Gone with the wind?

Bab al-Yemen at Sanaa

Comment: Well, Pilgrim Turcopoles, “Yemen” as a nation state was always a bit of a fantasy, an illusion fostered by students of geopolitics and foreign diplomats.

The SW corner of the Arabian peninsula is thought of in the Arab lands as the original homeland of Arabness and the Arabic language. This is the Land of Qahtan, the land we now call Yemen. All the other “Arabs” are thought by the Arabs to be Arabicized. In the Arabian Peninsula the Arabicized are Semites to be sure but not of Qahtan, the original Arab stock. And Pilgrims, the farther and farther one proceeds from SW Arabia the more that is true. Egyptians, for example are only remotely anything like the original Qahtan stock. Does that matter? Probably not.

The wild mountains and deserts of SW Arabia have never been ruled as a united entity by anyone.

The Ottomans ruled the Red Sea coast region and the mountainous interior all the way down to Sanaa. The Ottoman Army barracks in Sanaa were interesting artifacts of Turkish power when I lived in the city. The Ottomans were there in northern Yemen but they never succeeded in holding much more than the big towns and the roads.

They shared control of northern Yemen with the Zeidi Shia Imam, a poltico-religious “monarch” to whom the mountain tribesmen of the north gave their fealty. He functioned as a feudal subordinate of the Ottomans in a shaky and ramshackle relationship that never “fit” very well.

Down in the far south the British Indian Empire established in the 19th Century a coaling refueling station at Aden on the long sea routes to India, Australia, etc. Once established at Aden the Brits were faced with a maze of petty statelets surrounding their colony. Sultanates, sheikhdoms, emirates, kingdoms. these little “countries were pressed hard upon the borders of the Crown Colony of Aden. In self defense the British annexed some of these, made treaties with others. But, Pilgrim Turcopoles, with every expansion of their sphere of influence the British were faced with yet another frontier crammed full of more little states. Eventually the line of British “control” reached the southernmost limit of Ottoman “control.”

Off to the east in Wadi Hadramaut and beyond there were yet more of the little statelets extending to the edges of the lands claimed by the Ibadhi Sultan of Oman.

After the demolition of the Ottoman empire the Imam of Yemen “ruled” in the north until his government was overthrown by military officers in 1962. There followed a civil war betwixt the Royalists (who wanted the Imam restored) and the Republicans supported by Nasser’s Egypt. There is a huge Egyptian military cemetery in Sanaa.

Yemen? A figment of the Western political mind. The author of the article is mistaken in thinking that a Yemeni “nation state’ should be re-established. There never was such a thing. There have been governments in those barren lands, but never anything like a “nation state.” pl

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8 Responses to Gone with the wind?

  1. Thank you for your insights. I thought you’d appreciate the article.

  2. Sam says:

    Col. Lang,

    Isn’t that the case not just in the Middle East but also in other parts of the world that were colonized? Is there for example an Indian state with each state therein having its own language and culture? How about in Africa and Latin America?

    Do you believe we’ll see centrifugal forces that cause current nations and their borders to fracture?

    • Pat Lang says:


      yes but I have tough time seeing the Yemen as having been colonized except for the area right around Aden City

  3. Deap says:

    Fun travel read – “Motoring with Mohammed” – adventures in Yemen some years ago:

  4. turcopolier says:


    They did crucifixions in front of this gate until the 50s.

  5. DH says:

    Colonel, you are an inverse Cassandra. You know the truth, but nobody wants to know.

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