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Social Issues in Popular Yemeni Culture
Translated and edited by
Dr Janet Watson
From the Yemeni radio series 'Mus’id wa Mus’ida' composed by Abd al-Rahman Mutabbar; illustrated by Muhammad
al-Shaibani; Sana’a (al-Sabahi Press), 2002. Pp. 217 in English
and Arabic. Preface. Introduction. Notes. Bibliog. Pb. £6 (incl. p&p). Copies available from Dr Watson, IMEIS, Elvet Hill Road,
Durham DH1 3TU.
Since February 2002, English translations by Janet Watson of
episodes from a popular Yemeni radio series called Mus’id wa
Mus’ida, written and produced by Abd al-Rahman Mutahhar since
1988, have been published in the Yemen Times. This book
contains fifty such episodes, each of which takes the form of a
spirited, often acrimonious dialogue between husband (Mus’id) and
wife (Mus’ida); and each is illustrated with a drawing by
the Yemeni cartoonist Muhammad al-Shaibani, whose work appears in
the daily newspaper al- Thawra and enjoys great popularity.
Brought together in this book, therefore, are two forms of
contemporary Yemeni art which address social issues through satire
to raise public awareness and promote a wider sense of social
responsibility. Most of the issues covered have a bearing on the
position and treatment of women and children, health, marriage,
family planning, pollution and the environment.
Janet Watson, who has expert knowledge of colloquial Yemeni
Arabic, in particular the Sana’ani dialect, has translated the
fifty episodes into vernacular English. The result will benefit
Yemeni students of English, just as the original Arabic text, with
its pithy proverbs and apposite quotations from the Quran, will
benefit and entertain the foreign student of Arabic. But the value
of the book goes beyond linguistics. It offers many insights into
the attitudes of a traditional Muslim society seeking to adjust to
the pressures of modern development; so there is much here to
enlighten, as well as entertain, the non- Yemeni reader.
Support for the publication came from the Yemeni Social Fund for
Development, the British Embassy Sana’a, and the Leigh Douglas
Memorial Fund. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to a
children’s charity in the Old City of Sana’a.