Chairman's Report 2002

Tenth Annual General Meeting, 25 June, 2002.

At our last AGM we said goodbye to our Honorary Co-President, H.E. Dr Hussain al-Amri, who has returned to Sana’a but remains an honorary member of the Society. In his place we are very pleased to welcome H.E. Dr Mutahar Abdullah Al-Saeede, who presented his credentials as the new ambassador of the Republic of Yemen at the end of October and subsequently became our Honorary Co-President.

After the summer holiday recess we resumed our lecture programme in October with an illustrated talk by Shelagh Weir on the "Crafts of Yemen". In November, Dr Trevor Marchand of the School of Oriental & African Studies described in his illustrated lecture to a joint meeting of our Society and the Society for Arabian Studies, how the distinctive shape and beauty of the Yemeni minaret was achieved and how the skills were passed down from master builder to apprentice. The autumn programme concluded in December with a presentation by Ian Harmond on the EC-funded Master Plan for Soqotra.

In the New Year, the Letchworth Museum Art Gallery arranged an exhibition to celebrate the life and work of Abdo Nagi whose obituary was published in the last edition of the Journal. Our first lecture of the year was given by Mohammed Almasyabi who introduced us to the work of the Yemeni Development Foundation, a charity that was launched in March 2000 to give advice and assistance to the Yemeni community in this country and in Yemen itself. Our Society has contributed to a project to provide Braille computers for the al-Aman Welfare Society in Sana’a to train blind girls.

In March, Marta Paluch introduced her book ‘ Yemeni Voices - Women tell their stories’, giving a vivid insight into the changing lives of the women whom she had interviewed for a British Council project while she was working in Yemen.

Our next speaker was Caroline Singer, a member of the Society, who lectured to a joint meeting with the Anglo-Omani Society on "The Frankincense Trail - travels in Oman & Yemen". She delivered a fascinating talk illustrated with slides to a full house. The final lecture in our spring programme was a talk by Jane Diamond, who had just returned from visiting Yemen, on The Establishment & Management of a Family Planning Centre: organisational objectives versus local expectations’. She has worked for Marie Stopes International in Yemen and wrote an article for the journal in 1998 about her experiences in this important field. Unfortunately a personal misfortune prevented her from delivering the lecture, which has been postponed until next year.

Once again we are grateful for the co-operation of the Society for Arabian Studies and the Anglo-Omani Society in arranging joint meetings and avoiding clashes over lecture dates. Throughout the year under review we have been invited to several meetings about Yemen arranged by the Middle East Association (MEA). In October there was a discussion group meeting at which Mustafa Rajamanar, the British Vice-Consul (Commercial) in Aden, spoke about business opportunities. In January, Captain Roy Facey spoke once again about ‘Aden Port Development’, which is fast becoming an annual event in our calendar. In March the Yemeni Foreign Minister, Dr Abu Bakr al-Qirbi addressed a discussion group meeting at the MEA during his official visit to Britain. In early June, Ambassador Frances Guy, on a brief visit from Sana’a, also addressed the MEA. We are most grateful to the Mae's Director, Brian Constant, for inviting members of our Society to attend these events, and for the continued use of the MEA as a venue for some of our lectures.

On your behalf I should also like to thank the Committee for their support over the year. A major concern of the Committee has been to contribute to the side events connected with the British Museum ‘Queen of Sheba’ Exhibition which was launched on 5 June in the presence of a strong Yemeni delegation led by the Minister of Culture and several hundred guests. To this end we have co-sponsored with Dr Abdul Aziz al-Qua’iti, a member of our Society, an exhibition of Freya Stark’s photographs taken during her travels in Southern Arabia, which opened earlier this month at Magdalen College, Oxford. We have also contributed to the projects bringing musicians from Yemen to perform at various venues in London from 27 to 30 June and in Cardiff on 2 July, and another smaller group of Yemeni players who will be performing in London from 18 to 21 July.

We are planning to have three more lecture meetings this year, details of which will be circulated to the membership with the forthcoming tenth anniversary issue of the Journal.

In view of the events of last year it was not possible to arrange a British- Yemeni Society Tour to Yemen, but Alan D’Arcy has worked tirelessly to arrange a tour this autumn. The Foreign Office Travel advice remains discouraging but several members of the Society have made private visits to Yemen; clearly a close eye must be kept on security with the continuing tension in the region. The latest FCO travel advice is available on the internet.

I congratulate the Embassy on the establishment of a web site, which will be much appreciated by those of our members with internet access.

In conclusion I should like to thank H.E. the Ambassador and his staff for hosting our AGM and for the generous hospitality shown to the Society.

Douglas Gordon

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