Tina Zorman and Eternal Yemen in Slovene media

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why you should travel to Socotra Island - video by our client, Wandering Earl

Get a quick look to Socotra Island, as it was seen by Eternal Yemen's client, permanent nomad Wandering Earl, that has visited Socotra recently

Socotra Island can be visited all year round, but because of strong winds in summer months, it's the best to plan your visit between September and May.

Eternal Yemen is one of the most reliable organizers of the tours round Socotra Island and in the island cooperates strictly with Socotrian people.

Anyone that wish to visit this amazing and unique place in the Earth should contact us to info@eternal-yemen.com



Create Your Eternal Travel Tale with us !


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Jabal Shogruf - the hidden gem of Haraz Mountains and part of Urbanistan, an international art project of Matjaz Krivic, which through photography explores the urban environment of the third world.

Finally we see our destination lying several hundred meters in front of us and we are speachless. It feels as if we have reached the edge of the world.
Eagerly we hasten our steps to explore the fortified homes perched precipitously on the edge of the cliff...

You will experience this and more when discovering Haraz Mountains with Eternal Yemen, tour and travel operator. In the article below in this post, that was first published in Yemen Today Magazine, February 2013, you will get an idea on what do the Haraz Mountains, lying west of Sana'a, have to offer.

But before reading the article, I'll let you know why I decided to post this today.

The fascinating Shogruf Mountain (Jabal Shogruf) is also one of exceptional photographs in Urbanistan, an international art project of Slovenian photographer Matjaz Krivic, which through photography explores the urban environment of the third world. Today, 18.05. 2013 at 20.00 is the opening of exhibition in Ethnographic Museum in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The project Urbanistan aims to demonstrate that urban in third world countries does not necessarily mean modern and to draw attention of the general public to the slowly declining social values that are sinking under increasing pressures of modernization. The main focus of the exhibition is to search and explore the points where people and communities develop and intwine in the urbanity of humanity. In this context, we can also say that Urbanistan brings sophisticated visual photo essay of the primary human nature and human values.

The Shogruf Mountain by Matjaz Krivic 

 More about the exhibition you can find here:

Thank you Matjaz, to show Slovenia one of the multiple faces of Yemen !

Contact us for all details: 


Tuesday, May 7, 2013


The following piece was written by Tina Zorman from Eternal Yemen Tours, exclusively for Yemen Today, October 2012

As you head south of Sana'a, the winding road takes you over the high mountain passes and descends into verdant valleys, which guide you to the green and fertile Ibb Governorate. Trying to find your way in the chaotic traffic of the suburbs of Ibb you will feel that it must truly be one of the most densely populated areas in Yemen.  As you turn right of the main road it’s a relief when you exit the city and leave the millions of blaring horns behind. Our destination is Jibla, which lies 9km away from Ibb, nestled between the two wadis and fertile fields of sorghum and other cereals.  Jibla is a small town today, almost unknown because of its much bigger neighbor, Ibb. On the contrary, in 11th century, Jibla was the capital of Sulayhi dynasty, that gave Yemen one of the most peaceful and prosperous periods in its history.

      A view over Jibla

Once you negotiate the traffic of new Jibla, you will have a view over the old houses leaning on the hillside. Your approach to the town will be via the ancient, stone paved road, taking you over an elegant, small, stone bridge into to the picturesque town, where your driver can rest under the shaddow of the old ficus tree. The local youngsters will meet and greet you and offer to be your guides. However, discovering Jiblah with Eternal Yemen can be a great experience, as our guide Reima, a local girl in her early twenties, speaks several foreign languages and invites you to her home. Reima, her father, and her numerous brothers and sisters are our old friends and as she always says »your friends are my friends«, so our clients are always warmly welcomed in her home.

Jibla supposedly already existed at the beginning of our era, during the time of the Himyarite Kingdom, as some remains from that time have been found on Jabal Takar, a mountain located behind Jibla. However, the town was small and insignificant until the moment when Sayyida bint Ahmed, known also as Queen Arwa settled there in 11th century.

Queen Arwa was a Queen of the Sulayhi dynasty who followed the Fatimid branch of Ismaili Islam (basically they were Shi'a who recognized the Caliphs who were descendant of Prophet Mohammed's daughter Fatima). At the beginning of 11th century Ali al Sulayhi, the founder of Sulayhi dynasty started to spread this ideology deep in the Haraz Mountains, near Jabal Masar, due to oppression by the Zaydis and Sunnis in the cities. After 20 years of proselytizing his religion, he accumulated enough followers to proclaim the faith he followed as the right one. He proceeded to conquer Sana'a, and become a king and his family ruled from Sana'a as vassals of the Egyptian Fatimids.

After the death of her parents, King Ali as Sulayhi and his wife Queen Asma adopted their niece Sayyida bint Ahmed (later Queen Arwa: 1048 - 1138). She was a tall, white skinned, bright girl of a good health and a honest, pure-heart personality. She was a keen student and was raised and taught in their palace in what is today's old Sana'a city, with Queen Asma being her most influential teacher. She didn’t neglect to teach Sayyida that the wife of a king is not intended to sit passively next to her husband, but expected to actively help him in his duties as a ruler. Sayyida loved reading, poetry and history and later in her life also became a writer. Once Sayyida revealed her dreams to her aunt and said that she dreamt that she was cleaning the palace, Queen Asma recognized in her niece the future leader and said that she will be the one to cleanse the palace of corruption.

Sayyida bint Ahmed married her cousin, Mukarram, the son of Queen Asma and King Ali. It is reputed that her dowry was the yearly amount of revenue of the port city of Aden. They had 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls. The boys passed away at an early age, and the girls followed a while later. When King Ali was murdered by the Najahids, the rival dynasty that ruled from Zabid, his son Mukarram assumed rulership. It is said that he was not a strong ruler and many times he turned for advice to his mother Asma. Queen Asma knew that her daughter in law, Sayyida Bint Ahmed had a much stronger personality and said prior to her death Sayyida should be the ruler of the kingdom. Some speculate that after the death of his mother, Mukarram started to drink heavily and passed on the reigns to his wife (according to some theories his face also was paralyzed). This was a unique event, as there were not many female rulers in the Islamic world.

The remains of "The First Palace"

Sayyida bint Ahmed, now a queen, was tired of intrigues and militaristic behavior of the Sanaani people and the growing pressure of Zaydis from the north, so she moved to Jibla, a tiny town situated in the midst of fields. She found herself much more at ease among the peasants of Jibla and started her new life as a Queen there. She was an intelligent, wise and modest ruler, widely popular among her people during her time right up until now.  She was also the first and the last woman in history of Ismailism to obtain the high rank of hujja, the leader of religious community (dawa) in particular region, in the Ismaili hierarchy. The Fatimid Caliph at that time had put Queen Arwa in charge of the affairs in the Ismaili dawa in western India and she has played a crucial role in spreading Ismailism in the Indian subcontinent. As a result, a new Ismaili community was established in Gujarat, India, in 1067-1068 and this played an important role in future economic relation between India and Yemen. In addition, under her rule, most of the Ismaili texts from the Fatimid Ismailism were preserved. During the same period, the Ismaili world was split by two schisms and eventually the Ismaili community from Yemen and Gujarat in India were known as Tayyibi Ismailis. The last spiritual ruler of this community is Dr. Mohammed Burhanuddin who renewed the connections between the community in Yemen and India. These days many Indian pilgrims come to Yemen, on the occasions being the last days of Shabaan, the month before the Holy month of Ramadan.

When she moved to Jibla, she transformed the existing palace into the mosque and then built a new palace which was called Dar al Izz al Auwal, or »The First Palace". Today one can have a great view over the remains of this palace from the Great mosque (many times called also Queen Arwa’s mosque), but nobody is sure whether these are the remains of the original palace or some later palace, erected on the same location.

When she moved to Jibla, she transformed the existing palace into the mosque and then built a new palace which was called Dar al Izz al Auwal, or »The First Palace.

She believed in equality of the sexes and it was during the time of her rule that several schools and mosques for the girls were established in Jibla. She took care of agriculture and ordered the construction of terraces. In the time of her rule, several aqueducts were built that brought water to Jibla, the surrounding villages, and also to the Islamic center Yifrus, which lies 50 km south of Jibla. Water and water distribution were important tasks for her and she also wrote 2 books, one on irrigation and one on aquatic plants. As a result she got a nick name Arwa, which means a quencher of water, which later became her historical name. Being educated and a poet herself, she was also a supporter of the arts. People admired their Queen, as she spent the wealth of the country on the well-being of the people. She was always among them, and when you walk along the tiny streets near Queen Arwa's mosque, Reima will show you where the Queen was supposed to have greeted her people in the market.

Of course she had to contend with problems as well, such as the constant battles with Najahids, the rulers of hot Tihama. She has used her wit and wisdom, to eliminate one of the Najahid rulers and thus managed to avenge the death of her uncle, King Ali. After the death of her husband, one of her generals tried to marry her, but she repeatedly refused. He attempted to use deceit and entrapment to force her into marriage, but his acts only worsened the situation. He never won her heart and her constant public refusals humiliated him so much that he finally gave up. The Sulayhi dynasty ended in 1038 with the death of Queen Arwa, it’s most remarkable leader.

Yemenis are really proud of this extraordinary woman and sometimes they call her little Bilquis, as she was the second female ruler in Yemen's written history. It is not a coincidence that so many girls in Jibla are named Arwa and that several educational institutions and support groups across Yemen adopted the name of this great queen.

HOUSES: Jibla’s houses are 800-900 years old, built from the local greyish, brown stone and tightly packed on a hillside. Most of the houses have 3 floors, occasionally some are higher, but they always host only one family. At the lowest floor, the families keep their agricultural tools and their goats and sheep. The first floor is usually the diwan, a living room, where they host visitors or chew qat in the afternoon. In higher floors there are rooms for men and rooms for women and usually near the top of the house there is a kitchen that allows the smoke to rise out of the house and into the air.  Most of Jibla’s inhabitants live a simple life and Reima’s family is no exception. Her family certainly differs from the others, as they are less conservative and they don’t mind to host groups of mixed sexes of foreign visitors in their living room. If you will visit the family in the afternoon, you will always meet Reima’s father in their small, cozy living room, chewing his daily bunch of qat and smoking tobacco from a madda, a Yemeni waterpipe. You will be offered delicious, sweet tea, infused with cardamom and cinnamon. Maybe you will be invited to the upper floors where the rooms are much simpler, with only plastic covering the muddy floors. Reima is always ready for a chat and you

Jibla’s houses are 800-900 years old, built from the local greyish, brown stone and tightly packed on a hillside.

can actually choose the language that you want to converse in as she is fluent in English, German, Italian, French, Spanish and Arabic. This is a remarkable achievement as she has learnt all these languages solely by working with tourists, with the exception of German for which she attended a course in Sana’a. Reima is currently studying at the University in Ibb, and she has many ambitions and doesn’t plan to get married soon. Getting her education is her first priority as she is aware that education will open many doors for her.

THE MOSQUE OF QUEEN ARWA: When Queen Arwa moved to Jibla, she converted the existing palace into the mosque in 1088 AD. Apart from being a religious institution, the mosque has also served as a medressa, a school for young boys and girls. Queen Arwa had a room in the southern wing, where she spent a lot of time reading and writing her books. During the 17th century, the public toilets and bathrooms became part of the mosque. The Great Mosque is still active today and there is Koranic school attached to it. The mosque has an inner courtyard with a round ablution pool, followed by a columned covered yard, while the most northern part of the complex is the mosque itself. Generally the mosque complex design is simple, as is often in Yemen, however it has beautiful stucco decorations (in gypsum) with an especially impressive decoration of mihrab, a niche in the mosque which indicates the direction of Mecca.

The inner courtyard of Queen Arwa's mosque

Nowadays visitors can reach the mosque from the northern side after climbing the steps that leads to the mosque from the market area. From there you have a wonderful view over the town, the remains of the palace Dar al Iz and over the Sheikh Yacoob’s mosque among other things. The beautifully carved wooden doors that lead to the mosques’s courtyard are original and are estimated to be approximately 950 years old. There are two minarets, the white one is supposed to date from the beginning of the mosque’s existence, while the one constructed of red bricks and gypsum decorations is around 500 years old. As many reconstructions have been carried out on the mosque in the past few years, your local guide will tell you from which entrance you are allowed to enter. The main attraction of the mosque

The main attraction of the mosque is beautifully carved tomb of Queen Arwa, decorated with Koranic inscriptions.

is beautifully carved tomb of Queen Arwa, decorated with Koranic inscriptions. Several times in history extremists from other religious groups tried to damage the tomb, because they considered the Ismaili faith heretic. Usually only Muslims are allowed to enter a mosque, while non-Muslim tourists can sometimes only have a look at the courtyard and a brief look at the interior of the mosque from the entrance. At Eternal Yemen we can arrange for our visitors to enter for a moment and have a closer look at Queen Arwa’s mosque, or you can simply sit on the stairs in the inner courtyard and enjoy the peace in the presence of local elders praying or reading the Qura’an.

Beautifully carved mihrab in Queen Arwa's mosque

QUEEN ARWA’S MUSEUM: This little museum hosts several items which belonged to Queen Arwa. There are many photographs and on the second floor there is a script which proclaims that she was such a great queen that Kings would be ashamed to stand next to her. The upper floor has many photographs of Baptists who worked in Jiblah hospital for past few decades. Until today, Jiblah hospital is known to be amongst the best in the region, as many foreign doctors work there; from the USA, the Netherlands and Russia. There was an incident in 1995, when three American doctors in the hospital were killed during a terrorist attack, however this is not mentioned in the museum.
All this history, with a remarkable female ruler, has left Jibla’s inhabitants proud of their home town and Jibla’s girls more ambitious then in many other places in Yemen. Reima is a bright example of an ambitious, bright young girl and such girls are the future of this country. 

Reima (on the right) and me (Tina Zorman)

“Discover Jibla with Eternal Yemen“
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