Aden: The Arab Sea pearl [Archives:2005/896/Culture]

November 21 2005

Aden has many names. Among these are The Eye of Yemen, Beauty of the East and Gem of the seas. All the names represent praise and love to this unique city.

Name and history

'Aden' is an Arabic verb, which means 'reside', or a place where travelers stay and rest. Aden is a junction of routes for old eastern and western ships. It used to be well known in the ancient world, and its name was mentioned in the Old Testament.

The ancient Greeks also knew Aden. They gave it its name, which for centuries was the name for the whole Arabia: 'Arabia Felix'. Aden's name was also found in an old Greek inscription, which goes back to the second century CE. The famous Arab explorer, Ibn Batuta, described Aden in some of his books, and called it, 'the greatest port of Yemen that receives great boats, and embraces the merchants of Egypt and India'. The ancient historian and sailor Claudius Ptolemy described it as 'the gem of Arabia'.

History books attribute Aden to Adnan, one of Noah's sons. Others connect it with the word 'Adon', which means staying in Arabic. They say that one of the old Yemeni kings, Tababia'a, used to imprison criminals and outlaws in this area.

Yemeni historian, Mohamed Mohairiz discussed the meaning of the word Aden in Arabic dictionaries. One of these meanings is to aden the land, which means to live in it. Another meaning of to aden the land is to manure it and prepare it for cultivation. A third meaning is to get minerals out of the land. He also tackled the word 'adan', which means a group of men staying in one place. All the meanings give the sense of residing and preparing the land for cultivation and mining.

An old legend

Historian Altaib Ba-Makhrama wrote in his book that 'Aden was an old oasis to which Gabil ran to it from India when he killed his brother Habil'. He lived with his family in Sira Mountain. Gabil felt lonely so the devil used musical instruments to relieve him. The historian assumes that it was the first time that music was used for recreation.

Aden and the mount of Socatra Island used to be one piece of land. A man called Tho-Alqarnain came and dug a bay between them. The sea surrounded Aden and only the tops of its hills used to be seen.

Other stories say that Aden used to be inhabited by fishermen. They lived on the coast and the rest of the lands were empty.