This excellent work is the finest overview of the history and current state of Yemen from the period of the Second Ottoman Occupation of the country (1849 – 1918), when the Turks had to battle continuous guerrilla wars to maintain their presence in this strategically valuable, yet the most distant, part of their empire. The work was to capitalize on the intense contemporary Turkish fascination with this precious, but troublesome land.
The present work consists of two volumes, here bound together. The first volume commences by exploring the history of Yemen, including a fascinating chart that showcases the Ancient Yemeni alphabets. It then goes on to discuss the geography and the current state of the country, before concluding with a folding harbour plan, and a larger, beautifully colourful general political map of Yemen; interestingly the verso of the map features a coloured orographic profile of the mountainous country (these plates are given in duplicate in the second volume).
The second volume continues the narrative on the current tumultuous state of the nation, and features five plates of photo reproductions of city views and a map, and concludes with a relatively large detailed folding general map of the country (different from the former) that labels seemingly all significant cities, towns and villages as well major roads; it is apparently derived from the mapping executed by Ottoman military engineers.
The work is rare on the market, especially with both volumes present, and this example is a remarkable clean and crisp, with uncut pages.
A Brief History of Ottoman Yemen
Yemen is one of the most ancient and culturally rich and diverse lands in the Middle East. It was traditionally also the source of great wealth; its interior produced coffee and silver, while its coastal ports were for millennia great marts of trade. Its strategic location often ensured that control of Yemen led to naval dominance of the Red Sea, the most vital maritime link between South and East Asia and Europe.
The Ottomans first conquered much of the country in 1517, creating the Eyelet of Yemen, which extended from the Bab-el-Mandeb northwards to include what are today the Jazan and Asir provinces of Saudi Arabia (the Aden region and the Hadramawt were then considered peripheral). From the eyelet’s capital, the port of Mocha, the Ottomans derived considerable revenue from trading the region’s commodities and slaves, while their presence in Yemen anchored their control of the Red Sea. However, over the succeeding decades the Ottomans faced increasingly effective resistance from communities in the interior, such that their effective rule was confined the ‘Tihama’, the coastal plain along the Red Sea. In particular, the warriors of Qasim the Great (ruled 1597-1620), a Zaidiyyah imam, severely weakened Ottoman rule, to the point where the Turks withdrew form Yemen altogether in 1636. For the next two centuries Yemen remained free of direct Ottoman influence and was generally governed by a succession of local potentates.
In 1839, Britain founded a naval base at Aden, and gradually attempted to spread its influence throughout the Arabian Sea coast of Yemen. Meanwhile, the Sublime Porte was facing tremendous pressure from Egypt, its unruly and powerful former vassal. The government of Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid I faced the prospect of being squeezed out of the Red Sea altogether. Most worrisome was the threat of losing control of the Hejaz, which contained the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina. If that were to happen the Sultan’s claim to be the
Caliph, or the Protector, of Islam would be undercut. Accordingly, Ottoman forces were sent to reconquer Yemen in 1849.
While it helped that some Yemeni tribes welcomed the Ottomans, hoping to unite with them against their local enemies, Turkish forces had a difficult time pacifying the country and their power was for many years limited the Tihama coastal plain. Control of the interior, with its wealth in silver and coffee, remained elusive, as on old opponents, the Zaidiyyah imams, mounted an effective resistance.
The opening of the Anglo-French dominated Suez Canal, in 1869, intensified the Ottoman resolve to control Yemen. In 1872, massive Ottoman forces invaded the country, defeating the Zaidiyyah and taking Sana’a. They create the Vilayet of Yemen and sought to integrate the country into the Ottoman Empire. However, continuous guerrilla resistance hindered their ability to control the rural interior, despite concerted military strikes and the payment of large bribes to various tribal leaders.
In 1904, Yahya Muhammad Hamid ed-Din (1869 – 1948), the Imam of the Zaidiyyah, mounted a large-scale and well-organized rebellion that pinned down vast numbers of Ottoman troops. Despite the best efforts of the Turkish commanders, the insurrection seemed to only gain strength as the years drew on. Eventually, the Sublime Porte, facing severe pressures elsewhere, simply could not continue paying the heavy price in blood and treasure. In 1911, just after the present work was published, the Ottomans made peace with Yahya Muhammad Hamid ed-Din, whereby his regime was to be given autonomous control over Northern Yemen, while technically recognizing de jure Ottoman sovereignty. This state of play continued until the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of World War I (1914-8), whereupon all Turkish forces were withdrawn from Yemen.
References: OCLC 794910886, 837623793, 984464715, 644881829, 13213720, 164890497, 977325418, 164890494; BDK – ÖZEGE; 22959 – TBTK; 5126