1. Cab driver from Sanhan, diverging as he answered a question regarding his thoughts on yesterday’s military decrees:
You know, as a people, we’re tired. But every Yemeni knows what’s possible. We’re sitting in one of the world’s oldest cities in a country that is the birthplace of the Arab people. Drive through the countryside—whether to the north or to the south: where else is nature that incredible? Walk through the old city: have you ever seen buildings that beautiful? We’re tired, yes, but we’re capable of so much. And within every Yemeni is the ability to make this country into something that would fill Saudi Arabia and the Emirates with envy.
2. Cab driver from Ibb, offering his thoughts on why Yemen seems to weather unrest and instability better other nations in the region two hours later:
The situation is completely different here, and the reason has nothing to do with the (GCC) initiative or the international community. People say we’re backwards, that Yemenis are violent, that the country is filled with guns. They have no idea what they’re talking about. There’s poverty, yes, and unfortunately, there’s a lot of illiteracy and a low level of education. Still, look at 2011—any other country would have fallen into civil war a thousand times. But even when the bombs were exploding and people were dying, I didn’t think it would happen. Maybe its our culture, or something we’ve learned from everything we’ve had to put up with in our history. But within nearly Yemeni is this real wisdom. And that’s why what’s happening in Syria, God willing, could never happen here.
Photo is of a poster in my favorite dessert place. Text is a remark said to have been made by the prophet Mohamed (PBUH). “الايمان يمان و الحكمة يمانية:” faith is Yemeni and wisdom is Yemeni.”
“Nobody knew Hadi was this clever.”
This time last year, success for newly inaugurated president Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi was roughly defined as mere survival. Few knew much about the man many mocked as ”عبدربه مركوز.” He’d stood silently by Ali Abdullah Saleh as his Vice President for well over a decade, but it was easy for skeptics to joke that his accomplishments were largely limited to presiding over ribbon-cutting ceremonies as Saleh’s stand in.
12 months later, Hadi’s been able to hold his own, proving many pessimists wrong. Still, true leadership requires more than just (barely) holding Yemen together. Giving a positive review of Hadi’s first spate of reforms last Spring, one Yemeni political analyst added a key caveat, stressing that the president “has yet to prove that he’s the state builder that Yemen so desperately needs.” His words, arguably, are just as true today.
Full article reflecting on Hadi at one year for the Christian Science Monitor
و نفس المقالة بالغة العربية
The idea of Yemen as a land caught in time–though somewhat appealing–is ultimately a rather orientalist stereotype. It’s something I’m almost constantly reminded of here, whether in the form of tribal leaders who tuck Iphones in the embroidered belts holding their centuries old Jambiyyas or the smattering of FC Barcelona memorabilia decorating shops tucking into ancient buildings in Old Sanaa. Even rural areas, it seems, are far from untouched. A friend, I remember, once described his astonishment as he reenacted a famous movie scene on a cliff-top in his village: as he shouted “I’m the king of the world” with arms outstretched, his cousin noted that the scene was “just like Titanic,” getting the cultural reference without missing a beat.
This idea of Yemen the isolated has been floating through my mind recently as I’ve been subjected to the surprisingly frequent sounds of Korean rapper PSY’s single “Gangnam Style,” a rather-focused satire that’s somehow developed into the most paradoxical global hit since Los del Rio’s “Macarena.” I have no idea whether those behind the song had any inkling of their impending worldwide fame when they initially set out to parody classless Koreans’ vain attempts to attempts to channel the “style” apparently epitomized by the residents of Seoul’s exclusive Gangnam district; either way, months later, the original meaning has more or less dissipated. PSY and his colleagues have been compensated with money and notoriety, so I’d imagine that they’re not particularly distressed.
This is what it looked like when Yemenis gathered to demonstrate for political change, a better future, and the end of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33 year rule. Week after week, the crowds stretched on in both directions. Does quite a lot to put the numbers at Thursday and Friday’s anti-film protests into perspective.
For various reasons, I’ve opted to move this from a post to a page. The guide is now accessible here; that is, via a tab at the top of the screen.
The front page of Al-Thawra, Yemen’s top state-run newspaper on Jan 25th, (coincidentally) the one year anniversary of the start of protests against Mubarak. Reads “Basindowa visits Change Square,” photo shows Mohamed Salem Basindowa, longtime opposition politician and Prime Minister since late last year and Yemeni Nobel Laureate/activist Tawakkol Karman. There have been a lot of shake-ups in state media since the signing of the GCC Deal, but it was still rather jarring to see such a headline on a what was once a staunchly pro-Saleh newspaper.
An odd footnote in this year of upheaval has been the May 2011 death of American Jazz musician/poet Gil Scott Heron, who authored “The Revolution will not be Televised,” arguably the most quoted poem ever set to bongo drums.
Unsure how the under-appreciated proto-rapper would have reacted to the ubiquity of his words throughout the various fronts of the so-called Arab Spring, but I imagine he’d be sort of cool with it.
After months of deliberation, I’ve finally made the jump and dropped twenty dollars to secure the ‘adammbaron.com’ domain name. I assume I’ll post here from time to time; to state the obvious, contact info and an abbreviated personal bibliography can be found at the top of the page.