Common Yemeni superstitions [Archives:2008/1150/Culture]

April 28 2008

Almigdad Dahesh Mojalli
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Yemenis believe in many superstitions that, most of the time, have no basis in truth. However, out of custom, even highly-educated Yemenis buy into these myths. Some of these superstitions are religiously oriented and some are social habits, while others seem to come from nowhere.

Arwa Othman, a Yemeni literary figure specializing in Yemeni popular culture, notes that although superstitions exist worldwide, most people don't believe they have any basis in reality. “Superstitions are everywhere, indicating people's views toward things in their lives. Some indicate bad omens, while others reflect good omens for them,” she explained.

One of Yemen's most pervasive and believed superstitions is that one will receive money if his or her hand itches. “I know this is a superstition,” admits Sana'a University student Younis Ali, “but it really has happened to me many times where I really did receive money.”

Another Yemeni superstition dictates that when the bottom of your left foot itches, it means someone is badmouthing you, whereas if the bottom of your right foot itches, it means someone's praising you.

“This is 100 percent true because it happened to me,” claims Saleem Al-Olaibi, a manager at Yemen Mobile, “I guessed who was talking about me, so when I asked my male relative the next day, he told me that he and his friends had been talking about me at that time.”

In Sana'a, Amran, Dhamar and Marib governorates, women throw eggs at the door when a bride enters her new home in order to keep the devil away. Others believe that wearing a ring made of agate will protect against evil. Still others believe that if their eye twitches, death or something very serious will happen to someone they know.

Another Yemeni superstition is that when an infant cries for weeks on end and no medicine stops its colicky behavior, the reason the child is crying is because it was named incorrectly. To stop the incessant crying, the parents should change the child's name.

Um Abdulkarim, 50, named her son Omer, but he cried almost continually for weeks until she renamed him Abdulkarim. “My son cried for more than a month, so my neighbors and relatives asked me to change his name from Omer. At that time, I laughed at them ironically, but I did it anyway, believing that this was only a superstition. However, once I did it, he really did become quieter,” she recounted.

Popular Yemeni superstitions aren't restricted to waking life; they also extend to dreams. Some believe that if one dreams about meat without blood in it, something horrible will happen to the dreamer, one of his or her relatives or friends. However, if a person dreams that there's blood in the meat, it means nothing will happen and everything is fine.

Just because you aren't dreaming about meat doesn't mean you've escaped trouble, though. Yemenis believe that if you dream about black grapes, you or one of your relatives is at risk. Luckily, if you dream about white grapes, you have nothing to worry about, so may all of our readers have only sweet dreams of white grapes!