KHOWDAN: Old Traditions & Natural Beauty [Archives:1998/19/Last Page]

May 11 1998

Khowdan is a small group of little villages, known as ‘Ozla’, 40 kilometers west of Yareem, Ibb governorate. Neighboring village groupings or ozal are Upper and Lower Bani Saif, Omar, Upper and Lower Mosalem, and Mobariz. Khowdan’s population is around 30,000.
It is a green and mountainous region where people grow maize, sorghum, coffee, and some fruits and vegetables. These crops are directly consumed and cover part of the locals’ needs.
Khowdan is inhabited by the descendants of a number of families with deeply rooted kinship lineages. In other words, at the end, they are all related.
The region is well known for its old traditions, which are handed down the generations. These traditions are often exhibited in wedding ceremonies, Eid and other social celebrations. Zamil – a popular form of singing – is performed by the groom’s family and the guests chant along. They often praise the generosity, bravery, and integrity of their kinsmen.
Other zamils honor the sheikh of the tribe for his esteemed status and good leadership of his folk and other tribesmen. Khowdan has become an example for all other tribes because of their sheikh’s excellent leadership.
Wedding ceremonies are exceptionally colorful here. The ceremony usually starts after sunset and goes on for at least two hours. The bride’s mother carries a large bowl of henna on her head and carries a jambia with her right hand. She is accompanied by another female relative of the bride who carries a small, nicely made and lit burner or stove called Mazhaza in local dialect. This little stove is usually adorned with painted eggs and scented herbs.
The two women then pass through two semi-circles of men, who exchange customary greetings, words expressing their courage and other pleasantries.
A similar ceremony is also held for the bridegroom, except that the person who carries the little Mazhaza is his friend, nd the henna is carried by a relative. Female relatives of the bridegroom, on the other hand, do not take part in the procession. They stay at his home ululating and singing various types of songs specially for the occasion. Meanwhile, small fires are lit on roof tops and drums are beaten.
Khowdan thus represents a novel tourist attraction as these old traditions are still practiced today, much to the surprise of other Yemenis who abandoned many of their old ways.
Moreover, Khowdan is rich in archeological sites and historical locations such as Shamar, Reiman, Mahfad, Masnaa, and others. In Shamar, for example, there is a house on top of big rock with steps leading from the ground level. Inside the house there are little beautifully constructed pools.
From the top of the Khowdan mountain any visitor can see Ibb and many mountains in the background.
The first tourist who came to Khowdan four months ago was a Frenchman. He was extremely delighted with what he saw, and left with an excellent impression of the area and its people.
Yahya Mohammed Nashwan,
College of Journalism,
Sanaa University