Antiquities: Countless, but not Safeguarded [Archives:2001/34/Culture]

August 20 2001

Saleh Abdulbaqi
Cultural Editor
Yemen Times
Lands of Yemen bury underneath countless pieces of antiquities that date back to thousands of years BC. These antiquities reflect the civilized facet of the country which attract the tourists to come in from all over the world. But what makes us worry is that our antiquities have no safeguard to protect them where smugglers are leaking them out of the country in great quantities. Day after day, month after month and year after year the newspapers and other publications should include stories telling us how the smugglers are flooding the foreign markets with our national heritage and the most valuable treasures they are not usually working in secret but sometimes in public. Had the law been in force the foolish smugglers would have not dare to carry great quantities of the national properties to cross the borders with them as if performing duties. The privates scattered along the borders can do nothing to limit such violations endangering the country and its national heritage.
Experts and other bodies concerned on antiquities believe that Yemeni is founded on countless treasures of monuments and historical signs that date back thousands of years before Christ. Over half a century works of excavation have been carried in Mareb, Shabwah, Aljouf, Raiboon, Hadhramaut, and Dhafar the most important sites of antiquities in the country. Up to the moment these sites seem to be fluctuating to prevail all the treasures buried underneath their service is if being afraid to be confiscated by the smugglers exercising their activities with the absence of the law. The General Authority of Antiquities headed by Dr. Mohammed Yousef Abdullah doubled its efforts to sweep the dust on the buried antiquities but the efforts served the smugglers more than the nation who found new sources to supply them with the most profitable goods. Reliable sources confirmed that the foolish merchants used to visit the sites announced of late by the authority to execute their illegal activities while the government is fast asleep.
There are tens of scripts that date back to different Islamic periods. One of these scripts is written in the language of old Ethiopia which had many common characteristics with the Yemeni old language. This language is still spoken until today in some churches and temples in both Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The variety of the smuggled pieces shows how complicated the issue of smuggling is. Smugglers seem to be specialized or have great knowledge of the value of such pieces.
Away from smuggling, another problem seems to have the same kind of complexion. This problem is when such historic pieces turned to be personal possessions. Many people still keep a lot of those pieces as personal property.
The lack of financial and technical means help spread smuggling activities. It is also behind the slow activities of excavations and weak protection of historic sites. It is a bit worrying that the role antiquities play as a tourist attraction source is deteriorating. Most of the tourists who come to Yemen are old. These are mostly attracted by such antiquities.
with the race of all regional countries to attract as many tourists as possible, long-sighted plans are a must. There should be more elegant and modern museums. All means of comfort should be made available at tourist attraction sites to encourage tourists to come and stay for a long time. Tourism is an industry and an art. And, above all, an important economic resource. Therefore, if such basic necessities are not made available, tourism industry will be more damaged in the future than it is now.
The continuation of roping our heritage and scaring the visitors with the frequent kidnapping would leave negative consequences on the national economic. The big officials should awake to safe what is remained of our heritage the valuable treasure we have inherited from our forefathers.