Yemenis lack appreciation for their own history [Archives:2008/1120/Local News]

January 14 2008

Hamed Thabet
SANA'A, Jan. 13 )Situated at the crossroads of spice and incense routes, Yemen is one of the oldest continuously inhabited regions in the world that has not touched the winds of modernity, with a colorful history dating back to primeval times. Yet Yemen remains a medieval land and modernist fantasy to be discovered.

Only in Yemen, the valuable historical information is lost. According to Dr. Adbud Al-Razaaq Al-Eiti, a sociologist at Taiz University, “We are living in a stagnant time, because those without a past don't have a present, and definitely won't have a future. People should develop and progress to a higher level in order to realize their past, as it is an important part of their national pride.”

Al-Eiti added, “Illiteracy and cultural illiteracy play a major role in neglecting history. Cultural illiteracy means that people do not have any idea about their history; only a few are interested.”

Monther Ishaq, sociology director in Taiz University, gave an example that when many Yemenis visit Marib, which dates back thousands of years, they only go to visit friends or relatives. Only a few go there in order to see the antiquities of the Sabaen and Queen Bilqis dynasties. However, foreign tourists head to Yemen for its long history, known for thousands of years.

Al-Eiti confirmed, “Awareness of history among Yemenis is nonexistent.” He went on to say that locals constantly hear officials talking about the importance of antiques and history, but in fact are tired of listening to plans that are not implemented; instead, he asserts, they want action.

Al-Eiti expressed that “it is crucial to know our true history in order to know where we have come from. Although sometimes there are subjects in schools about Yemen's history, it is not taught correctly, which can make students understand it very well.'

Mohammed Al-Aroosi, Sana'a University archeology lecturer and former president of Yemeni General Organization of Antiques and Museums (GOAM), said, “The information in many Yemeni museums about our antiques is not accurate. The few people who are interested will be misguided in Yemen's museums. Moreover, if anyone goes to a museum or any historical site, there are no services to guide them or qualified experts in history and antiques to explain the artifacts. Visitors can only go sightseeing and take photos.”

He confirmed that when he was president of GOAM, he asked officials to provide more specialists who graduated from Sana'a University to work in museums. At present, the government only provides jobs for guards in museums and sites; there are around 250 guards in Marib and a higher number in Al-Jawf.

He went on to say that when he was in office, he provided for 45 antique specialists to work in museums and sites, especially in Sana'a and Dhamar. He noted that “Those who work in museums now have no idea about anything. They just read what is written on a piece of paper about the antiques. “

A lot of people believe that Yemen's ancient structures are nothing more than stones on the ground. According to Abdul Aziz Al-Jendari, Sana'a National Museum director, stated, “Attention is given to stones in order to know their historic value and to what period they are linked. By knowing the date of the stone or antique, we can learn information about the civilization of our forefathers.”

According to Al-Aroosi, “In many other countries, antiques are subject to special care by experts. No one can touch or desecrate them. But unfortunately, here in Yemen historic antiques are everywhere and anyone can access them. Because people here don't know their value, they do just that.”

Ishaq went on to say that Yemen's history is a heritage on the same level as that of Egypt and Persia. He wishes that Yemeni citizens would show some respect to study and preserve their history and understand their great and historic civilization. He said, “In Egypt, if an individual is cursed he/she could ignore and forgive, but no one can say anything negative about their historic heritage.”