We asked you five questions about Yemen. Here come the answers!
- What was the ancient Roman name for what we now call Yemen?
Arabia Felix, which means “Fertile Arabia” but can also mean “Happy Arabia”. The name may seem ironic now, but in Roman times it was much greener than the rest of the peninsula and had a near monopoly on trade in cinnamon and other spices.
- By the year 1063 Ali ibn Muhammed Al-Sulayhi ruled Yemen along with his wife Asma bint Shihab. What religious honour was bestowed on her that no other woman had had since the advent of Islam?
She was acknowledged as sovereign in the khutbah – the sermon at Friday prayers. Omitting the name of the sovereign was tantamount to declaring rebellion.
- From the early 1600s Yemen was the sole producer of a certain commodity until the Europeans broke their monopoly in the first half of the 18th century. What was that commodity?
Coffee. It’s unclear where coffee was first discovered, but as of the sixteenth century it was cultivated only in Yemen. The Europeans smuggled plants successfully to their colonies in South and South East Asia, the Caribbean and South America. Today, coffee’s grown widely around the tropics where the conditions are right, often at altitude.
- For what purpose was the British East India Company particularly interested in Aden?
As a coaling station. Steam vessels plying between Suez and Bombay required 700 tons of coal for the return journey. The British Government initially attempted to persuade the imam of Sana’a to allow them a foothold in Mocha – Yemen’s principal coffee-exporting port during its monopoly. When that failed, they secured an agreement with the Sultan of Lahej – partly through gunboat diplomacy.
- Yemen is currently ravaged by the worst cholera outbreak in recorded history. As of November 2018, how many suspected cases (to the nearest 100,000) had been recorded?
According to the World Health Organisation, over 1.3 million. The outbreak coincides with a major famine, exacerbated by a blockade of Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition, which the United Nations estimates is now threatening 13 million with starvation (as of October 2018).
How did you get on? Why not let us know?