Socotra archipelago in the eyes of a Yemeni visitor [Archives:2008/1160/Last Page]

May 2 2008
Socotran culture needs to be preserved, says the author.
Socotran culture needs to be preserved, says the author.
By: Amin Dirhem
For the Yemen Times

My trip to Socotra Island during this spring was in the company of Mr. Peter Hellmuth the Chairman of the German-Yemen Friendship Association (GYFA) who arrived in Yemen with the purpose of arranging a special visit for some of the GYFA members to both Socotra and Kamaran Islands in 2009. The Germans began preparing for their prospective trip one year ago.

The Socotra Airport now looks clean and tidy, luggage pushcarts are available, other timely services are offered to passengers upon their arrival and departure, and workers appear in clean uniforms. This is a tribute to those who care about offering top quality services, mainly managers of Socotra Airport and Yemenia Airways' office, based in Hadibo, the capital of Socotra.

The archipelago is comprised of five islands: Socotra, Abd Al-Kuri, Samha and Darsa with a total population between 50,000 and 60,000 inhabitants.

The area of Diduah Lagoon in Qalansya is marvelous and eye-catching, but two tribes in the area are disputing over plots of the land that the government designated as a protectorate. Local counselors and other executive officials are requested to immediately resolve the dispute before it grows into a complicated problem and has a negative effect on tourism.

The island's capital Hadiboh still looks like it did two years ago ay my last visit, as its roads still lack pavement and light while hotels and restaurants in the city are worse now than they were in the past. The city lacks planning and there is no government agency to provide the required facilities for any investor planning to initiate his or her business.

Entry of qat into the island banned

I was very glad to hear that the island's local councils unanimously decided five months ago to ban qat imports to the island, but such a decision lacked an effective implementation mechanism. Yemenia Airways is still transporting the harmful narcotic substance to the island three times a week.

The Cabinet, the Parliament and the Shoura Council will need to help reinforce the qat ban on the island and impose firm punishment for any individuals who may violate the ban.

Culture & Awareness

It would be wonderful if all those concerned cared for the delivery of newspapers, magazines and other publications to the island in the same way that they care for the transportation of qat, which is shipped in an accurate and well-organized program. The island still needs to be provided with a local radio station since the Sana'a-based radio programs do not transmit well throughout the island, which obliges the island's inhabitants to listen to Iranian radio stations that come in clearly.

The Socotran language, culture and traditions should be conserved via the establishment of a radio station and including these elements in school curriculum. The island is in need of a well-equipped cultural center to contain some of the artistic, sporting and entertainment events that will also help citizens avoid chewing qat.


The relevant authorities should open an institute on the island for teaching English, German and Italian languages, plus other centers for training locals on how to provide high quality tourism services.

Hadiboh Greenhouse

Ahmad Yahya Ali of the Socotra Maintenance Fund suggested establishing a greenhouse for all the available saplings and plants on the island, particularly the ones close to extinction. As of now, small plants and grass are hardly seen on the island anymore because they are frequently eaten by sheep and goats.

Adeeb Abdullah Hadeeb, a Hadiboh local, got the idea from Ali and began establishing the greenhouse. He recruited one of his children to gather saplings for up to 120 kinds of plants and started his job that is cultivating and growing plants.

Currently Hadeeb's son Ahmad and daughter Fatima are growing rare plants on the island. They distribute saplings of rare plants to those who want to grow them in the island for free, but nobody is allowed to take them to outside the island.

Socotra as an independent governorate

I suggest that Socotra should be made an independent governorate apart from Hadhramout. Its total area is 3,600 square kilometers, which means that it is roughly four times larger than the Kingdom of Bahrain. When Socotra becomes an independent governorate with an autonomous budget and management, it will flourish very rapidly while preserving its natural elements and amazing environment.

Raising bees in the island

On the island, there are French volunteers who give guidelines to locals and instruct them on how to raise bees. There is plan for registering a trademark to carry name of the island's honey that will be marketed at the international level.