My Yemeni Village (Part-1)

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My name is 'Abd al-Nur and I am a thirteen year old Muslim boy, Al-Hamdulillah. I live in a beautiful village called Al-Ashrafiyyah in the high mountains of Yemen.

Yemen is a very old country. Hundreds of years before the coming of Islam, the Sabean and Himyarite kings ruled Yemen. The Holy Qur'an refers to the land of Saba' (Sheba) in Surah al-Naml verse 22.

But the hoopoe stayed not long; he (came up and) said: "I have grasped (the knowledge of a thing)which you have not grasped and I have come to you rom Saba' (Sheba) with true news."

According to Arab tradition, the people of my country, Yemen, are descendents of Qahtan, a relative of Shem, the first son of Nuh(A). The origin of the name Yemen (from the Arabic al-yameen 'right') is very interesting too. Some say it is because the direction of Yemen lies to the right of the Ka'bah in Holy Makkah if one stands facing east.

The mountains are high near our village. I have never seen snow, but my father remembers seeing some onthe highest peaks once when he was a small boy. Our village consists of many stone tower-houses. These houses are sometimes 6-7 stories high! From the roof tops we can look down into the valleys where we have our farm land.

Alan wa sahlan wa marhaban fee baytuna ("welcome to our house"), as we say in Arabic. I was born in this house and my father was too!

Both my father and grandfather build mosques and minarets using local stone. My grandfather built our house almost 70 years ago. I have watched my father build a house like ours. The most difficult part is cutting the large stones for the foundation and lower levels. Constructing the staircase inside the house also requires a lot of time and patience. There are sometimes forty stone stairs leading to the top floor which are made of blocks of differing height. I wasn't able to climb by myself to the top story of the house until I was almost five years old!

Our house is a typical Yemeni structure. It appears higher than it really is. Double rows of windows on each floor make the house seem larger. Some village houses are much older than ours. Large blocks of stone from preIslamic ruins were often used to build their foundations. Occasionally, these ancient stones have very beautiful Himyaritic (pre-Islamic) inscriptions (writing) on them. The upper levels are built of bricks of mud and straw which are then plastered over.

Our home is five stories high. We use the lowest level to keep our animals (a donkey and six chickens). The kitchen is on the next level. Bedrooms occupy the upper stories. Finally, on the very top is the important mafraj or sitting room - definitely the most beautiful room in our house.

To read the next part of this story, click here.

Luqman Nagy

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