Eighth Annual General Meeting, 21 June 2000.
As you know, I took over as Chairman from Stephen Day in September 1999. I should like to take this opportunity to thank him for his period of stewardship.
Since the last AGM, the Society has held regular meetings which for the most part have been well attended. I will not mention details of the lecture programme up to the end of October 1999, since these were listed in the December issue of the Journal. In November, Dr Fuad al-Nahdi, the Editor of Q-News, spoke on The Influence and Impact of Yemenis in East Africa, and in December we had a joint lecture with the Society for Arabian Studies at which Dr St. John Simpson spoke on Vice or Virtue?: Early reactions to the spread of tobacco in Arabia.
In the first half of this year we have held four meetings. In January at a joint meeting with the Middle East Association, Captain Roy Facey gave us an update on the development of Aden Port; and in February, John MeHugo discussed the legal basis of the decision on the Yemen-Eritrea dispute over Hunaish island. Special mention must be made of Bader Ben Hirsi’s documentary film onYemen, The English Sheikh and Yemeni Gentleman, which we showed in March to a packed hall. It had been our intention to show a shortened version of the film after the AGM today, but so far there is only the 75 minute video, which will be shown next month during the Seminar for Arabian Studies. In due course we hope the film will become available on video-cassette. In April, Peter Hincheliffe gave a talk entitled Dhala’ Diary, 1966, which he illustrated with slides and film taken at the time. The text of his talk will appear in the forthcoming issue of the Journal.
I must thank our Editor for his hard work in producing the excellent December issue, which, due to a last minute crisis in the printing of it, was not available for distribution until January. The demand for it, not least from our friends in Yemen, was gratifying and we are planning to increase the print-run of the next issue. As mentioned in our last newsletter, we have decided to move production of the Journal from the end of year to mid-year.
In addition, I should like to pay tribute to the support I have had from Julian Paxton, as Secretary, and from Alan D’Arcy, as Treasurer, in keeping the Society’s affairs in good order.
Sadly, several of us were amongst the many who gathered to say farewell to Jim Ellis, our vice-president, in late January. A founder member of this Society, he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
On a happier note, we congratulate our co-president, Victor Henderson, on the award of his C.M.G.
We regret losing the services of Sa’id Hadi Awadh on the Committee, as the Yemen Embassy representative, but we were delighted to hear of — and now record our congratulations on — his appointment as Ambassador to Kuwait. We await news of his successor, but meanwhile the gap he left is being filled by Raid Salem.
Our members have been active. Last September, Carl Phillips contributed to a symposium held in Sana’a on the material culture of Yemen, and in December returned to the Tihamah for a fifth season at the early Sabaean site of al-Hamid. Meanwhile, Julian Lush arranged at short notice a weekend in Munich for a few members of the Society to see the Yemen Archaeological exhibition, which has since moved to Rome. In January this year Bill Heber Percy, with John Shipman, led a small group of artists toYemen.
Our Christmas appeal for the Ras Morbat Clinic, Aden, raised £1,000, and I thank members for their generosity towards this worthy cause.
For reasons which are well known to you, we could not arrange a Society tour to Yemen in 1999, but, subject to the usual caveats, Alan D’Arcy is planning to lead one in October/November this year.
We have kept in constant touch with the Foreign Office on the subject of travel advice and have lobbied for less stringent restrictions. Clearly there are still places where it would be unwise to go. Although we are hopeful that a tour can be arranged - and those of our members who have visited Yemen in recent months have been very well received - we, as a Society, have to err on the side of caution. Unfortunately there have been two kidnapping incidents within the past two weeks: one involving a visiting Norwegian diplomat (killed) and his son, and the other a senior Italian archaeologist. Such incidents obviously rule out any early relaxation of FCO travel advice. But this month has also brought some very good news, namely that Yemen and Saudi Arabia have finally reached agreement on their long-standing border dispute. This is a remarkable achievement, following hard on the heels of the tenth anniversary of unification on 22 May. On the occasion of that anniversary, I have already on your behalf asked His Excellency the Ambassador to convey our congratulations to President Salih, but I am sure you would wish me to ask him to send a further message expressing our warmest congratulations on the historic border treaty whichYemen has now concluded with Saudi Arabia.
Looking ahead, I am very glad to report that the Society will be arranging an exhibition in London of works by Yemeni artists combined with paintings of Yemen by British artists. This will take place in November at the Kufa Gallery and we will be sending members full details in due course. Meanwhile, I should like to thank Bill Heber Percy and Caroline Lees for taking the lead in organising this project on behalf of the Society.
Dr Salma Damiuji has agreed to speak to a joint meeting of our Society and the Society for Arabian Studies on 11 October about her visit to Yemen in February this year. When arranging our lecture programme we try to hold joint meetings with other Societies when the subject is of mutual interest. This increases the size of the audience, helps us to recruit new members, and reduces costs by sharing expenses.
Stacey International will be publishing a new book on Yemen by Patricia and Charles Aithie. We hope that Pat, a member of our Society, will be able to talk to us about it and show us slides of some of the splendid photographs which the book will contain. Meanwhile, we congratulate David Birtles and his co-author on the publication earlier this year of The Armed Forces of Aden 1839-1967. A review will appear in the forthcoming issue of the Journal.
Finally, I should like to thank His Excellency Dr Hussain al-Amri for his generous support of the Society and for placing the facilities of the Embassy at our disposal this evening.