The Diachronic Supremacy of Yemen(Part 2/2) [Archives:2004/760/Opinion]

August 2 2004

By Prof. Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis
For the Yemen Times

Archipel not Gulf of Aden!
It is quite interesting that the author employs the term 'archipel' for what we call today the 'Gulf of Aden'. Certainly the modern term is rather inaccurate, since gulf implies one “large area of a sea or ocean partially enclosed by land, especially a long landlocked portion of sea opening through a strait”. Well, we all know that the Gulf of Aden does not represent 'a landlocked portion of sea' precisely because of the existence of the straits of Bab al Mandeb. If the Yemenite coast reached Djibouti and the African coast, leaving no exit of the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aden, then we could correctly call it 'gulf'! However, even the term 'Archipel' is not quite correct! In modern times, the term is rather employed for the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, or for the Archipel of Moluccas in Indonesia, and to use it correctly you have got to deal with a large sea open to some extent – but also close up to a certain degree – and certainly resplendent with islands of all sizes. Well,
whereas this is the case for the Aegean and the Moluccas archipels, the Gulf of Aden is devoid of any island!

4. Aden
The cited excerpt makes clear that Kharibael's kingdom extended to 'Arabia Felix', as he names Aden. The name does not imply any presence of Arabs, it simply means that the area around Aden had the most fertile land and the most fruitful agricultural production in the entire peninsula. Since the Greeks heard of Yemenites and Arabs first through the Assyrians and the Phoenicians, it is only normal that the recapitulative use of the ethnic name of Arabs for all the various and different peoples of the peninsula, as practiced by Assyrian and Phoenician scribes, was passed onto the Greeks.

5. The War between Yemen and the Roman Empire
Even more important are the author's comments about the Roman attack and the destruction of Arabia Felix – Aden, a very important commercial city – key in East – West trade. By saying so, he leads us to a useful conclusion. Mouza and Okelis should not have been important at the time of the Roman maritime attack against Yemen (26 BCE), whereas at the times of the Periplus (70 CE) Mouza was already more important than Aden. The reason for this assumption is that, if Mouza had been more important at the time of the attack, the Roman fleet would have destroyed it first, and then the author would have mentioned it, and perhaps if this had happened, the Roman fleet would not have advanced down to Arabia Felix – Aden!

6. The Supremacy of Yemen at the Area of Bab al Mandeb
The entire atmosphere that emanates from the text underlines the supremacy of Yemen in the straits of Bab al Mandeb. Of course, the days of the absolute Qatabani control of the navigation in the Red Sea (300 – 150 BCE) had gone. When the mounting Himyar – Sheba alliance vanquishes the Qatabani state in an effort to ensure the Yemenite control over the East – West trade more efficiently (around 115 BCE), not much time is left for the two Yemenite states to keep things going well. The rise of Rome in the Mediterranean East is overwhelming. About 90 years separate the Sheba – Himyar victory over Qataban, and the Roman destruction of Arabia Felix.
Today, in the light of our historical knowledge, we can afford to ask whether the Sheba – Himyar victory was truly for the overall benefit of Yemen (as the intentions probably were) or not. Through Strabo we know that against the attacking Romans the Yemenites did not engage any naval battle. Perhaps this was a mistake; it may even be the proof that Himyar and Sheba could not match the excellent navigational skills of the Qatabanis! We can assume that if the Qatabani kingdom had still been there, the venture of an attack would have been seriously considered. The geographical and meteorological knowledge would certainly have been a Qatabani advantage, and the Roman exhaustion would have also been taken into consideration. If one adds to this the surprise effect, one gets a correct evaluation of what was then at stake. And an eventual naval victory of the Yemenites over the Roman fleet would have made a tremendous difference.
Despite the moderated profit Kharibael was getting out of the trade, it is clear that his state was the only significant state entity to the Southeastern border of the Roman Empire. Meroe (Aithiopia) was limited in the Nile valley and the desert at the area of the present day Sudan, having no influence in the Red Sea area. Controlled by Parthians, Iran was exercising an influence extended in the Persian Gulf and Oman area. Petra /Rekem was a very small state in the area of today's Jordan, whereas the Arabs between Petra and Yemen were in a barbaric and stateless situation. King Zoscales of the Axumite kingdom of Abyssinia had acquired some riches because of the profitable trade at Adulis, but did not exercise significant naval activities, and he therefore could not be considered even as a regional power.
Kharibael was the only and the correct partner of the Roman Empire in the area of the Horn of Africa, especially if we take into account the Yemenite colonies in Azania, i.e. the Eastern African coast from today's Cape Guardafui down to Daressalam, of which we spoke in a previous article.
Furthermore, the author gives a clear-cut understanding of the fact that Perim (Diodorus') island belonged to Kharibael's Yemenite kingdom. Although there is no explicit reference to this, it is essential that he mentions the island along with Okelis, when he describes the navigation to the south of the Red Sea alongside its eastern coast; this is key to understand the author's perception of the subject. When earlier in the text he was narrating about the western coast of the Red Sea and about the present day Eritrean coast (referring to Adulis and Avalites), he fell short of mentioning the Diodorus' island of Perim, and this is due to the fact that the island was unrelated to the African coast.

D. Past History – Future Potentialities
In our global world, Romans will no longer send a maritime expedition against Arabia Felix! There are no meteorological limitations in the navigation in the Red Sea, and there are not so many riches in the present day village Al Mokha that stands in the area of Periplus' Mouza. What to do?
The correct evaluation of development projects and of groundbreaking initiatives involves a combined understanding of historical trends and of current and potential needs. How could today's Yemen reflect again the glories of the Sheba, Himyar and Qataban states?
Today, as in the great past, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean link faraway countries and peoples, and constitute a great natural shelf for further interconnection and cooperation. We are living at the times of combined transportations. Some goods are transported by train, only to be later shipped by cargos! Other merchandises are first loaded onto ships, before they are laden on lorries and trains!
The rise of China in Manufacturing, and of India in Information Technology, along with the already in-fashion attitude of Outsourcing overseas have created a new environment. What are the trends within this new, burgeoning world?
It is certain that Communications and Transportations will play a determinant role in the 10 – 20 years ahead. Merchandises will be more abundant, transportation will need more infrastructure. Already discussions are underway about how to link Southern China to Europe (through Central Asia and Russia) by train. Long railway connections seem to be unavoidable.
While we are watching China and India doing their best to conquer the world's markets, having a certain focus on Europe, America,
Japan and Southeast Asia, we testify to an awakening that takes place in Europe, Japan and America in regard to potential dangers coming from the extensive practice of outsourcing that ultimately leads to de-industrialization. On the other hand, China reached a level of over-heated economy, because of such an unprecedented rhythm of double digital development that lasted for so many successive years. China will soon be in need of further markets, and – in parallel – of Outsourcing wherever this would be possible and/or necessary.
What market is left for China to conquer? Certainly, Africa!
Where is the cheapest work force, even compared with China and India? Certainly, Africa.
All this signifies a need for roads and railways, a new channel of transportations and communications between Asia and Africa. This means that all the roads pass by Yemen, the convergence point between Africa and Asia, the most African among the Asiatic countries, or to put it better Asia's part in Africa.
Acting with its natural partners at the Horn of Africa, Yemen – thanks to its privileged location between Asia and Africa – must envisage how the way will become shorter between Nigeria and China,
between Iran and South Africa, as well as between India and Northeastern Africa.

E. Tunnel under the Straits Bab al Mandeb
Getting international credibility from efforts to mount up a community of 250 million people, the Horn of Africa Countries (namely Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania,
Mozambique, Madagascar) live in peace and progress. But knowing the importance of a country envisioning the future, Yemen must introduce the Concept of a Tunnel under the Straits Bab al Mandeb (linking Yemen to Djibouti first, and then an extended net of countries with each other) that will offer the central trunk of a wide road, rail and Oil network. Through Bab al Mandeb Tunnel, which is by 1 – 2 km shorter than the Channel Tunnel between France and England, Asia and Africa will unite 'again' as they were before some millions of years.

F. Tunnel under the Straits Hormuz
Extending the project to connect South Africa, Zair, Nigeria, and Tunisia with the Horn of Africa area, Yemen should keep a close eye on the other direction and work closely with Oman, UAE, Iran, as well as Pakistan, Kazakhstan, India and China – since they will mostly benefit from the project -, to extend the road, rail and Oil network through Oman, and introduce the Concept of the Tunnel under the Straits Hormuz (linking first Oman with Iran, and then Africa with Central Asia, Pakistan, India and China). Through Hormuz Tunnel (34 miles, so precisely the double of the Bab al Mandeb Tunnel) the globalization of the world will become an ultimate reality with trains connecting Shanghai to Lagos, Delhi to Tunis, and Alma Ata to Cape Town – all through Yemen.

G. The Afro-Asiatic Concept of the Two Tunnels – Two ContinentsProject
I understand that the daring Afro-Asiatic Two Tunnels – Two Continents Project may be met with the doubt of conservative and skeptical minds. It may also encounter opposition of all sorts, a) from countries that will be left faraway from the Afro-Asiatic Renaissance and Re-Unification, b) from countries that will have their interests damaged, c) from countries that will be deprived from their disastrous means of engulfing Asia and Africa in underdevelopment, and/or d) from regionally useless and absolutely dysfunctional countries that will be stripped of their patronizing attitude towards poorer countries.
I know that the terribly high cost of such project may not be affordable for the poorest among the participants, even up to the limited portion of their contribution. The truth is that a daring project can be appreciated only by people, who reject the misery of their time, see far, and think big. People like this exist everywhere at all times. When they meet each other, when they create a union, when they come up with many other parallel projects depending on the central, the most daring one, they are able to convince and find the way to get it done.
When working on a basis of international cooperation under the auspices of the Horn of Africa Countries, the visionaries of the area must come up with a) parallel projects about educational advancements, and about the foundation of Chinese, Russian, Turkish and Indian, German and American universities in the region, b) bilingual programs for vocational schools, c) common action in Tourism and in Shipping, d) attractive plans for outsourcing Chinese companies in Eastern Africa, e) a political agreement for ending up policies of local oppression, f) a treaty for military cooperation and mutual reducing of the military expenses by 33%, as well as g) a Solemn Petition for the formation of a Fund out of 1% annual reduction of the military expenses of the 10 most spending countries (to be concretized as loan for the Afro-Asiatic Two Tunnels – Two Continents Project), then – and only then – the rich and the strong of this world will pay some sort of attention to them.
The famous British magazine 'The Economist' published earlier this year an article about the northern neighbour of Yemen under title 'Adapt of Die'; Yemen and the other countries of the Horn of Africa do not face the issue of survival because of involvement in global terrorism. The issue for them is the best way for speedyprogress.
But for a real development that is the real need of Yemen and its Eastern African partners the target must be re-valorized and the barrier must be put even more highly. The motto for a mobilization of masses should be 'Excel or Die'.