss my flight? He looked at me firmly and said, Sayun-Sanaa plane won t take off without me this morning! I had got familiar with the road since we stayed at Sayun, so as we passed by the emblem of the cultural capital I breathed a sigh of relief because we had covered half the distance. We entered a girls school, but the face-veiled principal seemed to know nothing about our mission. I kept looking at Alshadadi and my watch, and was surprised to know that the principal had reported her refusal to take pictures the day before. To make up for this, he changed my booking for the direct flight before the original one. It is Happy Yemen .

Tarim s women may disappear from the roads, but they know the way to mosques quite well. Passing by a lane which could accommodate two or three persons at the most, I saw a girl wearing a headscarf sitting on her house doorstep reciting the Quran beautifully. Religiousness in Tarim is no longer an affectation, nor is conservatism a sign of disgust; it s the steps that always lead to purity. Some of the people we talked to guided us to women s places of prayer named after devout women. Some of these palaces were established by men, then abandoned before being redeveloped for women (sometimes, the other way round). Tarim s most famous women s places of prayer include: Aisha bint Sheikh Omar Almihdar , Khadra at Khelief, Shahaba at Nuwaidira, Jeneida at the market and Alhaddad Mosque at Almuhaidera.

The fragrance of the Hadramis

One evening I met the Tarim Capital of Islamic Culture Technical Committee Chairman/Culture Minister, Dr Muhammad Abu Bakr Almiflihi, who supervises the set plan and many relevant cultural projects. Many activities take place in Tarim, Shibam, Sayun, the valley and coast. He talked about the projects which had been completed and those still in progress. The ministry is undertaking over 460 activities, almost half of which are planned for printing 200 books and awarding Yemen s pioneers, out of 553 planned cultural activities including infrastructure projects, conferences, etc. He said the city s enlightenment role started the moment it rejected calls for apostasy following the death of he Prophet (pbuh). This role continued by the city s scholars, preachers, thinkers and creative writers whose efforts spread outside the city and the valley as they joined other immigrant Hadramis to India, Indonesia, Malaya and Ceylon over five centuries ago to import perfume, spices, silk and other Oriental products which were later carried by land or sea to Egypt, Palestine, Syria and even Europe. The Hadrami immigration movement to east Asia reached its peak in the 19th century, and the immigrants formed a Yemeni community who were successfully assimilated into their new home, without abandoning their national identity. With their tolerance they spread the message of Islam through love rather than war, he said.

As Dr Almiftihi was talking, I thought about those immigrants who brought perfume and silk from the Orient, but they travelled there carrying their own fragrance: morals, mission and example. The agenda of Tarim s scholars in the city and abroad has always been recreation of religious scholarship, adherence to Arabic and spread of peace. His final words made me think about today s Tarim. Whereas Arab-Muslim immigrants cause concern and problems for westerners who look at them as unwelcome, Tarim s and Hadrami immigrants have set an example of peaceful immigration which promotes human and Islamic values which call for the good of mankind. The schools where those immigrants were trained should be preserved for the future of the coming generations in order to continue the role they have been playing as far as knowledge is concerned.

Civilization s mud architecture

The lanes we walked along revealed part of the secrets of civilization s mud architecture: big doors on which there are drawings of Islamic sites, such as Mecca and Medina, a famous structure such as Almihdar minarets, beautiful lines or flower decorations. The inside looks as if it were a book and the door the beautiful colour cover. Quranic verses are written on some doors, such as the ninth century AH Abdullah Alidaroos house, on whose door the full Ya Sin sura is written. The fence has another function: to protect home privacy. Doors and windows are made of strong wood. The outer fence corners are round as if to prepare for the next slope or entrance. They are also inclined along the lines of cylindrical minarets, inspired by one of the concepts of Islamic architecture. In small houses which do not have fences and thus lack privacy, doors are covered by walls behind them. Doors are often like minbars climed on two or more steps so that passers-by do not see the one who opens the door! This is also inspired by the interior structure of mosques.

Most houses are three-storey buildings with inscriptions and decorations on the walls in the form of circles and lines. Some walls carry Quranic verses and poetry. Old houses have an inner ventilation hole. The city is divided into lanes, and looking from a height shows a cluster of lanes. The houses are close together; however, there are a number of mosques with gardens in each lane, in addition to some wells or their remnants or for animals to drink, with the excess water used for irrigating palm and other trees the revenue of which usually goes to mosques.

Some new houses in Tarim do not use the usual building material mud mixed with straw, and try to copy the architectural design of houses with their fronts covered in mud-like colour.

Motorcycles carry everything and are used as taxis in narrow streets inaccessible by car. I didn t see any taxi in the city. It was as late as 1920 that the first car arrived in Tarim in separate pieces on camelback from Al Mukalla, 300 km away.

The farewell night

That was the last night, arranged by Alshadadi, Aljeneid and Almasarra Chanting Group of Almustafa Institute, during which we enjoyed the calm of night, fine weather, strong voice and sweet tones. That night s message was recreation is by no means less important than learning. The organizers put up a poster to welcome Al-Arabi.

The organizers put speakers in the courtyard, and when the chanting group began to sing a chant which appeared in Tarim over a thousand years ago, pious people and young chanting lovers gathered on the balconies of the surrounding houses to listen.

The group leader said their main objective was to guide and promote purposeful Islamic chanting to appeal to the present generation. They have been to Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia to present their art which has been awarded in Yemen several times. Having been enchanted by the singing we felt like being dwellers of a planet travelling singing at night. A mood of melancholy descended on us as we were preparing to leave Tarim. Al-Arabi was here over 44, then over 25 years ago, and now we are here for the third time in the third millennium. It is a city which induces contemplation, arouses hope and draws a picture of an Islamic city which boasts of and preserves its culture. Farewell, Tarim, the fragrance of the Hadramis!

(Translated by Dr. Shaaban Afifi)


Ashraf Abul-Yazid


Tarim is divided into lanes. Looking from a height shows a cluster of lanes. Though the houses are close together, there are a number of mosques with gardens in each lane, and some wells or their remnants

The entrance to Tarim is its characteristic emblem with Almihdar mosque minaret featuring prominently. The emblem was designed by the Hadrami artist Silan Jamaan Alaijam

Tarim in the heart of Hadramawt, the land of ascetics and those dedicated to learning

The road looks like an asphalt blackboard turned into water because of mirage

Looking from a height shows these rock plateaus like stone cakes, and with the desert in Hadramawt valley making up the land of ascetics

We had more than one guide in Tarim, though small it is. The first was Muhammad bin Abdullah Aljeneid who took us to Almihdar mosque courtyard. He wrote a book about Awad Salim Afif, who built this minaret

At Tanwira, in Tarim. Cylindrical minarets indicate that Almihdar’s minaret is exceptionl in both height and shape

Workers restoring the historical Alranad fort in the scorching sun

Alranad fort gate, one of Tarim’s prominent landmarks, built four centuries before the advent of Islam. Its function has changed over the ages

Alimihdar mosque minaret is built on a square base, getting thinner upwards to a height of 40m

White tombstones on the right and left of the road to Tarim, including the grave of Ahmad bin Eissa which looks like a clove flower on the mountain. It is reached on a white rose-like stair, as if it were the location of a film about life in the past

Ruins of mud houses and palaces which didn’t withstand age and rain

Sheikh Alhabib Ali Almashhoor bin Muihammad bin Salim bin Hafeez, Chief Mufti of Tarim / Director of Almustafa Islamic Studies Institute

Having been restored, old palaces in Tarim are currently used as museums, libraries, cultural centres or government offices, a way of associating society with its architecture

Motorcycles carry everything and are used as taxis in narrow streets inaccessible by car

A manuscript in a Tarim library showing the Kaaba in Mecca, among the thousands of surviving manuscripts being restored and digitally preserved by public and private institutions

An unforgettable Yemeni face in Tarim souk: sunglasses, a Hadrami abaya and wrinkles

Dr Muhammad Abu Bakr Almiflihi, Yemeni Culture Minister, believes that Tarim’s historic elightenment role started the moment it rejected calls for apostasy following the death of the Prophet (pbuh)

Traditional and contemporary teaching/learning in the mosque court or in classrooms where Yemeni and foreigners learn

Traditional and contemporary teaching/learning in the mosque court or in classrooms where Yemeni and foreigners learn

Traditional and contemporary teaching/learning in the mosque court or in classrooms where Yemeni and foreigners learn

Manuscript restoration at Alnour Centre: national minds keen to maintain their identity

Tarim is par excellence the city of mosques, with 360 well-known ones (almost equivalent to the number of days in a year). It is particularly famous for its mud mosques, which, along with their architecture

A young girl looking at the camera in one of Tarim’s lanes

Tarim’s women may not be seen (or are face-veiled) on the roads, but they know the way to women’s places of prayer quite well

Children play in Tarim’s lanes

Tarim’s chanting group honouring Al-Arabi on a farewell night

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