Moreen Silver to YT:False rumors about Yemen hinder investment [Archives:2005/805/Community]

January 6 2005

Moreen Silver studied decades ago with Dr. Abdulkarim Al-Eryani at the University of Georgia while he was a studying for his Masters degree in agriculture. As a result of this friendship, she gained a keen interest in Yemen.

Though she has been living in Spain her love for Yemen has lingered. Her love for Yemen was associated with her love for music, photography and journalism.

Moreen, who is currently visiting Yemen, works with some of the Spanish local governments, one being Galicia, to promote commercial interests and tourism in Yemen.

The Yemen Times met with her for the following interview:

Q: How do you find yourself as a musician in Yemen?

A: I appreciate the Yemeni music actually as well as the Oriental music in general since I listened for the first time to Um Kuthoom with Al-Eryani. I like her many songs such as 'Al-Atlal'. I liked the great lady's art though I couldn't understand the meaning of her songs. My first impression encouraged me to listen to a number of Yemeni singers like Al-Kebsi, Abu Bakr Salem and Ayoub. And in 2000 I heard Ahmed Fathy and was happily surprised to see him again at the Taj Sheba Hotel again and where we remember together Al-Atlal. He invited me to his concert where he played many of his compositions as well as an Oud solo Rubayat Al-Khayam one of Um Kulthoom's best songs composed by Ryadh al-Sunbati, and it was majestic.

Q: Does your being a photographer effect your love for Yemen?

A: I am interested in taking photos of every Yemeni custom or any beautiful scenery. Yemen has many tourist places, so it is difficult to select what to take photos of. Almost every landscape deserves taking photos of. I have taken also some pictures of the Spanish products that are sold in Yemeni markets. I unexpectedly found many of them.

Q: When did you widely start to introduce Yemen to others? Have you been officially asked to do so?

A: In 1994, Dr. Al-Eryani who was then the Minister of Planning, came to Spain heading an official delegation and he was preoccupied with the idea that there should be someone to introduce Yemen to merchants, tourists and investors especially since Yemen had no embassy there at that time.

Dr. Eryani asked me to help. And I introduced him to important bankers and industrial businessmen.

Then in 1995, when he became foreign minister, he asked me to become honorary consul of Yemen for the purpose of strengthening the relations between the two friendly countries.

It was an honor for me and I felt very much at home with this role since I am a diplomatic journalist. My being a journalist with a very vast social circle and with many acquaintances, and being a public relations consultant helped me so much in that promotion. I called for many investors to come to Yemen and invest through meetings, conferences, press releases tc. And I brought a Spanish electric company here for a project as well as Spanish projects in tourism and fishing.

Q: What are the aspects of cooperation between Yemen and Spain and how do you evaluate it?

A: There are a variety of aspects of cooperation between the two countries. As Spain has worthwhile experiences in the field of investment especially in the tourist islands which Canary Islands is a good example. For this, they became the destination of many tourists from all countries.

The cooperation is everyday getting stronger and stronger. What is new is the first international conference on the investment opportunities in the Yemeni islands, organized by the Yemen Island Authority, showed that there is a great possibility for investment in the Yemeni islands. They are subjected to tourism and investment as well because they have the suitable climate, nature and environment. Arturo Pina from the Spanish embassy Commercial Office in Riyadh participated at the conference and was very optimistic about future business exchange. Also representatives from Murcia, Asturia, and other regions were present such as Galicia with whom I am collaborating.

On the other hand, Yemeni waters have another wealth that I am to coordinate with some Spanish investors to make use of it, which is fishing. Yemen has a huge number of marine creatures and a highly unique biodiversity.

Q: What is it that hinders such cooperative efforts?

A: Of the main obstacles is that the Yemeni islands except for Socotra are not known. Besides, there is unfortunately a bad reputation for some countries, including Yemen, therefore investors are very cautious in this respect. Here comes the role of people who know Yemen well, they present Yemen as it is with all positive and negative points and the investors themselves judge. Their judgments are mostly positive.

The protocol that was signed by the Deputy Minister of Fisheries weeks ago in Spain was a result of such efforts and it is just the beginning. These efforts help in strengthening the mutual relations between the two countries. Yemen in the past hadn't an embassy in Spain but now there is and it headed by Mr. Al-Kamarani who is doing a good job to improve cooperation in all sectors, and the visit from the Fish Wealth Vice minister is an important step.

Also regarding tourism, I spent the New Year's celebration at the Taj Sheba with several groups of Spanish tourists and another Spanish group who filmed a documetary in Yemen for the Reina Sofia Museum in Spain and the St. Petersburg Dali Museum in Florida, USA. Other groups of Spanish tourists spent New Year's Eve in other provinces of Yemen.

By the way, Yemen and Spain has also historical relations from the Islamic country in Spain; there are still many places in Spain that prove that possibility of forming a good cooperation in the near future.

Q: Why there is not a Spanish embassy in Sana'a, that would of course make a better official coordination?

A: We all are trying for this goal. Mr. Sofan, Yemeni Planning Minister, asked me the same question at the Japanese embassy during the national day celebration, which I attended. I have been asked this question more than once since my arrival in Yemen.

I spoke with Dr. Quirbi about consolidating the Yemeni-Spanish Association that Dr. Eryani and I planned in 1994, which will make the efforts of marketing easier. He expressed interest in the fish delegation that visited Spain recently and had several meetings with Mr. Kamarani who is in charge of the Yemeni embassy in Spain.

There are rumors of the possible visit of the Spanish Foreign Minister early year. We hope they are more than rumors, for the future establishment of a Spanish embassy in Yemen, which will facilitate more business exchange.