Rimbaud House Revisited [Archives:1998/47/Culture]

November 23 1998

José-Marie Bel is the co-founder, with Academy member Theodore Monod, of the ‘Les Amis de Rimbaud’ (friends of Rimbaud) and Arabia Felix associations. He supports the activities of UNESCO in Yemen, a country on which he has authored five books.
A keen walker, a marathon runner and great traveler, Bel crossed Yemen on foot in 1974. Being a graduate of plastic arts, architecture and ethnology, he helped restore the Arthur Rimbaud House in Aden. He lived there for a year collecting from around the world ancient documents related to the Port of Aden.
Bel has recently written a new book – “Aden: The Mythical Port of Yemen.” To talk about his book and other work, Dr. Salah Haddash, Yemen Time Managing Editor, interviewed Mr. Bel.
Q: What are your main areas of interest?
A: In my workshop in Paris, I’m preparing maquettes of Yemeni houses for an exhibition in Paris about the life of the French poet Rimbaud in Aden and Ethiopia.
I also work for a special theater in Paris for three months between January and April with very famous actors as well as organizing exhibitions.
My new plans for next year include writing about my life and memories in Yemen for the last 25 years spent here.
I may collaborate with a very famous French actor in his new film, which will be shot in Paris, Tunisia and Yemen (Mareb and Shibam Hadhramaut).
Q: What made you write your new book on Aden?
A: I wrote several books about Yemen. Last year I wrote about the country’s architecture. ” Aden: The Mythical Port of Yemen” is my 5th book on Yemen, a very important book for me. I hope it will be so to all Yemenis.
The book is the story of life and passion, about the historical arts and society of Aden. It is the first complete book about the arts of Aden. I dedicated this book to Mr. Abdullah Muhariz, a great man of Yemen and the World. I wrote this book because I knew Aden for nine years.
I spent five years writing this book, since the French government chose me to restore the house of the Rimbaud. When I was in Aden, I talked to many old people about the city’s recent past.
I have a special collection of pictures and 500 different postcards showing scenes of the old city. I am lucky to have organized an exhibition in Paris three years ago about Aden and Rimbaud. In the book I show some unpublished black and white pictures.
Q: What are your next plans in Yemen?
A: I was approached by the Lonely Planet company (a company dealing in tourism books), who have asked me to write stories and information regarding tourism in Yemen.
I still have more things about Yemen with which I could write another book. And I would also like to organize exhibitions in Yemen itself, in Sanaa and Aden.

Q: Which period of Yemen’s history does your book cover?
A: The book cover nearly 5000 years. It starts 3,000 years ago, around the time of Solomon, and goes on to the year 1998. This book is a tribute to Yemen’s civilizations throughout history.