The French architect, Mr. Jose Bel: ” The Yemen-Brest 2000 Will Help Expose Yemen to the European Community” [Archives:1999/33/Culture]

August 16 1999

Yemen is a country that is embraced by the love and admiration of many people from all around the world. Visitors of Yemen feel at home. This is why they even visit Yemen many times and sometimes kick off their researches and studies about different aspects of the Yemeni life. Jose-Marie Bel, a french architect is one of these will-wishers of Yemen. He first came to Yemen in the 1970s where life in Yemen was more or less difficult because there were no many cars or roads available. Before coming to Yemen study the architecture and the Yemeni people, 
Mr. Bel went to Morocco and lived there for sometime. He has published four books about Yemen and its splendid and unique architecture. He has also recently established an information center about Yemen in Paris and has been instrumental in preparing for Yemen-Brest 2000 shipping project. Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi, Yemen Times Managing Editor interviewed Mr. Bel and filed the following:
Q: Could you please tell us brief your story with Yemen?
A: I started reading about Yemen in January 1974 to prepare myself for visiting it. Next year I came to Yemen for the first time. Since then, I have been to Yemen several times and I have made a lot of studies about the architecture and archeological sites of Yemen. I have passed a doctorate and I have been a specialist in the Yemeni culture for about 20 years.
Q: What are your activities in Yemen?
A: Sana’a was a small city when I first came to Yemen. I had some friends who arranged a meeting between me and President Al-Hamdy. I also met with the family of Mohammed Mohsen Al-Ghashmi. I still keep a photo for me with Al-Ghashmi’s brother. He was the Minister of Justice and I met him in Bani Matar. It was very interested to be in touch with the chiefs of the tribes and to know the people. I made a lot of studies about the qamariat. In 1993 I was in Aden and I visited the house of Rimbaud, the well-known French poet who lived in Aden for a long time.
Q: Can you tell me why you are interested in Yemen and studying the Yemeni culture?
A: It is difficult to explain it because it is something natural. As I have told you, I made all my studies about Yemen, its architecture, archeology and also art. I made prolonged studies about the art in this area, especially, the Islamic art and I published some books about Yemen after these studies. The first one was published 12 years ago. It is about architecture. I also published a catalogue for exhibitions in France and other countries; USA and Canada for example. The second is about botany in Yemen. It is in French. The third book is about architecture. The last one is about Aden. It is written in English and French and it talks about the long story of the coast of Aden with colors and many pictures.
Q: What about the information center you established in Paris. Can you tell us something about it?
A: The center is in Paris. It is an information center and a gallery and it is called the ” House of Yemen”. It is for Paris and the European people and also for the Yemeni people. The center has many documented books about Yemen. The center is of a pivotal role and significance to Yemen since it helps introduce Yemen to the European people and motivate them to visit Yemen. It also provides the people with the information they need about Yemen and its culture and marvelous architecture.

Q: Why did you establish this center?
A: Because I have a workshop in Paris where I work. I Also made an exhibition about Yemen by myself. I think now it is good to have an information center and gallery about Yemen because it also supports Yemen and actually it is necessary for tourism to have more connection with tourists wishing to go to Yemen and to know from Paris and Europe the best thing about Yemen.
Q: We have heard about something called Yemen-Brest 2000. Can you tell us about it? What is the project and its objectives?
A: There will be many festivals all over the world and a lot of in France next year, 2000. Four years ago, I was in France, in Paris, and I made an exhibition about Mokha. I also made an exhibition with a friend Mr. Jean-Pierre Brown about Mokha, coffee and the story of the relationship between Yemen and France. At this time the exhibition had a big success. After that we were invited to Brest, one of the biggest cities in France. Every four years, this city witnesses a big gathering for people interested in the sea. At this time I decided with other friends to prepare a project for the year 2000 for the representation of Yemen and maybe one book. This project will help Yemen a lot because it can show the long story of Yemen thorough its various decades as well as its connection with other countries. This exhibition will also show that Yemen is the oldest of all the Arab countries.
This. project is one of the 23 projects of France and the official ability is absolutely good and we are waiting together the arrival of 3.000.000 people in France. I had the connection with the Minister of Tourism Mr. Abdul Malik Mansour. I have been especially to Hodeidah to find some books and to prepare for this action for the next year. We hope that this exhibition will give good impression about Yemen.
Q: How do you see the cultural relationship between France and Yemen, and how can it be developed?
A: This relationship started a long time ago with those people coming to Yemen to see and study the archaeological sites like Marib. I think the relationship between France and Yemen is very good. It is very good in many fields like medicine, architecture, archaeology and art. I am very glad to be active in enhancing this relationship. I sometimes travel with some other tourists and make conferences. I have never found any French tourists unhappy in their tour to Yemen. All the French people who come to Yemen love the country very much. I hope that Al-Yamaniah Company and the tourist companies will make a new step to revive and improve the tourist drive in the country.
Q: Any last word?
A: Actually, I made a trip in Yemen to Hodeidah, Taiz and Socatra to study the islands and to establish relationships with the Yemeni authorities and agencies to support tourism. My last word is that I feel sad to see hotels empty and my friends, the drivers, not working and the agencies, too. I hope that the situation will change. I also would like to say good luck for the Yemen Times and congratulations for the new Yemen Times. I was also very sad when I knew the news of Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf’s dearth. I was then in France and I sent you a fax conveying my deep sorrow and condolences. I am sure that the Yemen Times will go on.