Yemen News, Yemen Weather and Links ( Yemeni News, Yemeni Weather )

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The New York Times, October 29, 1882:

MOCHA AND MOCHA COFFEE

FAVORED SPOTS IN RAVINES
WHERE THE PLANT GROWS


MOCHA ITSELF A SANDY DISTRICT,
WITH SPARSE VEGETATION—
THE PLANT NOT INDIGENOUS TO ARABIA—
HARD STRUGGLE THE BEVERAGE HAD
AT FIRST IN OBTAINING FAVOR


From the London Times.

    No Arabian town has so fragrant an odor around its name as Mocha, which for so many years was known as the port from which most of the coffee of Yemen was shipped.

    That Mocha itself does not lie in a coffee region is probably known to few of those who honor the noble beverage. Indeed, it has long been known that these beans, which enjoy a world-wide reputation, reach the Western markets in increasingly small quantities, for the productive region in Yemen is comparatively limited in area, and crop scarcely suffices to supply the demand in the East itself. Certain it is that a considerable part of the crop finds its way by land over the Hedjaz, and only a fraction of it reaches export harbors. The most important of these, according to the Austrian Monatschrift für den Orient, at the present time is undoubtedly Aden. In former times it was quite otherwise.

    After the introduction of coffee-culture and the taste for coffee into Arabia, an event by no means of ancient date, Mocha was certainly the only port from which it was shipped. At the beginning of the sixteenth century only one hut stood on the site of Mocha, that of the Sheik Shadeli, who on account of his honest dealings was much sought after by the skippers. He was an honorable and hospitable man, who regaled his guests with a cup of the beverage which he himself greatly loved and commended. This drink was no other than coffee, a knowledge of the virtues of which soon spread through the whole of Yemen. The Sheik had many visitors, and out of his hospitality a profitable business was developed; the settler's hut soon expanded into a village, and the village into a town, which in a short time was crowded with speculators and rich merchants.

    Such is the legend of the founding and growth of Mocha. In what year the event took place there is no means of ascertaining, for the Turkish and Arabic chroniclers are shy of figures and dates, and leave to their successors the filling in of the blanks. But no doubt the story is essentially authentic, for after Mocha became a flourishing town Sheik Shadeli was honored with a sepulchral mosque, which is today pointed out with pride, and the principal wells of the existing town and also the land-gate bear the name of its worthy benefactor. "By Sheik Shadeli" the people of Mocha swear more than by the Prophet himself, who receives scarcely more honor than is paid to the patron of the town and of all the coffee growers of Yemen.

    Coffee could not be grown at all, as we have said, in the region around Mocha itself, which is known as the Tehama, a low, flat, sandy district, with sparse vegetation. The climate is necessarily hot, fever is endemic, and water scarce. No coffee could be grown in such a region, although it contains the chief warehouses and export harbors for the product of Yemen.

    For a whole century Mocha was the leading coffee port, but about the middle of the seventeenth century Hodeida, to the north of Mocha, took its place. Latterly, however, for reasons connected with Turco-Egyptian politics, Hodeida has declined. So long as it was the chief export harbor, the inland town of Beit-el-Fakhi was the chief transit centre, the leading port of which was and is still Ghalefka, which sent out almost as much coffee as Hodeida itself.
    After the Turco-Egyptian domestic politics had ruined these ports, the coffee trade sought another outlet, by Aden, which now is the leading centre and place of export for the coffee of Yemen.

    The coffee tree is no wild plant in Yemen, its successful growth depending on a great variety of natural and artificial conditions. In terraces among the mountain ravines, carefully protected from the chilly mountain breezes, on a soil composed of clay, porphyry, and trap, is the cultivation of the best sorts carried on. Thus it is only certain favored spots that are suited for the growth of coffee in Yemen, and the culture is essentially that of comparatively small gardens.
    The best coffee garden of Yemen is that of Uddein, in the north-east of Mocha; it yields the Uddein bean, the finest coffee bean the world produces. This estate lies in the Valley of the Zebid, and in area is by no means extensive.
    The second most important district is that of Beit-el-Fakhi, in which are Buljos, Hadie, and Kusmai, estates on the mountain terraces, which stretch from the Tehama to the mountains of central Yemen; many of the hamlets which used to nestle in the midst of the coffee plantations looking out from the hill-sides on the sterile plain below are now in ruins.

    In the direction of Hodeida lies the third of the great coffee gardens, that of Mofhak and Harraz, on the flanks of the Yemen Mountains, which inclose the Wadi Seichan. Smaller and less productive gardens are found at Jepaad, on the north foot of the Saber Mountain, to the east of Mocha. Others of less importance are scattered about in various parts of the region, as far as the eastern plateau of Yemen, the heights varying from 1,200 to 4,000 feet above the sea.
    The entire productive region is, after all, only a comparatively small section of Yemen, and even in this section itself there are many unproductive gaps—gaps which are much more extensive than are the coffee gardens themselves.
    Thus, the culture of the noble product to which Mocha has given its name has gradually spread outward over a district of the early Himyaratic State, which has seen better days.

    It is well known that the coffee plant is not indigenous to Arabia, but was imported from Abyssinia at a date which cannot be accurately fixed. The taste for coffee itself had a hard struggle at first to find a general welcome among the more select circles. Apart from the oldest legend concerning Shadeli's drink, the Medina Sheik Abd-el-Kader is the oldest historical authority on the use of the "blood-red kaweh," as the Tunisian Ibn Waki named the beverage.
    In the year 1587, not 300 years ago, he tells us that in Yemen people made use of a drink which so lightened the night watches that the faithful of the place were able to sing the praises of God more fervently and cheerfully than could be done anywhere else. According to him, the Mufti Dhabani was the first to introduce the insignificant little bean on Arabian soil, having brought it with him from Africa.

    Certain it is that the districts of Shoa, Euara, and Kaffa, (whence the name,) in the south of the Abyssinian highlands, form the original home of the coffee plant. Dhabani was of a sickly nature, and since he belonged to the Order of the Sofi (Ultra Pantheists,) who believed that everything on earth and all being emanated from the Godhead, he regarded a means of excitement of this kind as a Providential gift.
    The Medinese and faithful Meccans laid their turbaned heads together in the public places when first they heard the news; a pious sheik in Aden was the first to drink the "black juice" as a sort of public spectacle.

    In Mecca itself violent strife arose soon after its introduction as to the propriety of using it. There were great meetings of learned and pious men, who at last, probably after extreme pressure from the Mameluke Governor, Khair-Beg, declared that coffee "disturbed the brain and intoxicated like wine."
    But their opponents were of another opinion, and adduced the authority of the celebrated Bagdad physician Avicenna in their defense, which, however, did not prevent the transgressor of the edict forbidding the use of coffee from being publicly whipped. At the same time the zealots of the Hedjaz proclaimed that all coffee drinkers would appear before the All Merciful on the Resurrection Day, with black faces.

    While the great anathema was being proclaimed at Mecca, the brothers of the order at Cairo, the very Mamelukes themselves, were already reveling in the newly discovered luxury. A confirmation of the Mecca decree was, therefore, not to be expected from the Sultan, and he, Kaufu Alguri, quashed the ordinance of the Governor and sent the latter into exile.
    Then many holy sheiks—for example, the celebrated Mohammed Ilarlie, founder of one of the four orthodox schools of Islam—took the side of the coffee drinkers. Thus was the precious bean fully rehabilitated in Western Arabia at least.

    Soon thereafter a whole literature sprang up on the drink; poems of praise and derision without number were manufactured, which by means of the trade caravans were circulated through the whole of the Mohammedan world. With the broadside the bean itself naturally found its way everywhere, first to Aleppo and Damascus. It took fully a century for coffee to make its way from Yemen to Aleppo.

    In Stamboul, more than 100 years after the Conquest, the beverage was unknown. In the reign of Selim II., (1566-74,) who was a notorious drunkard, and even in history bears this fine nickname, (Turkish mesi,) wine was not forbidden, and so coffee did not find its way into the Osman kingdom till the beginning of the reign of Murad III. The first specimens were brought by the pilgrims from Mecca in the form of branches of the tree or shrub, as, indeed, the Hadjis are wont to do on their return even at the present day.
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  Yemen News



    Republic of Yemen: North Yemen became independent of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. The British, who had set up a protectorate area around the southern port of Aden in the 19th century, withdrew in 1967 from what became South Yemen. Three years later, the southern government adopted a Marxist orientation. The massive exodus of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis from the south to the north contributed to two decades of hostility between the states.
    The two countries were formally unified as the Republic of Yemen in 1990. A southern secessionist movement in 1994 was quickly subdued.
    In 2000, Saudi Arabia and Yemen agreed to a delimitation of their border.
    The CIA World Factbook: Yemen


Area of Yemen: 527,970 sq km
slightly larger than twice the size of Wyoming

Population of Yemen: 23,013,376
July 2008 estimate

Languages of Yemen: Arabic

Yemen Capital: Sanaa


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The Turks in Yamen Bury 1915
Resúliyy Dynasty of Yemen al-Ḥasan Khazrajī 1908
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A History of Arabia Felix Or Yemen Playfair 1859
Travels Through Arabia Niebuhr (1762-63)

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    The Aleppinese were the first to open coffeehouses in Stamboul, wherefore they received the name which they still always bear, Kavéh-Chanéh. Here, again, it was the most pious of the pious, the cream of the Ulema and other special favorites of God, who immediately publicly decreed the Divine approval of the use of the beverage, and gave the high-sounding name of "Schools of Wisdom" to the little booths where people lounged in idleness, talked politics, and played backgammon.

    Such exaggeration must necessarily be followed by a reaction, and soon the zealots professed that they had found in the Koran a prohibition against the use of the beverage. They said that the coffee bean was a charcoal, and the use of charcoal was forbidden in the holy book.

    In the interpretation of the Koran the Islamites were always great, but on the limits of the permissible the Stamboul theologians had the reputation of being specially learned. It required only the oracular utterance that the coffee bean was no "privileged" charcoal, spoken at the right time, to bring down upon the coffee drinkers a bloody persecution, similar to that which in the reign of Murad IV was decreed against smokers.
    It is characteristic of the Osman genius that the dignitaries, especially the Grand Viziers, boldly made use of the passion for coffee-drinking to decree enormous taxes and make use of other extortions. One Grand Vizier denounced the Kavéh-Chanéhs as hotbeds of crime, debauchery, demagogism, and revolutionary plots, which called forth the temporary interference of the Police; but the habit had become so firmly established that it was evident that all attempts to banish it were futile.

    18 more classic articles on coffee and tea are located at coffee.quickfound.net.

The New York Times, June 18, 1882:

ARABIA'S GREAT FORTRESS

    Off Aden, April 23—The coast of Arabia, picturesque as it is, certainly ranks among the numerous spots which look best at a distance.
    I once heard a veteran boatswain in the South Atlantic answer a inquiring passenger's questions about the Cape Verde Islands, which we were then approaching, by saying solemnly, "Well, Sir, them Cape Verdes, d'ye see, they're just that sort o' place that when you fust see 'em you'll be all agog to git ashore, and afore you've been ashore half an hour you'll be a deal all agoger to git aboard again."

    The same thing might with equal justice be said of the shores of "Yemen the Happy," which appears to be so called in the same spirit as Dr. Carlyle, according to his reknowned brother, was called a doctor, "just oot of dereesion."
    And upon the whole coast of Yemen there is not one spot more universally execrated than the quaint little rock-hewn fortress that lies hidden behind the great bastion of dark gray cliff which rises before me as I write.

    The station of Aden holds, rightly or wrongly, a high rank among the seven or eight "hottest places in the world" which I have already visited...
    Aden has often been called the Gibraltar of the East, and not without reason. It is true that the cliff which fences it to seaward, boldly as it stands out against the glow of the evening sky, would look tame enough beside the mighty mass that guards the gate of the Mediterranean, blotting the bright blue waters of Algeciras Bay with a shadow like that of a gathering thunder-cloud. But in other respects Aden is a very fairly exact miniature of its formidable namesake. The sea-fronting battery, the low sandy neck joining the peninsula to the mainland, the quaint little Eastern town with its trim white houses and picturesque jumble of strange costumes, the rock-hewn tunnel leading into the fort, the gloomy galleries through the heart of the cliff, the dazzling sunshine, the deep blue sea and sky, the scorching heat and overpowering dust, are all identical.

    The Eastern Gibraltar, however, possesses not a few characteristic features of its own which are sufficiently striking at first sight. The endless ranges of dark, craggy mountains which tower along the Arabian shore, if less beautiful than the vine-clad hills of sunny Spain, are infinitely more imposing. Equally characteristic are the great masses of glaring white limestone which, with the full blaze of the midday sun upon them, might have tried the eyes of that celebrated detective who "could see a thief in the middle of a hay-stack, even if he wasn't there after all."
    As you drive up to the town, which lies four or five miles from the landing-place at the point, you pass long files of laden camels, to which the burning tropical sky and the dim unending vastness of the great Arabian desert form a very appropriate background. In the town itself you will probably encounter a brace of tame ostriches 7 feet high taking a morning stroll about the streets, or a tall bony Somali, with his hair dyed bright red or yellow, and standing out like a fan from every side of his head. You pass a wide, shady veranda, under the projecting roof of which a gazelle, two parroquets, and three monkeys are holding a kind of open-air drawing-room, while the cage that hangs from the next balcony is tenanted by a huge but unintellectual parrot, whose limited conversational powers are wholly devoted to his own praise.

    The one great sight of the place, however, which every visitor to Aden must see if he wises to discharge conscientously that duty which England proverbially expects every man to do, is the great tank, or rather succession of tanks, cut in the solid rock ages ago, and still surviving, like the colossal cisterns of Carthage, to put to shame the boasted "marvels of modern civilization." ...till very recently the tanks were so dry that the little patches of water still lingering in their mighty hollows looked "as silly as a pennyworth of treacle in a two-gallon jug..."

    As to the fort, it seems at first sight like building a wall as a protection against mosquitoes to construct such defenses in order to repel such an undisciplined rabble of marauders as the Arabs of Yemen, against whom a well-constructed biscuit box or sardine tin, if properly victualed, might hold out for a month. But they have not always been so harmless. In the days before war and famine had thinned their tribes down to a mere shadow of their ancient strength the Yemeni warriors--particularly those of the Abdala tribe--were as formidable to the handful of "Faringhi dogs" who had settled in their midst as King Philip's Wampanoags and Canonchet's Narragansetts to the Rhode Island colonists of 1675...

    In the dead of night the garrison would be aroused by the ear-piercing scream of the Arab war-cry "Alla Ackbar," (God is victorious,) and the surrounding darkness would suddenly shape itself into a surging mass of savage faces, white mantles, grinning teeth, tossing arms, flashing weapons, and wolfish yells. And then, for the next hour or more, all would be one maddening hurly-burly of stabbing and hacking and slashing and firing and pounding with clubbed muskets at half-seen enemies, blood flowing like water, the rocks giving back every volley in a thousand echoes, and death coming blindly, no one knew whence or how.
    Then, almost in a moment, the din would cease, the whirl of spectres vanish, the smoke would roll away, and the dim gray light of dawn would come creeping up over the hilltop upon the stern white faces of the dead, while the conquerors in that death-grapple sat down amid the slain to stanch their own wounds or to fall asleep from sheer exhaustion.

    The gaunt desolation of the stony ridges and barren sands that encompass Aden on the land side is relieved at times by a charming little nook of fresh green verdure, nestling itself beside some tiny thread of water in the cleft of a rock. But for the most part the whole region is wild and dreary to the last degree...
[DAVID KER]

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