19 August, 2007

A Brief History Of Hadhramout

Some times back, I came across this interesting article, by Jim Ellis, on Hadhramout. It is a must read for any one interested in knowing more about Hadhramout and its history. How objective and well researched the article is, I do not know. Still, though brief, it is detailed and covers most of the known history of Hadhramout. Some excerpts from it:

The Wadi Hadhramaut and its tributaries have been inhabited since the Stone Age. Small mounds of flint chippings - the debris from the manufacture of stone tools and weapons - and windblown dust can be found close to the canyon walls.

The Hazarmaveth mentioned in Genesis 10 v 26 is believed to be Hadhramaut and Joktan to be Qahtan - from whom most Yemenis are reputedly descended through Hud, a pre-Islamic prophet. Hud’s tomb, about 45 miles east of Tarim, is still a place of annual pilgrimage - mainly for townspeople from Hadhramaut.

The early importance of Hadhramaut stemmed from its part in the incense trade. The ‘authorities’ exploited their position on the overland route from Dhufar through Mahra, Hadhramaut and Shabwa to the Hejaz and Eastern Mediterranean to tax the caravans in return for safe passage. Some incense was also collected from the mountains and valleys around Hadhramaut. An obelisk was discovered at Timna(Wadi Bayhan) in 1951/52 carrying the written market regulations of that town around 100 BC. Other inscriptions too are to be found over a wide area.

Shabwa is believed to have been the capital of Hadhramaut for most of the Himyaritic period.

When in 1990 the Saudis ordered the repatriation of all Yemenis without a local guarantor in retaliation for the perceived anti-Saudi stance of the newly united Republic of Yemen, relatively few of the 800,000 or so deported were Hadhramis, as these were mainly involved in trade, for which a guarantor was already essential. At the same time a new oilfield (Masila) was found between the coast and the Wadi Hadhramaut and expectations of future riches were raised. Large sums of Hadhrami money came back to Hadhramaut to develop the infrastructure to support an oil boom, just as the Union, still incomplete, began to break up. Post 1994 civil war,hopes of prosperity are now based on finding and developing more oil and natural gas, as well as the development of the ports of Mukalla and Aden.