Establishing Peace in Hadhramaut: a study of Hadhramaut’s experience in eliminating the tribal feud 1933–1953 (ihlal al-salaam fi Hadhramaut: dirasah tarikhiyah li tajribat Hadhramaut fi al-qadha’‘ala althar al-qabali)
by Abdul Aziz bin Ali bin Salah Al-Qu’aiti, Arabian Publishing Ltd, London, 2009. Arabic. Pp. 430. Maps. Illus. Bibliog. Index. Hb. £50. ISBN 978-0-9558894-1-7.
This book discusses the process which brought peace to Hadhramaut, a region which for generations until the late 1930s had been bedevilled by blood feuds and tribal warfare. It builds on the extensive research carried out by the author in collaboration with the Sudanese historian, Dr Muhammad Said al-Qaddal (now sadly deceased), for their biography (1999) of the author’s father, Sultan Ali bin Salah Al-Qu’aiti. During the 1930s Sultan Ali administered the hinterland of the Qu’aiti State on behalf of his cousin, Sultan Salih bin Ghalib Al Qu’aiti, who divided his time between his coastal capital, Mukalla, and his property in Hyderabad.
The author tells how by the mid 1930s Britain’s geopolitical interest in bringing stability to the region coincided with the urgent desire of leading Hadhramis to establish peace and security in their turbulent homeland. Harold Ingrams was Britain’s chosen instrument and was posted to the region in 1936, having made a nine week exploratory visit there with his wife, Doreen, in 1934. The author identifies Sultan Ali bin Salah, Sultan Ali bin Mansour, Ruler of the Kathiri State (centred on Seiyun and Tarim in Wadi Hadhramaut), and the celebrated Hadhrami philanthropist, Sayyid
Abubakr bin Sheikh al Kaff, as ‘men of enlightenment’ who acted as Ingrams’ principal co-adjutors. Together they succeeded in negotiating a three year truce, signed by some 1400 tribal chiefs, and later extended for a further ten years. The author divides the credit for this historic achievement fairly equally between Ingrams (who was able to call upon the RAF in Aden to bring two recalcitrant tribes to heel) and his Hadhrami colleagues.
The author devotes about a third of the book to an analysis of the historical background to the long and arduous business of pacification. He draws on a diversity of Western and Arabic sources, and includes a detailed biographical note, in English and Arabic, on Harold and Doreen Ingrams, written by their daughter Leila.
The rest of the book comprises a treasure house of original documentation largely connected with the peace-making efforts outlined and discussed by the author. Much of this documentation is published for the first time and includes correspondence between Sultan Ali bin Salah, British officials (mainly Ingrams) and local political actors; it also includes a number of tribal treaties and agreements. An explanatory note is helpfully appended to each manuscript (the note, however, on page 145 does not relate to the text above it), and each manuscript is fully reproduced in typescript in the last section of the book.
The author deserves to be congratulated not only on making such a wealth of original material accessible to future researchers and area specialists (conversant with Arabic), but also for his readable and balanced presentation of the historical background to the establishment of peace in the region. The text is illustrated with numerous period photographs, including images of many of the personalities involved in the peace process. Although a bit heavy to handle, this book is a production of exceptional quality, with a sewn binding and cloth covers.
Yemen’s former Prime Minister, Abdul Qadir Ba Jammal, contributes a Foreword to the book, and shares the author’s view that Yemen today can draw useful lessons from Hadhramaut’s experience in bringing tribal feuding to an end during the first half of last century.