Travel Through Yemen in Comfort! [Archives:1998/18/Culture]
There are two ways to see Yemen. One can either take a long and arduous journey covering the country’s majestic mountains, arid and inhospitable deserts, beautiful lush wadis, and enchanting costs. Or one can read Dr. Scott Kennedy’s beautifully illustrated Yemen: A Pictorial Tour, due to be released on 22 May – the 8th anniversary of Yemen’s unification. This book, which took two years from conception to completion, is a labor of love painstakingly photographed and edited by Dr. Kennedy and his wife.
Dr. Scott Kennedy, 43, has been living in Yemen with his wife Norah and four children for the last five years, working as the US Embassy’s official doctor. His work also covers the UAE, Oman, Eritrea and Djibouti. Raised in the oasis of Al-Ain in Abu Dhabi while his parents worked as doctors, Dr. Kennedy is certainly no stranger to this part of the world. He did his schooling in India and Pakistan where started his life-long passion of bird-watching and bird-photography.
“I first came to Yemen as a tourist in 1981, fell in love with the old city, and decided to come back later,” said Dr. Kennedy. Yemen presented him with a unique opportunity to observe and photograph its endemic and migrant bird population. “I have done the photographs for Yemeni birds, which were published on Yemeni stamps about a year and a half ago,” he indicated.
“It takes a long time and hard work with bird-photography. If you do not have the eyes of the bird in focus, you have to go throughout the picture. This is one of the rules about it. You have to shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon, and you definitely have to be by yourself to do because you do not want to scare the birds away.”
Ms. Norah Kennedy said: “I got involved with the book’s writing and research on Yemen. We wrote half and half. I also helped in keeping the kids quiet, while he tried to get the perfect shot. Our children are very young so they sometimes get very excited with photography.”Dr. Kennedy also collaborated with his friends Richard Porter and Derek Harvey to do school books for the schools in Yemen. Armed with his trusty camera with its 1000 mm lens and his bird-blind, a special camouflaged tent with holes for the camera, Dr. Kennedy made extensive tours the width and breadth of Yemen, including the sometimes inaccessible Socotra Island, in pursuit of his cherished hobby. “It is very important not to disturb the birds’ habitat while photographing them,” he cautioned.
However, bird-photography is not just a hobby for the conservation-oriented Dr. Kennedy. “It is crucial to get the local people to appreciate their country’s natural wealth. Farmers in Tihama, for example, must understand that the Hubarah is a valuable bird, and not to kill and eat it. Other endangered birds and animals in Yemen include the Arabian bustard and Arabian leopard.”
Having collected a big wealth of excellent photographs not only of birds, but also of people and architecture from almost all parts of Yemen, Dr. Kennedy got in touch with Mr. Ian Fairservice, the Managing Partner and Group Editor of Motivate Publishing in Dubai, UAE.
“I think it is the first photographic book on Yemen that includes both north and south, with heavy emphasis on the natural wild life from the Arabian leopard which is going extinct to the bird life. The former US ambassador to Yemen, Mr. David Newton wrote the introduction to the book and emphasized this point,” announced Mr. Fairservice.
He added: “We have this first book – Dubai: a Pictorial Tour – in a new series we are developing. So we thought that a book on Yemen will lend itself ideally to our planned series. We were very excited about combining the natural beauty of the country with some very interesting background and historical information. I thought if we had just done a book about birds, it would have had a limited audience.”
Yemen: A Pictorial Tour hard-back book consists of 144 pages illustrated with 150 top-quality color photographs depicting various aspects of Yemeni life, architecture, and flora and fauna. It is written in the “posh” British English, as opposed to American English. The book’s publication is sponsored by Mr. Haytham Al-Aaini and his group of companies, which “gave marvelous support.” Dr. Kennedy’s activities also extend to working with the public health sector in Yemen. “A Physicians-for-Peace team of volunteers, including myself, is working with the Ministry of Health right now to develop a burn-care unit at the Republican Hospital. We are also trying to help in other areas such as cardiology, preventative medicine, and birth-spacing.”
Adel J. Moqbil, Yemen Times