Tina Zorman and Eternal Yemen in Slovene media

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Beyt Bouss - a historical village near Sana'a



The article was written by Tina Zorman for Yemen Observer and first published in Yemen Observer on Aug 8, 2012:
     http://www.yobserver.com/photo-gallery/10022209.html


 Beyt Bouss village, lying on a rocky stair, overlooking Sana’a

 
Beyt Bouss village is one of the four villages which lie on the rocky ring, south of the capital Sana’a. Many foreigners do not know two of them, Beyt Zapatan and Sana’s village; while everybody has heard of Hadda village and Beyt Bouss village, as southern districts of Sana’a are called after them.
 
It’s easy to come to Beyt Bouss since it is only 7 km from Tahreer. After coming from Sabaeen (70 Street), you simply turn left on 50 Street and head down. There is nothing interesting in Beyt Bouss area along the 50 Street apart from construction sites and rubbles. However, there is a place that you should not miss. On the rocky stair, right under the mountain, lies the old village of Beyt Bouss. If you tell Yemenis that you are from Beyt Bouss, they will tell you: “Ah, so you are from the Jewish village!”

Actually too many of them think that Beyt Bouss was a Jewish settlement. Well, they are right in a way, but it was not precisely like that.

Till the mid twentieth century, tens of thousands of Jews were living in Yemen. According to the tradition, Jewish people inhabited Yemen since 10 BC right around the time when Queen Bilquis, the famous Queen of the Sabean Kingdom paid a visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem.

After the destruction of the Solomon’s temple many Jews escaped and followed Queen Bilquis back to her country – modern Southern Arabia - where they were promised shelter and peace.

The Yemeni diaspora dates back from the time of the early prophets. On the other “rive” of the Red Sea, in Ethiopia, legend has it that there too Jews came to settle, having followed Menelik – Solomon and Bilquis’ son - Yemeni Jews often proudly say that they are actually the descendant of the real Jews, arguing that their ancestry dates back from the Torah – Jewish Scriptures – where both the ancient cities of Sana’a and Sa’ada are mentioned by their old names.

After Palestine was self-proclaimed the state of Israel by Jewish settlers’ in1948, most of Yemen’s Jews left the country, dreaming of a state of their own and the so-called “promise land”. But if Yemen’s Jews live many ups and downs throughout History, always was their journey intertwined with that of Yemen’s Muslim community. For centuries, the most unlikely cousins lived, worked and prosper side by side.


A side view of Beyt Bouss village that you would have, if you would reach it by a local’s path


Even today, Jews are still befriending Muslims, having become an inherent part of the Yemeni society. After several mass migrations, only a few hundreds Jews are nowadays living in Yemen. Beyt Bouss is actually a very particular and striking example of just how much Muslims and Jews used to support each other and respect each other traditions, in harmony without prejudice or hatred. As the old Yemeni proverb goes: Al Boussy Yahoody wa Yahoody al Boussy –villagers of Beyt Bouss are the Jews and the Jews are Beyt Bouss villagers - Like in many other places in Yemen, there were Muslims and Jewish living in Beyt Bouss. According to tradition both communities lived however in very distinct areas, coexisting but never truly blending in.

While Muslims were housed within the walls of the main village, the Jewish community had settled on its outskirts, right outside the walls. At the time –some 200 years ago – Sheikh Ali Mohsen al-Hawlani, ancestor to the Mugalli family in Beyt Bouss, stroked a deal with the Jewish community.

Then, a village called Beyt al-Mahfad, was often complaining that sheep belonging to the Jewish community were illegally grazing on their lands, damaging their crops. In order to prevent a full blown tribal conflict Sheikh al-Hawlani had often to mediate a peaceful settlement – offering a cow or money as compensation – Since money at that time was somewhat of a rare commodity, Beyt Bouss villagers were always asked to pinch in and cover the amount through donations as the Jews could not come up with the full amount. After the same issues repeated itself several times, the Beyt Bouss Sheikh, who fully understood that the Jews were as much a part of his community as his fellow Muslims decided to make them a fully-pledged members of Beyt Bouss, asking them to as well participate when Muslim families were in need of the community, through payments in kinds and money.

Beyt Bouss became one united-multi-cultural and religious community. Since that very day, Jews and Muslims have lived as brothers in Beyt Bouss sharing through the hard and good times, always lending each other a hand when needed.



 A water tank in Beyt Bouss, lying out of the ancient wall, separating the part where Muslim community has lived from the part where Jewish community has settled. Behind the water tank there are some of the houses where Jews have lived.



Visiting Beyt Bouss

 
As mentioned before, Beyt Bouss today is situated in the southern part of Sana’a. From 50 Street, you can drive up to Beyt Bouss quite easily since the road has been paved! You will park your car on the stone plateau, just behind the actual village.

If arriving on a Friday afternoon, you will hardly find a place to park, as many Boussy people will arrive with their Land Cruisers and chew Qat for hours on end, leaving you stranded. The beautiful point of view is much praise by locals and is most definitely worth the peak.


A stone arched entrance to the Beyt Bouss village
 
The path that leads to the village has been elegantly stone paved a few years ago. On your right you will see a big water tank that was once the village’s main reservoir. You will enter the settlement through the stone arch, which has been preserved, unlike the village former defense system, its wall. If you have a look to your right, you will see a small settlement lying under the rock, where was the ancient Jewish settlement.

 
In the past, here was a small market area of the village
 
There are still remains of the modest synagogue. The village is alive today, but the inhabitants are not Jewish of course – all are but gone. Destitute people from Haima tribe entered the houses and are now living there. When entering the village you will pass a modest, but lovely mosque, serving for the few families that still live inside old Beyt Bouss village. The owners of the castle houses all live in their new houses, down, along the 50 Street. From the castle you will have a great look over the Nahdeyn Mountains right through the Nation's Mosque (before being called Presidential Mosque) in Sabaeen Square.

A view from the northern side of the village that overlooks Sana’a. All the area south from “The breasts” mountains, is nowadays Beyt Bouss area, crossed by 50 Street.

You can enter some of the stone houses; local kids will tell you which one is safe enough to climb in. The remains of the kitchens and storage rooms are well seen. Another approach to Beyt Bouss village is to walk from new Beyt Bouss area up to the castle. The easiest is to first come to Beyt Bouss cemetery and then head further. Maybe ask the local boys and they will happily show you the way up. You will walk along the small stony path, between the cactus trees and in 5-10 min will arrive to the top.
From there you will have a nice view over Beyt Bouss dam and the lake behind. If you want to see tribal men in their best clothes and jambiyas, you don’t need to go to Wadi Dhar but instead come on Friday morning to the Beyt Bouss dam.

At Eternal Yemen, tour operator, we can organize a trip to Beyt Bouss at any moment. The excursion can be combined with other activities, such as trekking, having traditional lunch or visiting other attractions like the new mosque etc. Contact us for all the informations !

 
Each Friday several Yemeni families pay a visit to the Beyt Bouss dam. The men are usually dressed in traditional Yemeni outfit, with long, white robe called zanna, a shawl, a suit, and with mandatory curved Yemeni dagger called jambiya.


Author of the text and photographer: Tina Zorman, Eternal Yemen tour and travel operator




2 comments:

  1. Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favor:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Yemen? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Yemen in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Avenida Juan de la Cierva, 44
    28902 Getafe (Madrid)
    Spain

    If you wish, you can visit my blog www.cartasenmibuzon.blogspot.com where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

    Emilio Fernandez

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    Replies
    1. Querido Emilio,

      Thank you very much for your comment to our blog !

      We'll be happy to send you a postal letter with some nice stamps from Yemen. I'll do it next week and usually takes 2-3 weeks to reach European countries.

      Take care and all the best to you and your dearest ones !

      Tina

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