Gernau festival uncovers gold [Archives:2005/896/Culture]

November 21 2005

Mahyoub Al-Kamaly
An Archeological discovery of a field withantiquities dateing back to 200 years BC was announced alongside the tourist festivals of Gernau in al-Jawf province. The newly discovered field contains gold and other minerals.

The festival, which was held before one month aimed at reviving the cultural heritage and enhancing desert tourism.

Al-Jawf province is famous for its handicrafts like wool weaving. These can be found in the desert and semi-desert areas. It is also famous for the weaving of large baskets from palm leaves in the plain areas and valleys.

The Maenian civilization flourished on the edges of al-Jawf Valley. The remains of the cities reveal the great civilization of the area. The architecture of the granite-ornamented pillars on the Maenian temples place it in the same level as the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations.

Maen people used to be great farmers, traders and manufacturers. They controlled the incense route and they built trade stations all along it. Their influence covered the area up to northern Arabia. This is illustrated by the sculptures that were discovered in Hijaz and Egypt. A Maenian grave, which goes back to Third Century BC, was discovered in Egypt. The engravings on the sculptures indicate that it belonged to a trader who provided the Egyptian temples with sacred items.

Recently discovered documents reveal that Maenians used to have commercial ties with other Yemeni states that controlled the coasts of the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf. Maenian sites attracted foreign and oriental visitors during the 19-20 Centuries.

At its apex the fame of the Maen was spread as far as Greece. Classical Greek and Roman writers wrote about this civilization. The famous Greek historian Strabo accompanied the Roman leader Ilious Jalos to al-Jawf's lands in 24 BC.

French and Italian excavations in al-Jawf discovered that Maen state was a contemporary to the Sabaa state. It alternated from independence and domination from and under the Sabaian state. The ruins of al-Jawf hide many of the secrets of the Maen civilization that will only be known when the excavations are completed.

Pre-Islamic gold mines

Festival organizers say that the discovered site lies in the Sod Mountains in the Al-Robe Al-Khali (Empty Quarter) desert 200 km north east of Sana'a. It is rich in gold, bronze and marble. The site, which is now a ruin, used to be a mine at the era of king Asaad Alkamil who ruled during the pre-Islamic era. Mining is thought to have stopped at this time, according to the information from the locals.

Hassan Hadhban, one of Gernau festival organizers, told Sabaa news agency that samples were taken to the laboratories of the Ministry of Oil and Minerals. They proved to be rich in a number of minerals.

Many of the samples are shiny granite hollow stones that were thought to be crushers of rocks, as the area was famous for its primitive old mines and laboratories.

Sheikh Arfaj bin Hadhban called on local and Arab investors to make tourist projects in the area, because of its huge capacity for attracting tourists.

Revival of public cultural heritage

The public and official organizers of Gernau festival aim at reviving the rich historical and archeological heritage of the area. Their aim is to enhance desert tourism.

Festival activities included many functions reflecting the ancient cultural activities of the region. There were camel and horse races, hunting with dogs and falcons and desert tours on camel back. A desert car rally was also organized.

Exhibition of traditional artifacts

More than 1200 people, 42 camels, 15 horses and 20 cars participated in the festival. Artifacts of the Bedouins who live in this area, including woven wool, and hand mills were displayed in the festival.

Activities of the people of the area were also displayed. Of these there were; camel milking, herding, feeding and watering from wells. The recitation of poetry during the enjoyment of Arabian coffee was held inside wool tents.

Public Zamil poems sessions were presented during the mornings and evening sessions of the festival. There was even sunset watching, an old Bedouin pass time.