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When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra

Samuel Liebhaber

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The Mahra people of the southern Arabian Peninsula have no written language but instead possess a rich oral tradition. Samuel Liebhaber takes readers on a tour through their poetry, collected by the author in audio and video recordings over the course of several years.

Based on this material, Liebhaber develops a systematic approach to Mahri poetry that challenges genre-based categorizations. By taking into account all Mahri poetic expressions—the majority of which don't belong to any of the known genres of Arabian poetry—Liebhaber creates a blueprint for understanding how oral poetry is conceived and composed by native practitioners. Each poem is embedded in a conceptual framework that highlights formal similarities between them and recapitulates how Mahri poets craft poems and how their audiences are primed to receive them. The framework is complemented by an accessible introduction to the historical and cultural context on the people, their region, and language.

The web-based medium allows users not only to delve into the classification system to explore the diversity and complexity of the Mahra's poetic expressions, but also to experience the formation of a poem in the moment. Through a series of questions designed to define the social context in which a poem is being created, the reader is taken on an experiential tour through the corpus that highlights the embeddedness of poetry in the Mahra's everyday practices.

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Samuel Liebhaber is Associate Professor of Arabic at Middlebury College.
© 2018 Stanford University | ISBN 9781503605251 | OCLC 1037949963 | DOI 10.21627/2018wmg | Terms of Use
A MESSAGE FROM SINǦĒR Poem composed and recited by ʾAḥmad ʿAlī Mbarek from Sinǧēr (in the mountains above Ḥawf, not far from Kzeyt) Recorded by Sam Liebhaber at one of ʾAḥmad’s seasonal settlements, March 2004 Translated with the assistance of Thabit al-Mahri (February 2, 2012) and reviewed by ʿAlī bir Nǧēma ʾĀmr Ǧīd al-Mahrī (February 4, 2012) and Muḥammad ʾĀmr Ǧīd bir Nǧēma al-Mahri (February 5, 2012) at the Ṣalālah Hotel, Ṣalālah The poet addresses a bird in this poem and asks it to deliver a message to his beloved He narrates the path that the bird messenger must take to find his beloved up the śḥeyr (the steep mountainous slopes and deep ravines that face the ocean) to the highland regions of the ḳāṭen (the uppermost ridge of the coastal range that levels off into the plateau and wādī systems of the inland nōǧed) Although this recording is difficult to hear due to ʾAḥmad’s soft voice and ambient noise, the poem was viewed by three of my consultants to represent the highest calibre of Mahri poetry This appraisal was likely due to the intricate, location-specific lexicon used by ʾAḥmad Mbarek in which he crosses the line between descriptive metaphors and specific geographical designations While the poem hews to conventional thematic tropes, ʾAḥmad uses metaphors in unprecedented ways For instance, my consultants praised ʾAḥmad’s description of his beloved’s settlement as a mendīr (“busy commercial port” < Persian bandar) as well as his likening of a road along the highland ridge to a “visible line ” They also commended ʾAḥmad’s discretion his command to the messenger to speak thoughtfully and hold back some information struck my informants as the height of etiquette and a good use of specific, yet evocative vocabulary POEM TRANSLATION ġlē [sic  ġlēḳ] ṣwākār ṭāṭ men eṭyīr Look at the falcon one of the birds! ber ḏ-ḳyīs   ḫā heh l-mōǧīś  we-m ǧedlesfēr It has made a decision like one setting out in the evening in all seriousness, [about] to travel baḫta ḏ-heh šūk leḳtīleb sʿīf  faḫra we-sinǧēr Fortunate is he who is with you I would become your travelling companion together in Sinǧēr ʾār ḏ-heh memḥayn  led emettənī lā le-ḫṭār wel-sēr The one who has been worn down has no capacity to desire to go for a walk and head off ḏ-līḳef bḳāt melzīm be-mkōn brek ḫeydīr [I am] one who is sticking to this area stuck in [this] place inside [my] little thatch cabin aḥalyen lūk šey ezehd ḏ-āḳā ḥḏōr teḥyīr I’ll explain it to you I have certainty concerning the land be careful not to lose your way ṭar ʾamḳəyōt   mśeb we-ḳfōd w-bīs śīǧēr Take the middle way going up and going down there are narrow, ascending paths w-ḳāṭenyōt  šūk ḥōrem smeḥt hṭeyres eddēr The path along the ḳāṭen  you’ll have a nice road keep going along it erkēt mesǧīd we-ḳešbāyōn  ḏ-ʾālēy ḏ-kaḥrēr Walk to Mesǧīd and Ḳešbāyōn in the heights of Ḳaḥrēr w-śōnī šēk  ḏ-ḫaṭṭ w-ʿālūm we-ḏ-fūḳaḥ ṣbēr You will see the asphalted road [made] of a visible line which has divided Ṣbēr we-ǧreh ṣwēnēḳ  wet ʾaymel effeyt  beyn ḳaʾrēr Pass by Ṣwēnēḳ until the road opens up between Ḳaʾrēr śōnī smōd ḏek bāl ʾaršīf men ḫōṭer śḥēr You will see Smōd the one that has a curve down below, [everything] is visible w-śēn meḳṣayd berkeh heryēr See the shortcut there is [???] in it w-ǧīd metḫōf  le-bʿeli ʾāḳōn  merkē w-mendīr An evening is well spent there with the folk of ʾĀḳōn a haven and a trading hub aḫalḳ ḏ-beh eḳsāʾ ḏ-rīḥōm aḫeyr  śǧēr The people there are the utmost limit of beauty it’s better for you to be thoughtful w-hem šeḫbīr ʾazemhem neṣf w-fōṣel ḫbēr And if they greet you give them half [of the news or the poet’s message] and explain the news clearly ʾāmēr śdīd  w-ḳeybel ḥal we-lbōd meḳśeyr Say “He is tired and ill before the solution (?) and has become a solitary outcast ” Poem Features A PASSION FOR BEAUTY Poem #5 from the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn, recorded by Sam Liebhaber at home, al-Ghaydha, January 27, 2004 ṭāṭ wet fṭawn ġwē ḏ-līṭōf When one remembers his passion for the ladies yʾawzem lebēr men źēr [sic ṯ̣ēr] menṯ̣ōf [sic menźōf] He resolves to leave at night from atop his bed we-ḏ-bēr ʾātlūḳ be-ḥḥerfərūf The one who has gotten hung up on these bejewelled ladies srīsen yheym we-lɛ̄d yūḳōf Wanders after them and will never again be still meḫlefsen hem ʾān teh lūṣōf Their departure is a worry if I have described it [correctly] ḫā ṭāṭ ḏ–šeḳnōh l-āsēl we-śḫōf Like one who was nourished on honey and camel’s milk we-mġōren ġyīr mtāt ḏ–ḥīźōf [sic ḥīṯ̣ōf] But afterwards changes to the pleasure [food] of the stingy ekkēs w-ārīm we-bzēr ḥeyfūf Meagre, plain bread and dry peppers and unseasoned crumbs sēn wet fetḫeyr we-lbūd nīṯ̣ōf When these women dress in their finest and beautify themselves w-ṣaf we-ḥǧūr w-ḳāś meġźōf All arrayed and sitting in a circle and have lifted their veils, we-ḳźawr k-nūn men hāl yenṭōf And they turn the blacks of their eyes to where the tears drip forth be-mlōḏa ǧyīd we-ḫšūm rīhōf With beautiful cheeks and a slender nose tnebġen ḳalb we-ṣlīb yeḳṣōf They capture your heart and dash the hard-hearted to pieces A PRAYER FOR A FAVOR Composed and recited by Yaḥyā al-Ḍāwī Belḥāf, recorded by Sam Liebhaber in Damḳawt, March 2004 Translated with help of Thābit Musallim Bakhīt Hashm Āmr Ǧīd in Ṣalālah, February 2012 Lines 8 and 9 were problematic This poem is apparently addressed to Sulṭān Qābūs of Oman and is an application for the sulṭān’s favor and generosity Literally, the poem is addressed to a female camel (Ar nāqa, Omani Ar bōsh), which is often a metaphorical stand-in for the ṣāḥib al-jalāla (“His Excellency,” i e , the sulṭān) in poetry due to the munificence of both Note that this poem is indifferent to the constraint of monorhyme sen heṣbaḥ ḫaṭf w-hōfel ṣlīb They have become emaciated with tight bellies we-ḳlatsen medd we-ǧhēm līrīḳ Their lips drooped when they set forth to eat in the morning we-mġōren flēš nḥawleb enfīź And afterwards when it [the she-camel] disappeared we milked a mirage ʾēnāʾ ār ṭafṭayf w-beh ṯeḳṯīḳ The rainclouds held back though they were full of goodness w-bād eḥyēl lōbōd māṯīḳ Even though after many years they had been trustworthy yešzaḥyem lā wet ber ḏe-nhīr They [the camels] never stray [though they are hungry] even for a day baḫta ḏ-lābōr ṭar ḏ-mendəhīl Lucky is he who has crossed to the other side atop a place full of blessings [good pasturage] lābēris nṭift ḏerḳāt ḏe-ṭwīb Her [the camel’s?] speech is clean my(?) hope is that you are comfortable w-kermərōm ḏyeh ṭlīb w-ṯārōna ḏ-yertəyīḳ The noble ones [whose favor] is sought after [even?] a pack of predators would be satisfied [by them] w-bālī yerḥamh we-fdōh men eźeyḳ My God have mercy on him and keep discomfort far away w-bād wēlēf lādād swīḳ After everything that has happened no one will reveal it A SLIPPERY FATHER Poem composed by Ḳantōrī Belḥāf (no information available), recited by ʿĪsā ʿAlī Raʿfīt, and recorded by Sam Liebhaber in Damḳawt, March 2004 Translated with the help of Muḥammad Sālim Āmr Ǧīd and ʿAbdullāh ʾAḥmad Āmr Ǧīd in Ṣalālah, February 2012 In this poem, Ḳantōrī Belḥāf complains that love brings discomfort, like sitting cross-legged for too long His discomfort is the result of his beloved’s (Wśēr’s) father, who will not acquiesce to his marriage proposal Instead, he avoids answering Ḳantōrī one way or the other and leaves him with nothing “to grab hold of ” w-ʾāǧēb ḏe-wśēr medd we-ġźawf Love for Wśēr [is like] stretching your legs comfortably and then sitting cross-legged hwēlī aḳayr w-fōn awḳawfAt first I concealed [it] and then afterwards I was silent tōlī źheyr we-hnafh ḥḳawf Finally it revealed a bit [of itself] and then revealed itself completely ʾār ḥaybes ḫzoh šāḏōr we-nźōf But her father refused he made excuses and “washed his hands” of the matter w-ḳatleb hayr el-ʾād beh meltəḳawf He became “slippery” and there was nothing on him to grab hold of A THREE-WAY CONFLICT Poem composed by Ṭannāf bir Saʿd Ḥamtōt, the muqaddam of Ḳamṣeyt This poem was read and sung to me by Ḥājj Dākōn, who dictated it from an elderly acquaintance of his, Saʿīd Slīmān, who was visiting al-Ghaydha from the interior of al-Mahra in March 2004 Transcribed and translated by Sam Liebhaber in his home, al-Ghaydha, March 2004 Recitation by Ḥājj Dākōn Sung by Ḥājj Dākōn A detailed thematic analysis of this poem can be found in Liebhaber, 2013 ʾōdī we-krēm krēm śōbī ṭ̱eyr eǧižwəlūt I begin with the Noble and Generous climbing to the top of a hill ke-mǧawnī ḏe-ḥyōm ġsīreyyen ettəhūt When the sun sets in the evening and its light fades, we-hlats ṭamḥeyt sebḥawt ekkerdəfūt Darkness spreads, swimming over the wādī’s edge, we-mdīt men emṭəlā emhawǧes enkəśūt Then the sea breeze from the South stirred up strong feelings heǧs lād yġōwī šīs wel ʾaynī haġfūt That do not subside when the wind dies, my eye cannot sleep efṭōn eǧeyyədīn men ḥrō ḏ-āl hmūt I remember the fighting men, the very best of Āl Hmūd ṣebyīn šeḥḳabk sād hēs swīyet beh ǧrūt O Young Men, I am grieving for Saʿd whose hour befell him! emṯōr ḏ-ḫarbeyn we-śśərāt mhelwūt The deed of his killers violated the truce between us bālī men thārūź sʿīd we-ṭlat heydənūt O Lord who stands in the way of Sʿīd, he’s from this new generation; ʾāymel haṭf w-maḥzēm we-b-reḳm yeśtūt He got himself a rifle and a bandolier and in an embroidered thawb, he strutted around reyte heh w-lū leḳā mōret šeh ḏ-šeḏrūt If only there had been a legitimate cause with him that would excuse it, bnēdem men eśśawf yeǧsūd w-yeḥḥənūt Then [his] people in their need could explain themselves and swear by it ḏ-er sʿid ḫrub eśśawr w-ṭerḥeys mhemšūt But Sʿīd trampled advice and left everything confused weḏ lād efōker lā hel effāmeh haġdūt Sometimes a person doesn’t think and forgets where [he puts] his foot wet ṭwōren yaġdōl ṯēkel ṭ̱eyreh yertəbūt And endures it, time and again, until the burdens are piled on top of him we-ġbawter has ġziw ḥams bīhem w-ḥentūt When those heedless youth attacked, there was energy in them, and battle-lust bīhem mfōser lā wel hād yšebhūt There wasn’t a thoughtful one amongst them, not a single one who lets himself be persuaded yetwīwen l-maġtēk le-mǧebbet ʾālūt They set out for Wādī Maġtēḳ, at the very end of the mountains before the sandy desert tē wrūd hṭ̱eyr ḥmō emehṣat mheġġerbūt Until they reached the water hole, a shallow pit that is well known bīt āmr ġafleyn ke-ʾazzūbet we-šwūt The people of Bīt Āmr were unaware, alone with their flocks and their sheep wudʾam be-bdīyet lā we-swīyet eḏ-ǧərūt They didn’t know about the raid, that their time had come tē hebṣeyr ewaġdeyn w-šelwīġ ebhīrūt Until they saw them sneaking up on them and heard a voice crying for help we-ḥmēd bheź w-fir we-ḥmīleh šeṣwəbūt Ḥmēd woke suddenly and jumped up, his right arm was struck by a bullet we-dlūf hṭ̱er ʿaweź lād ʿaynet efetlūt He leapt over ʿAwaź and didn’t even consider flight for a moment w-ḥebrē ḏ-bir kākeyn hās elōbī hebtūt The son of Bir Kākeyn responded and cut them to pieces, ṭerḥeyhem hīmrēt we-ṣrūb tē ṣfūt Left their bodies piled up and “harvested” them until the end of the fight, we-mġōren šewǧūś wōlem berh we-ṯbūt Afterwards, he set out in the afternoon, readied himself once more and was steadfast tbeśśīren beh mābūr we-mhawfī ḏ-mehrūt Wādī Mābūr rejoices in it, and so do the ends of Wādī Mahrūt w-bir āmer yeḥmōl wet eśśōret lebdūt The son of Āmr is steadfast when evil befalls him, ekdeyr brek eṣawl we-ṭ̱mōnet tekkərfūt [Even] muddy water in a ravine, the thirsty drink it w-šūmīt w-heǧzā seh w-fōrī hal ḥǧūt Wādī Šūmīt and Wādī Haġza, whenever they and Wādī Fōrī are assembled, bīsen emderrəkīn we-kkəwesseb ḏe-ṣmūt In them are men who shoulder their responsibilities, victors in raids who stick together w-bir ǧawn emettəwī le-flēk yšemtūt The camel bull, while recovering, prepares to set out and look for vengeance ḏe-kmūt brek eǧawf t-ʾāḫrān blūḳ ḥmūt Suppressing its anger inside until finally, it spits out the poison bālī teḫfīf eśśēr men ezōyed we-ġśūt Lord, lessen the evil between the people, stay its increase and overwhelming darkness nōwet eds ettənāyū w-ṭerefs ber ǧṯūt Rain clouds are yet darkening the sky, but they have begun to disperse at their edges we-ẓrōme we-krēm be-ḥmīlī hel nwūt And now, O Generous One, [I go] with whatever my right arm can lift up and carry, emred le-hel eġā lad yśōnī beh shūt Returning to a brother, on whose part he sees no inadvertent errors yeḥlūl b-hefǧūǧ we-mġawteḳ w-ġafṯūt They live in the wādīs of Hafǧūǧ, and its feeder ravines of Mġawteḳ and Ġafṯūt yeḳhībek sēḥī ṭeṭ we-ykūnem ēr śmūt They come to you like a single stream, and are a single unified band we-ḥdīdī hōh ʿawaź hēḫer bir enāfyūt My uncle, ʿAwaź, an elder of ʿAnfān on his mother’s side, ḏe-ġrebk teh ṭmaʿ wel ybōrī heśḥəfūt I know that he is proud and does not absolve the smallest injury [to his tribe] ʾār w-kessī b-ʾadīd men eššebṭ meṭwūt He has gotten himself new clothes, a clasped loincloth that is folded over, we-ḥrōret hāydōn be-śrēhem we-kmūt And new silks that he has purchased and dyed dark red bīt sād men ešrūb essərethem źfūt Bīt Sād of Sˇāreb, their ways and customs are generosity, dḳā we-blē ḏ-hēm hel eǧesm we-rhūt Quickness and a fighting spirit belong to them, when courage is called for or compromise, we-ḥrō bir ʿamrēn erkīzet ezzəbūt With the leaders of Bīt ʿAmrayn, like columns that support one another, yeślūl eneywōt w-le ṯēḳel yekkənūt They bear the burdens and never drop the load we-nhā twōba kel sēr eśśefh hal rkūt We all follow him, right behind his tracks wherever he steps ʿABD AL-SAʿĪD BIR ʿAFRĀR (“SHAYKH HAMZA”) ʿAbd al-Saʿīd bir ʿAfrār, also known as “Shaykh Hamza,” is closely related to the ʿAfrārī sulṭāns of Qishn and Soqōṭrā and currently resides in Qishn While many individuals belonging to the ʿAfrārī ruling family who lived in Soqoṭrā were killed by Marxist cadres in the early years of the PDRY and others (including the sulṭān himself) fled to Saudi Arabia, a few members of the ʿAfrārī lineage remained in relative comfort in their mainland capital, Qishn ʿAbd al-Saʿīd bir ʿAfrār projects a degree of social privilege, and the size of his house and retinue and the number of guests who enjoy his hospitality attest the residual wealth and esteem enjoyed by the remaining members of the ʿAfrārī lineage ʿAbd al-Saʿīd bir ʿAfrār had excellent recall of a large quantity of poetry in Arabic and Mahri that related to political events during the era of the ʿAfrārī sulṭānate and could speak at length on the historical context and significance of each poem The recording session that he organized at his home for my benefit — which included a number of other Mahri poets and rāwīs — was one of the most interesting and informative sessions I experienced during my fieldwork ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The Arabian Peninsula is not widely regarded as a site of linguistic diversity Arabic, the sacred language of Islam, the keystone of Arab nationalism, and the chief vehicle of colloquial and literary expression across the Middle East had already established itself as the primary language of the Arabian Peninsula by the early Islamic period, if not earlier (Hoyland, 2001 234-36) Yet pockets of non-Arabic, indigenous language speakers have persisted into the present era in small enclaves in southern Arabia As a graduate student in 2003 with the support of a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Grant and an American Institute for Yemeni Studies Research Fellowship, I took up an eighteen-month residence in the Governorate of al-Mahra in Yemen in order to record the oral poetry of the Mahra, a formerly seminomadic people of southern Arabia who speak one of the last indigenous, non-Arabic languages remaining on the Arabian Peninsula Mahri (or Mehri, ISO 639-3 GDQ) My interest in recording Mahri poetry was motivated by questions occasioned by my doctoral work in the fields of comparative Semitics and Arabic literature at the University of California at Berkeley under the supervision of Dr John Hayes, Dr Margaret Larkin, and Dr James Monroe Specifically, I wondered what the contemporary oral poetic traditions preserved by the Mahra could reveal about the composition, performance, and transmission of Arabic poetry in prehistoric antiquity, before written documentation and literary canonization forever altered the nature of the poetic act in the Arabic language My initial residence in al-Mahra in 2003-4 and subsequent visits to Yemen and Oman in 2008 and 2012—the latter trips undertaken with the generous support of Middlebury College, the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities—yielded approximately twenty recorded hours of poetic performance in the Mahri language, in both digital audio and video formats Recording poetry in the Mahri language was the easy part the Mahra are proud of their orature, and poetry is readily declaimed by the Mahra from all walks of life The difficulty lay in interpreting the recordings, working out word-by-word transcriptions of individual poems, and rendering accurate translations from the original Mahri to Arabic and thence to English For this portion of the research, I am eternally grateful to Ḥajj Dākōn, a brilliant discussant and composer of Mahri and Arabic poetry, a patient mentor, and a walking archive of Mahri culture, history, and customs I am also indebted to many other Mahri speakers in Yemen and Oman who took the time to generously offer their linguistic and cultural expertise to me at various points in my research Saʿīd Musallim ʾĀmer Ǧīd, Thābit Musallim Bakhīt Hāshim ʾĀmer Ǧīd, ʿAbdallah Ḥabraysh, ʿAskarī Ḥujayrān, Tammām Bu Saʿd Kiddeh, ʿAbdallah ʾAḥmad Sheyl al-Mahrī, ʿAlī bir Nǧēma ʾĀmer Ǧīd al-Mahrī, Muḥammad bir Nǧēma ʾĀmer Ǧīd al-Mahrī, Muḥammad Mushaʿjil, Sālim Luḥaymer al-Qumayrī, Musallim bir Rāmes and Suhayl Zaʿbanōt I am deeply grateful to Muḥammad Sālim ʿAkkūsh who received me at his home in Aden, welcomed me to al-Ghaydha when I first arrived in 2003, and settled me into a comfortable rental home I would like to thank ʿAbd al-Sayf al-Qaḥṭānī, my companion during my residency in al-Mahra, who offered support, encouragement, and friendship throughout this very busy time Finally, I would like to acknowledge the office of the director of the District of Qishn for organizing extraordinary research itineraries whenever I visited Qishn and the work of the Yemeni civil administration and security forces in al-Ghaydha, who insured my comfort and well-being in al-Mahra This site is about poetry, and the recordings contained in this site constitute the largest collection of poetry in the endangered Mahri language currently available to the scholarly community and the public The audio and visual components of the recordings foreground the oral and frequently extemporized nature of poetic performance among the Mahra While the poems are accompanied by lexical information and a glossary, the site is best understood as a curated exhibit of poetry rather than as an archive Such a resource is available through the Endangered Language Archive at the SOAS University London—“The Documentation and Ethnolinguistic Analysis of the Modern South Arabian Mehri” (depositors Janet Watson and Miranda Morris)—an extraordinary collection of texts and recordings that cover all aspects of life in al-Mahra and Dhofar The Mahri language in particular has benefitted by the ongoing scholarship of Antoine Lonnet, Aaron Rubin, Alexander Sima, Marie-Claude Simeone-Senelle, and many others In this regard, I am indebted to Miranda Morris, who offered sage council and encouragement at the start of my fieldwork, and Alexander Sima, who provided crucial advice in transcribing the Mahri language from audio recordings I would also like to thank Janet Watson, whose scholarly work and advocacy for the Modern South Arabian languages are peerless I would also like to acknowledge the Language and Nature networking group, the Seminar for Arabian Studies, and the OmanSaM working group for providing me with opportunities to build upon and refine the theoretical core of this work ­ The development of this site from initial conception to its final form was possible only with the support, guidance, and collaboration of many wonderful people who share the trait of patience in working with a digital neophyte such as myself As a first step, I would like to thank my student research assistants at Middlebury College, Richard Chen and Dona Tatour, for digitizing and indexing the mini-DV and audio cassette tapes that formed the core of the recordings I brought back from al-Mahra, and Cassandra Wanna for starting work on a lexical index of the poems I am deeply grateful to Jim Ralph, dean of faculty development at Middlebury College, and Michael Roy, dean of the library at Middlebury College, for setting me on the path toward digital publication and for putting me in touch with specialists in the digital humanities at Middlebury College and beyond I would like to thank Rebekah Irwin, director of special collections and archives at the Davis Family Library at Middlebury College, for offering her technical expertise in helping me build the initial version of this site during my sabbatical leave year in 2011-12 The project would not have evolved beyond that initial site if not for the collective insight, guidance, and support of the Digital Liberal Arts (DLA) Initiative at Middlebury College under the directorship of Jason Mittell, who saw how my digital archive could be transformed into a narrative digital exhibit The project never would have gotten off the ground without the help, guidance, and technical expertise of Alicia Peaker, digital liberal arts postdoctoral fellow at Middlebury College (2014-16), who translated my vague ideas into a workable and meaningful product and who introduced me to the possibilities of digital scholarship Alicia played a critical role in the conceptualization and execution of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” suite of this exhibit, although any shortcomings in it are entirely my own Thanks to a grant from DLA at Middlebury College, I was able to engage the support of an outstanding summer student research assistant, Jeffrey Holland, whose suggestions and help constructing the site were critical and who built the glossary from ground up I would like to offer additional thanks to the DLA and the Davis Family Library for hosting the Digital Liberal Arts Exchange Workshop in June 2016, where I was able to present the project to an audience of scholars and technologists for critique and feedback It was at this event that I met Curtis Fletcher, associate director of the Ahmanson Lab at USC, who provided important help in ensuring the long-term compatibility between the project and the Scalar platform on which it is built This workshop also introduced me to Steven Braun, data analytics and visualization specialist at Northeastern University, who, with the support of a DLA grant, furnished the pathway visualization which is key to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” suite My deepest thanks to all Throughout the process of building the site and afterward, I have relied on the advice, guidance, and support of Friederike Sundaram, acquisitions editor at Stanford University Press, who graciously gave her time and effort to see this project to the end I am profoundly grateful to Friederike for shepherding this project to completion and enduring my errors, missed deadlines, and false starts I am likewise grateful to Jasmine Mulliken, digital production associate at Stanford University Press, who edited and refined the project and brought it into the technical present Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Mabrouka, and children, Marwan and Selma, for gamely putting up with my research trips far from home ADVICE FOR ǦWĀHER A lyric poem written and performed by Musallim bir Rāmes, recorded by Sam Liebhaber in Ṣalālah (February 2, 2012) and translated with the help of Musallim bir Rāmes Musallim bir Rāmes initially composed this poem for a young woman, Ǧwāher, whom he overheard crying one day She was being courted by a very wealthy man (generically understood to be “the sulṭān”) who offered valuable gifts to her and her family Her relatives and neighbors began to bother her with requests for immediate money; Ǧwāher asked them to wait until she was actually married The poet advises her to ignore her relatives and neighbors and to watch what she says around them The video recording of this song upon which the following transcription and translation were based was initially hosted on YouTube However, the video is no longer available ǧwāher hōnet we-mdīt w-līn tḳaźfen elhēb Ǧwāher is a fragrant breeze and the south wind that extinguishes our burning men ṭayres tbōsen lā ġǧūten ṣeyġet wel ḏhēb And after her, they [the young girls] do not dress up the young girls, in jewelry and gold ber ṭawr ḥōkem śnīs w-līn ḳōdem eḳḳəlēb Once upon a time, a ruler [the Sulṭān] saw her and gave us an advance on [her] dowry hīn l-ʾādēden kel byūt ġeyr eḳḳənōdel we-slēb To us, to each and every one of us, [he gave] houses not to mention additional gifts and guns ḥḫēsa melyōn tmōm hēn ṭāṭ yḳawder yeḥsēb Her uncles received a complete million if anyone is able, let him count it w-nūke kel eḏ-heh śnēǧ hnīs eḳōdem eṭṭəlēb And everyone who is a relation came and offered their requests to her tʾawmer heh el-tektəwōl kel śī yḫawreǧ heh sbēb She says to him don’t rush everything arises from a reason ḥebrētī merźōne tēš ḥṭar emādeš w-meḏhēb My girl, I will entrust you with some wisdom atop your mind and good sense el be-ǧwēreš tehmey bātī eźawlet w-ʾāǧēb Don’t listen to your neighbors ladies of arrogance and desire teġteyrī hen el-heh ḳyōs we-mġōr be-ḥrōš teddəbēb If you say [something] that is not weighed and measured then afterwards, in your head, you will be ashamed ʾAHĀZĪJ (“WORK SONGS”) Work songs are lyrically concise, often formulaic poems composed and/or performed while accompanying a specific task Unlike the other poetic types contained in this archive, the scope for imaginative creation is more constrained in work songs The purpose of these songs is practical to sustain the rhythm of repetitive physical labor or conduct a communal performance ʿALĪ BIR ERABḪ BIR ZAʿBENŌT ʿAlī bir Erabḫ bir Zaʿbenōt was the muqaddam of the Zaʿbenōt tribe during the middle decades of the twentieth century His primary residence was in Ḥabrūt This region includes al-Mahra’s largest city — al-Ghaydha — and the coastal towns of (from west to east) Źbūt, Mḥayfīf, Yarūb, and al-Feydamī The port of Niśṭawn, al-Mahra’s sole military and cargo port, is located at the southeasternmost point of the district of al-Ghaydha, where the eastern slope of Jabal Fartak meets the sea in dizzyingly high, sheer cliffs that extend westward Traveling westward to Ḥaṣweyn by skiff is one of the delights of travel in al-Mahra during the months of calm weather, the coastal waters along the bottom of the cliffs are clear straight to the sandy bottom 30-40 feet below, punctuated by gigantic rocks that have detached from the cliffs above Due to the fact that al-Ghaydha is also the administrative capital of al-Mahra, it hosts a large Arabic-speaking population and is considered cosmopolitan by local standards As of 2008, “The Friends Restaurant” (Maṭʿam al-ʾAṣdiqāʾ) located in the Jiḥi district served some of the best food this writer ever ate in Yemen a fist-sized chunk of the fresh catch of day (usually sardine or shark), lightly fried, served over a pile of biryani rice, and topped with fresh radish greens A long-standing establishment in al-Ghaydha, the lunch hour was always packed with Mahra visiting the capital and civil servants from the nearby administrative offices on their lunch break Many Mahra come to al-Ghaydha to take care of administrative matters, to buy or sell goods, or to visit relatives If they are reasonably wealthy, many Mahra will purchase houses and property in al-Ghaydha as well This gives al-Ghaydha and its suburbs a pan-tribal social atmosphere, which has contributed to the development of the translocal, Arabic-influenced, Mahri dialect of al-Ghaydha The inland districts of al-Ghaydha extend north along Wādī Ǧēza into the broad watershed of the Wādī Mahrūt, the traditional territory of Bayt Kuddah and Bayt Kalšāt In addition, the following tribes are indigenous to the central coast region Bayt Raʿfīt, Bayt Slōyem (Sulaymī), Bayt Maġfēḳ, Bayt Ḥrēzī, and Bayt ʿĀmr The mšōyeḫ lineage of Āl Bālḥāf is prominent in the towns of Yarūb and al-Feydamī The coastal cliffs near al-Feydamī are laced with shallow hollows where those Mahra who resist the general taboo against chewing qāt will occasionally partake ʿAlī Sālim al-Jidḥī had fluent recall of some long Mahri tribal odes His version of Saʿīd bir Laʿṭayṭ’s masterful poem, “Atop the Peak of Ṭarbūt,” was the most reliable version that I recorded ʾAḥmad ʿAlī Mbārek was the youngest active poet in the Mahri language whom I encountered He looked to be in his early thirties and, unlike Ḥājj Dākōn for instance, only composed Mahri-language poetry that hewed to the traditional themes and formulas of Mahri poetics Remarkably for someone so young, ʾAḥmad ʿAlī Mbārek was also one of the few Mahra I met whose command of Arabic was rudimentary The Mahra for whom I replayed my recordings of ʾAḥmad ʿAlī Mbārek agreed that he was a very talented Mahri-language poet, that he used the trade- and place-specific idiom of Mahri poetics masterfully, and that he expressed his meanings through inventive metaphors I recorded thirteen poems composed and recited by ʾAḥmad ʿAlī Mbārek Unfortunately, his voice did not come through very clearly in any of the recordings that I made ʾAḥmad was reticent to speak into the microphone and angled away from it Also, because we were recording outside near his livestock pens, there was a large amount of ambient noise The low quality of my recordings of ʾAḥmad ʿAlī Mbārek meant that my consultants preferred working with poems they could hear better ʿAmr Sālim bir Šalmōten al-Jidḥī (currently retired), worked as the manager for the Yemenia Airlines office in al-Ghaydha ʿAmr Sālim is widely recognized in Qishn for having memorized a significant amount of Mahri poetry However, he was experiencing some difficulty recalling it when I visited him in 2004 Ṭannāf bir Saʿd Ḥamtōt bir Ḳamṣeyt was the muqaddam of Ḳamṣeyt during the first decades of the twentieth century I have no further information regarding Ṭannāf bir Saʿd ʿAskarī Ḥuǧayrān (b 1957) is one of al-Mahra’s most visible singers and one of the leading personalities behind the recent effort to preserve and revitalize Mahri song and culture Originally from Rēhen, ʿAskarī Ḥuǧayrān currently resides in al-Ghaydha where his home is an informal gathering place for musicians, poets, and the local literati ʿAskarī frequently represents al-Mahra at cultural events sponsored by the Yemeni Ministry of Culture and is in many ways the public face of contemporary Mahri song and poetry ʿAskarī’s musical interests date back to his primary school years when his Ḥaḍrami teachers urged him to sing songs by Ḥusayn al-Miḥḍār, the paramount lyricist of the Ḥaḍrami “school” of sung poetry ʿAskarī’s singing talent was evident from an early age, and he was encouraged to collaborate with Muḥammad Bakhīt (“Abū Ṣabrī”), who wrote nationalistic poems in Arabic for him to sing In 1975, ʿAskarī moved to al-Mukallā to study for the baccalaureate exam, where he also continued to sing and write his own Arabic-language poems for performance During this time, ʿAskarī began to perform to the accompaniment of the ʿūd and violins played by Ḥaḍrami musicians; he brought this style of performance back to al-Mahra during his summer breaks when he would perform at wedding parties in Ḥawf By the late 1970s, ʿAskarī had developed a stable group of musicians to accompany him one or two ʿūd players, two drummers of the large “African” hāyir, an ʾīqāʿ (two small ṭablas joined together) and tambourine (daff) player, and one or two violinists Collectively they became known as “ʿAskarī Ḥuǧayrān’s Band” (Firqat ʿAskarī Ḥuǧayrān) Because expertise with musical instruments was lacking in al-Mahra, all of the musicians who accompanied ʿAskarī were (and continue to be) from Ḥaḍramawt Starting in the 1990s, ʿAskarī began to move away from nationalistic songs and collaborate with local Mahri poets (including Ḥājj Dākōn) who wrote “folkloric” (Ar shaʿbī) lyric poetry in Arabic According to his own testimony, ʿAskarī achieved a higher degree of artistic merit when he explored local melodies and the works of local poets (although he still restricted himself linguistically to the performance of songs in Arabic) His performances were very well received at this time, and he became very popular among local audiences During the late 1990s, ʿAskarī added a synthesizer player to his band as well as someone capable of playing a type of mizmār known as the abū ʿashr (distinct from the larger, local mizmār played by the Mahri poet, musician, and singer from the 1970s, Bakhīt bir Ḳutrān) According to ʿAskarī, the combination of locally derived, lyric sung-poetry and non-local instrumentation signaled the onset of a new “school” of Mahri poetry the Mahri School According to ʿAskarī, the Mahri School could be distinguished in its earliest stages only by the use of local rhythms and melodies and not by language, because Arabic was still the sole language of sung-poetry This changed in the first years of the twenty-first century thanks to ʿAskarī’s collaboration with Ḥājj Dākōn and other Mahri poets who provided ʿAskarī with Mahri-language lyrics for him to perform ʿAskarī’s performance of Mahri-language poetry has been very well received by local audiences (although unlike Muḥammad Mushaʿjil, ʿAskarī does not have a non-Mahri following) As of 2008, ʿAskarī has performed the following Mahri-language songs in public “Everything About You Is Beautiful” by Ḥājj Dākōn, “I Want to Ask the Wedding Party” by Ḥājj Dākōn, Kel hābū yʾāǧēbem bīs by Gharīb Khamīs al-Kūsh, and Hōh hbērek ġeǧnōt tesyūr waḥśīs by Gharīb Khamīs al-Kūsh ʿAskarī’s collaboration with Ḥājj Dākōn has been particularly fruitful, and the two have worked together on a number of projects (although not without occasional personal friction) In an interview that Ḥājj Dākōn gave to the cultural magazine al-Thaqafiyya (217 [2003] 11), Ḥājj has the following to say about their collaboration “I have worked with all the singers (fannānīn) living in al-Mahra, and collaborative efforts have brought us together…In particular, [I have worked with] the Mahri singer, ʿAskarī Ḥujayrān, who is like a factory of Mahri sung-poetry and who is its chief developer, having sung at and enlivened parties from an early age, even at a time when there were very few musical instruments and Mahri sung-poetry was unknown ” For a detailed analysis of the collaboration of ʿAskarī and Ḥājj toward the creation of a new mode of Mahri sung-poetry (Liebhaber, 2011b) In addition to his career as a performer, ʿAskarī collaborated with Alexander Sima in the publication of the monograph Mehri-Texte aus der jemenitischen Šarqīyah (Sima, 2009) This experience, including two years spent lecturing in Mehri at the Institute of Semitic Studies in Heidelberg, has given ʿAskarī the authority to speak more broadly about linguistic and sociolinguistic issues in al-Mahra As a result, ʿAskarī is often called upon by local and national institutions to bring his expertise to bear on questions of Mahri language and culture ASKING A MOTHER S PERMISSION Poems composed and recited by Sād Sheyl and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at one of Sād’s seasonal camp sites in the mountains (śḥēr) above Ḥawf, March 2004 Translated with the help of Muḥammad bir Nǧēma ʾĀmr Ǧīd al-Mahri in Ṣalālah, February 2012 The following poems were exchanged between Sād Sheyl and Mnē (Ar Muna), the mother of Mḫeyleh, whom Sād may have fancied Given the discrepancy in age between Sād and Mḥeyleh, it is possible that Sād’s purpose isn’t entirely romantic Rather, I suspect that he is using Mḥeyleh’s beauty as a pretense to seize an opportunity to exchange poems with a poet as formidable as Mnē (Mḥeyleh’s mother, about whom I have no further information) The exchange goes on much longer than the three poems I have transcribed and transliterated below; time constraints prevented me from completing my analysis of this exchange ġlē ṣwāḳār bāl ḳatf ǧroh Look at the falcon possessor of a wing, it happened by ḥōm šūk merḍāt w-ḳāṭen ʿāleh I want to entrust a message with you and then fly over the Ḳāten! ʾefēḳ ṣʾābūb ʾefēḳ w-ǧreh Cut across the mountain of Ṣʾābūb cut across it and pass by it quickly we-l-birt sʿīd ǧreh l-zebdeh To the daughter of Saʿīd pass by to Zebdeh we-ǧwērhem sād bālī yehǧēb leh And their neighbor Sād may God protect him! ġeyǧ heh meǧtəmīl we-ǧmeylet ḏ-heh A [decent] guy, he is virtuous and virtue is [an intrinsic part] of him we-l-birt ʾawźān le-mḥeyleh ǧreh And to the daughter of ʾAwźān to Mḫeyleh pass we-ḫṭāf le-sheyl w-kel ḏ-heh šeh Call out a greeting to Sheyl and everyone who is with him maṭlāt ḏe-ḥdīd kel ḏ-heh beh Maṭlāt, [a mountain who knows] for certain everyone who is there ʾāḳbənōt eǧezyeš ḫeyr Little bird May God reward you ʾār twīǧ ley sɛ̄t nḥā b-seyr Have a quiet chat with me for a moment and then take [the message] in safety we-tḫeyṭef l-sād ḏ-laḥna ġeyr Cut across the narrow canyon to Sād the one who has “a different tune” šeh mɛ̄ken ʾātūm ḏ-leh enṭəweyr He’s got an abundance [of poetry] which comes to him from every direction hem-ḏe šeḫbūr mḫeyleh b-ḫeyr If he asks the news [say ] Mḫeyleh is doing well! aṣbaḥk ʾīmoh haǧsī ġeyr I woke up today my mood was strange we-ġlē ṣwāḳār bāl ḳaṭf yʿayr Look at the falcon possessor of a wing, it flies straight up aḥōm šūk merḍāt we-ġrōy meťḥayr I want to entrust you with a message and well-crafted speech hēt hel metǧɛ̄t w-ʿālī ḏ-ḥeyr When you are at Metǧɛ̄t at the heights of the Ḥeyr w-ġeyr ḥdīd ʾād ḳāṣem ḳreyr (uncertain meaning) [the weather?] is still always cold l-birt ʾawźān le-mḫeyleh tǧeyr To the daughter of ʾAwźān to Mḫeyleh, pass by hīs ʾārwāġāb ḏ-ʿēś b-heyr Like a little, swaying branch which sprouts on top of an inaccessible spot ḫob ʾeyn ḏe-ḥsūd men kel ḏīhṣeyr Avoid the eye of the envious and from anyone who “hits the target ” w-berk rīḥōm teh sād yešḏeyr Amongst everything beautiful Sād is discriminating (of it) we-ḳlēb ley red w-hoh mentəṭ̌eyr Turn back to me an answer I’ll be waiting hēm ṭ̌ār menśūt ʾaw hēm wetḫeyr Are they getting ready to follow the rains or will they remain in the same place? ATOP THE PEAK OF ṬARBŪT Poem composed by Saʿīd bir Laʿṭayṭ al-Jidḥī (Ǧēdeḥ), recited by ʿAlī Sālim al-Jidḥī (Ǧēdeḥ), and recorded by Sam Liebhaber in the office of the district manager (Ar mudīr mudīriyya) of Qishn, January 2004 Same poem, incomplete recitation by ʿAmr Sālim Šalmōten al-Jidḥī, recorded by Sam Liebhaber at ʿAmr Sālim’s home in Qishn, January 2004 A detailed thematic analysis of this poem can be found in Liebhaber, 2013 ṭ̱ār ḳāten w-ṭarbūt hel mǧawrī ḏ-rīḥeyn wet ġmūzem w-klūb Atop the peak of Ṭarbūt at the place of the paths of the winds when they blow furiously and are joined together we-ṭwōren emdīt beyn edōṯer we-rbē feyṣel ḥawlī ḳlūb Sometimes (there comes) the sea breeze between the stars of Dōṯer and Rbē (when) the first season has come [or finished, lit “happened”] ṣrōme mehhəbīb ṭ̱ār elēhen mātlīm ān ewakb ertəkūb​ Now I’ll compose a habbōt atop a well-crafted melody if the rhymes fit together hāǧes ār bāl demḳawt menh eġwēyen lā be-fwōdī yātǧūb​ My thoughts are with the one from Damḳawt whom I haven’t forgotten in my heart, [my thoughts] are excited dōyem leḥnēt ḏ-ġeyw yātḳeyben l-erḳād we-msōwī ʾātlūb The close affection for a brother lasts forever and is passed down through the clans and the one who lives by it, executes it fīṭen eḫḫəṭōya lā hel ḏ-ber ǧrōh slūf we-ǧzē mnē ktūb​ [The brother] didn’t remember the mistakes those which had occurred in earlier times the consequences of Fate we-ylēbī w-ṭerbūt w-bālīt helfəlōf we-kwōrī ḏ-ātūb​ At Wādī Ylēbī and the mountain of Ṭarbūt [where the Ǧēdeḥ tribe lives] that of the narrows and broad expanses (whose) feeder-canyons are joined together we-freḥsen zhōb men kēṯer ḏe-dġā tē bweśśer ertəbūb Their happiness is readied from the quantity of its strength when the good news reaches them, they are eager we-ṣrōme hōh ṣrifk l-fertēk enēzḥeyt šīs trōkeb we-slūb​ Now I’ve changed places to towering Fartak [where the Kelšāt tribes lives] She has gotten ready and has her ways (of fighting) ber āmōr eḥāwlōʾī men khēn mhawwəyīn bōlī men škī w-ǧūb​ Their women and children have said they are fearless from long ago a people of the sword and shield w-reźḥeyt w-hāḥyōt śim etābel we-fḳāt we-ntōšī meġlūb​ Wādī Reźḥeyt and its hills turned out beating on their war drums the once-conquered are dancing mḳaymsen zhūl yebśūr be-ʾātyōt we-ḫzeynī eḫtəbūb Their leader is confident and is gladdened by the news rifles discharge flame and sparks mešdeywī eǧsēd be-mnekkez āsēl wel ebōlī be-śśəġūb Treating his body with wild honey there is not a single mind in dissention šīkem bālī we-śrawn bōlī eḥḥəmūt eḳalb wet nfūśem we-ḥzūb Our Lord be with you, O Heroes people of a zealous heart as they set out in the late afternoon girdled (with their war-gear) men khēn yhāǧīb ber ywōzem we-yźeyṭ we-ṭṭərēf el yehyūb They’ve made you proud from long ago they’ve given and taken they do not fear the other side ber dfēnem mhāktīb hel enaṭḳ yeṭġōm w-šeǧnīw men ehhəbūb How often they’ve buried an event that was Fated with speech (whose truth) is biting and removed themselves from the howling wind! fōn eġawreb ezernīw bāl ezōyed ḏe-ġbēr zehmōten le-ġrūb I’ve known from before the thundering rain clouds the one that brings great quantities of dust sheets of rain from water-buckets eḏhībeh yeṭmūm le-ǧdēd ebelyōt we-k-ṣamt yekbūb Its flood covers the earth even up to the ancient highlands with violence (the flood) rolls down we-ġźāb eźeymet ḳā we-ġyīm l-ḥārwāḥ w-hel men eṭma ksūb Its roiling surge encompasses the land sending clouds over all of humankind and snatches away everything that is valuable ḏ-ār bir ǧawn enōḳī lā ʾāymel sād men eǧneyb we-ḏ-ber mrōh ḥlūb But the son of Ǧawn doesn’t pick favorites he has made friends (or teats) on either side whoever fondles the teats, gets milk we-ṣrōme ṣeḥyīn berh naḥt be-ḫḫəlēt we-mrōyes yeṭyūb Now the tribal arbiters have smoothed the wood of its roughness and even the obdurate is satisfied we-ḳbeylī el ydūm ġeyr w-śūnī effīrōḳ we-rkenh we-ḳtūb The tribesman doesn’t hold forever to his position unless he has seen to his non-tribal dependants and his column and then he carries them on his upper back ḏekmeh sāten yefṭōn ḥelweyneh yeshōr men ewēḏī we-źrūb At that time, [the reckless tribesman] remembers throughout that night, he stays awake from pain and grief we-mǧawdel ḫmīlūl ʾāmel lēhī men dmāt we-b-ḫāṣem [*ḥāzen] eḳlūb His legs go weak and he bellows from his tears like a she-cow searching for her calf and his heart and mind are in agony we-mṭōyer hel ḏ-zim ʾād el wīfī eġsēr dēḫen ke-bṭeyn ṣrūb When the different crops of a field mature but before the husks have ripened he harvests the millet and corn we-ṣrōme ṣeḥyīn berh naḥt be-ḫḫəlēt we-mhawǧes yeṭyūb Now the tribal arbiters have smoothed the wood of its roughness and the feelings are satisfied [This line is a repetition of line 21 with one minor alteration ] šī bīsen ḥwōyeǧ lā w-merkaḥsen l-ġeyr ār ġšīm yenterhūb I have nothing to do with these things whose burdens are on somebody else but the reckless one falls (into these situations) zōwa ḏe-ḥmō yġeyś tē w-lū lāḳā mźī le-ḳnōṭer estəyūb (Like) a gush of water when it bursts forth and even if it is a trickle its flows (to others) through water channels w-ṭelbōne mertəfā bād ezēl lāḳā hdē w-erbōn yšēḳlūb I beseech the Heavens after the fury has quieted down and the owner has had his property restored we-ṭbīn ḳṭawr enōf nōdī le-śwēġī kel ʾōlī ke-nḫā ṭrūb And the landowner whirls a flag over head calling to every channel in the wādī and (even) the one living high above desires (to respond) in earnestness ʿAwaź had exceptional recall of a number of long lyric poems composed by his father, ʿAlī bir ʿAwaź, and by his uncle, who spent a large part of his adult life in Hyderabad where he composed poems that expressed his nostalgia for home The poem “Homesick in Hyderabad” is the longest poem in the Mahri language that I have transcribed and translated The district of Ḥaṣweyn is centered on Jabal Fartak and the mountainous ridge that extends inland from the sea The populated portions of this district lay on the coastal plain to the west of Jabal Fartak and include the fishing villages of Khayṣīt, Ḥaṣweyn, and Ṣaḳr Like the mountains of Ḥawf, Jabal Fartak catches monsoonal precipitation during the autumn months However, the effects of this moisture can be seen only in the highest valleys and hidden hollows of Jabal Fartak (Karmaym Ḥawrōt and Reddīt) This district includes the traditional territories of the Qumayrī, Kalšāt, and Slōyem (Sulaymī) tribes The majority of the male population of Ḥaṣweyn are fishermen Before the opening of the tunnel under Jabal Fartak linking Qishn to al-Ghaydha, Khayṣit was the western departure point for skiffs shuttling people around the mountains to the Niśṭūn Whereas Niśṭūn was a developed port by Mahri standards, Khayṣīt remained a small fishing village of extraordinary beauty nestled at the foot of the dramatic cliffs of Jabal Fartak and at the head of a small, sandy bay with crystal clear, blue water teeming with schools of tropical fish One of the three easternmost districts of al-Mahra that border on the Sultanate of Oman, Ḥawf comprises the narrow coastal strip where the the towns of al-Fatk, Damḳawt, Rēhen, and Jāḏeb are located and the steep coastal mountains — the westernmost arc of the Jibāl al-Qamar — that include seasonal settlements for the horticulturalists and pastoralists who migrate among the inland steppe, the mountains, and the coast according to the season The mountains of Ḥawf capture rain and fog during the South Arabian monsoon (Ar kharīf); this carpets the coastal mountains in lush growth for three months a year Thanks to its seasonal verdure, Ḥawf is considered the most scenic district in al-Mahra, and its people enjoy, perhaps, a more easygoing lifestyle than folk elsewhere in al-Mahra The Hobyot language was once widely spoken across Ḥawf; this is no longer the case Thanks to its relatively clement climate, the residents of Ḥawf pursue a variety of seasonal professions including fishing, animal husbandry, and small-scale horticulture During the kharīf, Ḥawf hosts tourists from Yemen and Oman looking to relax and enjoy its greenery, pristine beaches, and dramatic scenery The limestone mountains that frame Ḥawf are riddled with caves, and rumors abound of forgotten treasures secreted away in them Among the most numerous tribal and mšōyeḫ lineages that live in the district of Ḥawf are Bayt Kuddah, Bayt Mhōmed, Bayt Raʿfīt (including its shaykhly lineage of Āl Yāsir), Bayt Qumayrī, Āl Bākrīt, and Āl Kathīr Due to the fact that the shaykhly lineage of Āl Yāsir — the most authoritative arbitrators of tribal-customary law (Ar ʿurf) — is based in Jāḏeb, Ḥawf was traditionally the destination for Mahra seeking the services of Bayt Āl Yāsir in resolving interpersonal and tribal conflicts It was unclear to myself and my consultant why the place name Dābūm is preceded by the preposition bə Bakhīt bin Ḳuṭrān was a Mahri poet, singer and musician from the 1960s and 1970s He is credited by ʿAskarī Ḥuǧayrān with being the first singer of Mahri poetry to accompany himself with a musical instrument other than the large drum, known locally as the hāyer or ṭabla Bakhīt bir Ḳuṭrān would play the mizmār in between singing lines of poetry, which he himself frequently composed Bakhīt bir Ḳuṭrān was also one of the first performers to make use of professional or semiprofessional musicians for backup, although accompaniment in Bakhīt bir Ḳuṭrān’s case was limited to drummers His backup band was known as “The Band of Drummers” (Firqat al-ṭabbālīn) and consisted of Khamīs bir ʿAshūra, Hidāyat bir Nāṣir, and Jumʿān bir Maṭwāna BEAUTIFUL, EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU IS BEAUTIFUL Poem #15 from the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn, recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, October 7, 2003 Sung and recorded by Ḥājj Dākōn at his home, Mḥayfīf, May 2004 Sung by ʿAskarī Ḥujayrān and recorded by Sam Liebhaber in Rēhen, September 28, 2003 zeyn w-kellek zeyn…we-ḥlōyet būk Beautiful, everything about you is beautiful…and sweetness belongs to you būk ʾādēb w-mād wel tkūder hād You’ve got manners and a good head You’d never malign anyone mawrā we-ḳṣaw lā šūk w-lā fnūk You’re the ultimate and the end-point There’s no one before you or after you zeyn w-kellek zeyn…we-ḥlōyet būk Beautiful, everything about you is beautiful…and sweetness belongs to you hēt ġrūy ʾāsēl ḥōlī e-ḥwēl Your speech is honey Sweet and maddening yehneyh eḫalḳ kād ettōma lūk He forgets the rest of creation Whoever listens to you zeyn w-kellek zeyn…we-ḥlōyet būk Beautiful, everything about you is beautiful…and sweetness belongs to you hēt źeḥketk lūl bōreḳ ḏ–īǧlūl Your smile is a pearl Lightning that flashes we-mṯōnī mēl baḫt ḏ-heh hnūk Your incisors are complete Lucky is the man with you! zeyn w-kellek zeyn…we-ḥlōyet būk Beautiful, everything about you is beautiful…and sweetness belongs to you hōh men hel syerk we-bḳā ḳṭerk Wherever I should travel To the places where I turn here and there ahnēhek lā we-fwōdī šūk I’ll never forget you Since my heart is with you zeyn w-kellek zeyn…we-ḥlōyet būk Beautiful, everything about you is beautiful…and sweetness belongs to you w-hēt w-lū ḥetǧebk mnī w-ġatyebk Even if you are hidden away And disappear from me rawḥī we-fwōd we-hǧīs wdūk My soul and my heart And thoughts are with you The following bibliographies are based on the “Modern South Arabian Languages Bibliography” prepared by Domenyck Eades and Janet Watson with the collaboration of Giuliano Castagna, Aaron Rubin, and Sam Liebhaber and are published with their permission The bibliography on which this work is based is available through the Modern South Arabic Language Project Bir Frēǧ Kalšāt (deceased) was a poet and ṣūfī who was particularly famous for his prescient poetry (Ar al-shiʿr al-tanabbuʾ) Bir Frēǧ was at least seventy years old when he died, suggesting that he was born in the last decade of the nineteenth century or the first years of the twentieth century Bir Frēǧ was the caretaker (Ar muqīm or “resident”) of the shrine of al-Mahwī in Ṣaḳr, a saint associated with the ocean Bir Frēǧ was responsible for feeding all visitors to the shrine of al-Mahwī; this responsibility and others associated with the sacral functions of the shrine gave Bir Frēǧ the social and moral standing necessary to publicly criticize the political shortcomings of the ʿAfrārī sulṭānate BORN TO BE DIGITAL? With the exception of the recently published Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn (American Institute for Yemeni Studies, 2011), poetry in the Mahri language is an oral art form, and the experience of writing does not intrude upon the composition and transmission of Mahri poetry From a metapoetic standpoint, this means that individual poems are not imagined as texts by Mahri poets and their audiences but rather as utterances; they lack existential autonomy outside of the moment of performance While a transcribed version of a Mahri poem may adequately convey the meaning of individual lines and the overall message of the poem, such a written text would be alien to the poet’s own conception of his or her work Written texts derived from Mahri poetic performances are misleading facsimiles of the original in the same way that a written description of a work of visual art cannot substitute for the original canvas Audio and video documentation are the only media that capture this oral poetic tradition as it is meant to be heard and seen without the mediation of script and consequent formal requirements of print media From a scholarly perspective, attempting to capture a Mahri poem on the page does have negative consequences For instance, a printed poetic text gives the impression that individual words are the fundamental building blocks of a poetic line and that words may be analyzed as discrete units and are easily demarcated from one another Going further, a printed text gives the impression that every metrical foot is occupied by an unalienable constituent element of a meaningful word or phrase In short, the act of writing an oral poetic text requires us to adopt the assumption that every syllable, word, or phrase may be parsed in the service of comprehensibility and that moments of textual unintelligibility are to be understood as inadvertent and unwanted errors While the absolute majority of lines in any given Mahri poem that I recorded are explicable at the lexical level, poems often included metrical feet that evoked meaningfulness but whose meaning could not be clearly articulated by my native Mahri-speaking consultants; most typically, the boundaries between words could not be determined At the same time, such portions of poetic junk DNA were not regarded as faults but rather as an intrinsic – and unremarkable – component of a poetic utterance Nor did they appear to compromise the quality of the poem itself; the overall message of the poem (or line) might still be comprehensible to my consultants even if individual metrical feet defied their attempts at syllable-by-syllable explication This aspect of oral performance can be communicated only via audio and visual recordings A printed page imposes meaning, order, and boundaries that may not actually exist in actual performance And insofar as an oral poem exists only through the metapoetic imagination in performance, how a poem is heard is inseparable from the poem itself While removing the haziness from a poetic performance may not cause the act itself to collapse into meaninglessness, a poetic text thus cleansed of it may no longer claim any part of its original conception The pathways and rich network links enabled through a digital exhibit invite exploration into the generative warp and woof of the oral poetic act Thanks to the variety of ways in which a poem may be indexed in this archive – by topic, genre, structural features, shared vocabulary, poet, and region – the poems may be perceived as being simultaneously generated through the recombination of universal elements, as well as being unique and essential utterances In this way, the online digital archive format enables a closer analogue to the processes of thought and memory that generate oral poems than the paratactic/linear-sequential presentation of poetic specimens utilized in traditional print monographs In browsing through the poems in this collection, a visitor can be brought more closely into the cognitive realm of the poet in which multiple vectors of creativity, memory, and habit come together all at once to forge a novel poetic creation The fact that a richly indexed and inter-referential digital archive approximates the poetic-creative act in al-Mahra yields a paradox the lowest tech systems of knowledge – such as oral poetry – are best suited to recapitulation in an online, digital format The middle ground – print media – is simply poorly adapted to capturing the processes of oral poetic composition or similar forms of cultural production In this way, we find that oral poetry is well partnered with the digital poetic format, not merely for the sake of access but also for the way in which the digital format recapitulates how it is conceived by its practitioners bīt sād men ešrūb Bīt Sād is a subdivision (Ar ʿashīra) of Šāreb, itself a subdivision (Ar fakhīdha) of the tribe of Ḳamṣeyt Because most of the poems in this archive do not appertain to any one of the marked genres, I have also classified the poems in this archive according to four formal parameters line length, topic, poem length, and performance The first three parameters are intrinsic to the poem; the final parameter may vary according to the type of performance I was able to record However, some marked genres incline toward certain performative modes ʾAhāzīj, for instance, can only be sung, whereas collective reǧzīt must be chanted For example, the poem Advice for Ǧwāher is classified in this archive as follows Line Structure Hemistich Content Sentimental, Specified Referent Length Multiline Monothematic Performance Sung Poems that exist at the intersection of these four parameters, {Hemistich/Sentimental Specified Referent/Multiline Monothematic/Sung}, generally belong to the genre-marked category of šemrēt lyric songs written in praise of a specific prepubescent girl that are meant to accompany her as she dances at nighttime parties and celebrations As the example above indicates, all poems belonging to the same marked genre lay at a common intersection of the four parameters For example, all poems belonging to the reǧzīt genre can be described as follows Line Structure Tristich Content Occasional Length Couplet Performance Collectively performed reǧzīt are always chanted; individual reǧzīt couplets are generally recited The classificatory scheme presented in this archive does not reflect a native Mahri conception of what their poetic traditions include or are capable of The only terminology that my Mahri consultants used was specific to the genre-marked categories of Mahri poetry In abstract classificatory terms, I twice heard a distinction between occasional poetry (Ar yūjad ḥadath muʿayyan) and sentimental poetry (Ar lā yūjad ḥadath) Most Mahra, poets and non-poets alike, often described poems according to the melodies by which they were sung However, as I mentioned above, labels based on melodic signatures could vary from region to region and from singer to singer — all that matters is syllable count per line Due to the lack of a native metapoetic framework covering every poetic possibility, I have found it necessary to invent my own classificatory system in order to make navigation of this archive possible Featuring choreographed squadrons of participants, collectively chanted couplets reaffirm the social and familial bonds of the Mahri-speaking community through the exchange of ritual greetings and reciprocal acknowledgement As a result, collective chanting is a socially venerated mode of performance, distinct from either recitation or sung performance in terms of their assumption of group camaraderie, collective entertainment, and social bonding Because the practice of collective chanting assumes commonly known practices behind their organization and exhibition, poems that are chanted collectively typically belong to genres whose rules are familiar to its participants One can find described in the scholarly record a number of different genres of Arabian vernacular poetics that are chanted by groups and individuals working in concert; all have different names and regional specificities, yet all share the feature of collective chanting By no means a collective list, such genres include the ʿarḍih described by Sowayan (Sowayan, 1985 142), the raǧza/marǧaz/mirǧāza/mirǧūza described by Landberg (Landberg, 1905 99-173 and 1920–42 1135-36), the zāmil described by Miller (Miller, 2007 96), and the bālah described by Caton (Caton, 1990 passim) In al-Mahra, collective chanting is typically associated with two poetic genres reǧzīt and dāndān Other forms of collective chanting occur under more specific circumstances The rābūt, a therapeutic healing chant, is one such genre, although the aesthetic and social value of individual lines of a rābūt are considerably less than those of reǧzīt or dāndān, because the former is viewed in strictly practical terms (healing) rather than in terms of collective entertaining and expression WEDDING IN ṢAḲR “Welcoming” collective reǧzīt (Ar reǧzīt maydānī tarḥībī) recited by three different groups of celebrants at a wedding party in Ṣaḳr, recorded by Sam Liebhaber, January 2004 The first clip contains footage of the different squadrons of guests and hosts arriving at the wedding party and chanting their couplets This clip is followed by individual recitations of three different couplets bālī ṭalbeyye tēk ḏēd yḳawder w-yehmūm we-hdeʾ leḳā ṣfēʾ Lord, I ask you He who is able and capable [of performing any deed] and makes [the weather] calm and clear w-neṣwōl men amweǧ wet neǧǧem līn lbūd b-śōn ḏ-habzēʾ Taking away the turbulent seas when the rain-stars are triggered for us with a sea-storm on the East Wind ġayber hes tenḳawf be-źhīr ḏ-ābrōt tedḫīḫen hayyerēm Unexpected news, you load up on the back of pack-animals and travel down the roads etteh ṣrōme ḥawṣawl be-mdīnet aḥnōb hel kesb we-ġlē [*krēm] Until arriving just now at the large town where there is profit and gain [*generosity] ġayber śettel ke-nbēʾ we-śnēǧ ḏ-heh ādīd rōkeb we-ǧzē ḥmūl The guests packed up and went with the news people of dear relations the traveller has brought [his] kin w-lyēh mṯemmənīn yźayṭem erǧəḥāt we-ḥmul l-boh myūl To those who are precious and take the grosser weight that tips the scales to this very place Group (a), the family of the bride, welcomes the guests with a couplet signifying their hope that the journey was an easy one The poet, Sādayn Kalšāt, beseeches God (bālī) to quiet the waves during the summer monsoon season (ḫarf) Ṣaḳr is a fishing village, and the ocean is closed to traffic during the monsoon months due to strong winds, powerful currents, and ripping tides Knowing the time of the season is critical for the fishermen of al-Mahra because the ocean can go from placid to deadly in a single day during the transitional periods and stay that way for months Each month is broken into a period of twelve days, and each period has its corresponding constellation (neǧǧem) The sea storms (śōn) come when the rain constellations are “struck” or “triggered” (lbūd) When the storms do come, they arrive on the East Wind (ezyīb), which is perhaps rendered here with metathesis and the archaic definite article as habzēʾ The poet of Group (b), the family of the groom, playfully describes their journey as a type of business trip Thus, the family of the groom loaded up their beasts of burden and set out as soon as they heard the good news Ṣaḳr is a small village, so describing it as mdīnet aḥnōb (“a big city”) is probably tongue in cheek, but not kesb we-ġlē [or krēm] (“profit and gain”), which points to both the value of the bride-to-be and also the hosts’ generosity This couplet can also be understood as a description of the groom who has loaded his camel with merchandise to trade with “the people of the city” (Ṣaḳr) for a profit (his bride) Thus, the groom is depicted as a young man of means and ambition who is willing to take a journey for substantial gain In a similar vein, the guests of Group (c) emphasize their kinship to the parties involved; śnēǧ ḏ-heh ādīd and ǧzē are two phrases that signify the closeness of their mutual blood ties Building on the imagery from the previous couplet, the poet of Group (c) uses the language of the marketplace Their hosts are thus “precious” (mṯemmənīn), and the poet’s regard is like a scale on which their friendship to the hosts has taken “the grosser weight” (yźayṭem erǧəḥāt) The implication here is that the hosts ought to requite the high opinion held of them by both Groups (b) and (c) in the form of a lunch of rice and meat In short, this exchange has the hallmarks of friendly banter between close friends and family humorous, affectionate, and slightly badgering WEDDING IN MḤAYFĪF Exchange of collective reǧzīt (reǧzīt maydānī) performed at a wedding held in Mḥayfīf, June 2004, and recorded by Sam Liebhaber When chanted collectively, the couplets are very difficult to understand word for word Therefore, after devising a new couplet, the poet will share it with members of his team, who then pass it down the line from person to person After they have chanted their couplet for a few minutes, the poet will visit the other teams and share his couplet with the poet from each The poets in turn spend the next few minutes formulating a response The first poet who devises a response will share his new couplet with members of his team, who then begin to chant it while the previously chanting team falls silent The following clip shows Ḥājj Dākōn visiting the poets of the other teams and sharing his couplet with them The clip then shows one poet pondering and then improvising a response, which is sent down the line, person by person No description available The following short clips contain the couplets transcribed below The bride’s family, represented by Ḥājj’s team (see clip 2), are welcoming a group of visitors from Ḳešḳōš (in the direction of Feydamī) to the celebration The guests belong to the Bīt Ṣār alliance and include members of the following tribes Raʿfīt, Kuddah, and Mḥōmet The visitors can be heard chanting their couplet in clip 1 video media file ġeyber hās ḥmūl we-ǧer w-hedḥawḳ ebeslōt le-ǧrē ḏ-mawləyīn The guest when he loaded [the camel] and brought along [the friends] the sturdy female camels stepped along for the sake of the noble ones [Ḥājj couldn’t make out the 2nd line in the recording] [Ḥājj couldn’t make out the 2nd line in the recording] In clip 2, Ḥājj responds to the guests with a welcoming couplet (Ar jawāb tarḥīb) ġeyber ḏōma heyya beh hās ḥōśem we-ġbūr we-šḳāsī hashīb The guest, welcome to him when he honored us and arrived and faced the waves bərī ʾār ḏ-eġawleḳ w-ḏeḥawseb heh ḥsūb le-sʾōten ḏe-wǧīb Indeed I have looked for him I have taken him into account for the times of the [marriage] duties [ie celebrations] In clip 3, Ḥājj calls for an end to the exchange of reǧzīt so they everyone can eat Ḥājj is specifically addressing another group that has shown up kīnen ke-mḥawmel kel we-mtellī we-lḥīḳ w-ḏe ḳhēb w-heh nsīb I hope that the entire “cargo ship” [all of the people, particularly the poets] from the 2nd to last person to the one following [him] whoever comes, he is [like] family [a relative] ʾār ewaḳt mōne lā tē le-bōleġ eḫḫəṭūr hel yfōreḥ we-yʾāǧīb But the time doesn’t permit me until I “reach” [satisfy] everyone so that he’s happy and it pleases him Shams al-Dīn al-Muqaddasī (d ca 1000 CE) “At the borders of Ḥimyar is a tribe of Arabs whose speech no one understands” (ʾAḥsan al-taqāsīm fī maʿrifat al-ʾaqālīm, 96) Abū ʿAbdallāh al-Idrīsī (d 1166 CE) “The natives of the Kuria Muria islands near the southern coast of Oman are an Arab people, yet they speak an ancient ʿĀdite language which no Arabs of our time can understand” (Nuzhat al-mushtāq fī ʾikhtirāq al-āfāq, vol 1, 52) Jamāl al-Dīn ibn al-Mujāwir (d 1204 CE), quoting ʾAḥmad b ʿAlī b ʿAbdallāh al-Wāsiṭī “[The Mahra] are a tall, good-looking people who have a language of their own that no one understands but them” (Ṣifat bilād al-yaman al-musammā bi-taʿrīkh al-mustabṣir, 271-272) As attested by these and other geographers, travelers, and historians writing in the premodern era, the eastern reaches of Yemen and the western Omani province of Dhofār are home to a unique community of Arabs whose language is not Arabic Not only that many of these indigenous Arabs—known collectively as the Mahra—pursued a pastoralist lifestyle in the remote interior of the Arabian Peninsula; that is to say, many Mahra are bedouin who embody the “authentic” lifestyle that lies at the heart of classical, and some contemporary, notions of Arabness For social theorists who urge the equation of Arab identity with the Arabic language, the Mahra complicate the picture What follows is a brief tour of the human context behind Mahri poetry, including basic geographical information These pathways are not meant to serve as a comprehensive overview of the Mahra and their language; for such detailed examinations of society, language, and culture in southern Arabia, visitors are encouraged to visit the two bibliographies included in this site “Language and Linguistics” and “Society, History, and Culture ” Instead, the information provided in “The Mahra Human and Geographical Context” is meant to inform the reading of Mahri poetry, with some digressions into areas currently underserved in scholarship CONVENTIONAL INVOCATION The first three lines of an ʾōdī we-krēm krēm by an unknown poet from the inland desert The entire text was recorded as a digital file on a cell phone belonging to a Mahri from Shiḥn who was visiting al-Ghaydha in July 2008 I transferred the file to my digital recorder by placing it against the speaker of the cellphone while the clip played I did not have the opportunity to transcribe or translate this poem in its entirety; however, I have included it here because it provides a good example of the formulaic motifs that introduce a typical ʾōdī we-krēm krēm tribal-historical poem I have included a recording of the entire poem even though only the first three lines are transcribed below ʾōdī wə-krēm krēm / ṭeyr edōreb ḏ-ānkīt / hēl eṣāber yešśeyb hēl tḏūleh emdīt / wel ḥalles teḳhōb / hīs feyṣel meġreyb teġrīren b-ḥāḳwōl / yedfīfem ṭeyr eḳā / yeġyīben w-yekkeyb COUPLET In the Mahri poetic practice, pithy and humorous proverbs often take the form of couplets These couplets are circulated by poets and non-poets alike, and attribution is often legendary Certain poetic genres, especially exchanged dāndān and reǧzīt, can only be expressed through couplets since this short, easily memorized format is best suited to extemporized and collectively chanted lines of verse In the absence of the highly formalized exchanges of dāndān and reǧzīt, couplets may be exchanged between individuals as versified debates, greetings, or conversations on personal or quotidian matters Further, couplets are often composed as minimalist yet memorable statements on a matter that has piqued the poet’s interest Because the format is brief and does not require an extended period of composition, couplets may be composed by virtually anyone, although the most widely circulated couplets are the works of the finest caliber poets Given the accumulative and paratactic nature of Mahri poetry, particularly powerful lines of poetry may be culled from a multiline poem and circulated as a couplet Indeed, some longer poems may be heard as a series of couplets joined together for convenience Conversely, two (or more) couplets may be joined together to form a brief poem For instance, Race Relations in al-Mahra evokes an exchange of couplets, even though the “couplets” under consideration are in fact four to six lines long It is thus worthwhile to think of couplets as the essential building block of longer poems which yet may stand on their own as coherent miniature poems LINE 1, “I THINK THEY ATE MY COW” The folks who live in the mountains have a reputation for doings things quickly and without forethought As a function of resource scarcity, they live for the moment CHOOSE YOUR OWN POETIC ADVENTURE A conviction, an idea, or a passion has arisen within you, and prosaic conversation is simply insufficient to express yourself In al-Mahra, the surest path to self-expression is through a rhymed and metered poem, so you feel compelled to compose one The first question you must ask yourself What are you responding to? An occasion A sentiment You’ve opted to compose a poem utilizing the more rigorous three-part structure This marks you as a top-notch poet The next question concerns your ambitions for the poem itself will it be an omnibus of poetic themes, topics, and formulas or will it stick to a single topic? Because oral poems are performed poems, this question can be phrased in the following way How much time do you and your audience have? I have a lot to say and will use every formula at my disposal to say it I have a single idea that I’ll start and end with, but no more than that You’ve chosen to compose a poem that utilizes the more quotidian, two-part (hemistich) line structure This is the default mode of Mahri poetics hemistich lines can be used across the spectrum of Mahri poetics, from its finest exemplars to poetic lines by rank amateurs Opting for hemistich lines means that you’ll have the latitude to compose a poem as you wish, free from the formal complexity and heightening expectations of three-part, tristich compositions The next question concerns a practical matter How much time do you and your audience have? I’ll need some time to express my idea I have to come up with a catchy line, quick! You’ve decided to compose a poem according to one of the traditional genres This can be a challenge since expectations are high for poetry meant for public circulation and, consciously or unconsciously, your poem will be compared to others belonging to the same genre The next question concerns who the object of your affection will be in your poem and, subsequently, what coloration this affection will take Is your love romantic or parental? Who is this poem for? It is for my daughter It could be for anyone The poem you have chosen to compose will not adhere to one of the poetic genres which are by nature often publicly performed and circulated at gatherings You are opting for a poem that may have more limited circulation, and, by virtue of its sentimental topic, will likely attend to private and personal concerns This means that the formal tristich line structure, whose use is almost exclusively limited to poems that address political and social issues of broad communal significance, is incompatible with the type of poem you are on a path to compose Instead, your poem will be composed of hemistich lines, the format for all-purpose poems Thus, the next step in the compositional process is predetermined and is not a question People’s expectations vary; I’m doing this for myself You’ve decided to compose a poem according to a genre; that is, a preset template that makes close reference to poetic predecessors This generally assumes a solid capacity for poetic composition because most of the poetic genres are meant for public circulation and, consciously or unconsciously, such poems will be compared to others belonging to the same genre Traditionally, such poems were composed with a specific melody in mind; the genres of sentimental poems were inevitably linked to a mode of signing or an occasion for singing However, recent developments in the poetic culture of al-Mahra have changed that calculus Will musical performance be an intrinsic component of your poem ? Yes, the poem was composed for sung performance No, although the poem may certainly be sung if anyone so wishes You have chosen to compose a poem outside one of the ready templates provided by the distinct poetic genres This provides you with a greater deal of freedom; at the same time, you accept the fact that your work may not take place in the same public venues that are available to poems belonging to one of the esteemed poetic genres You must now choose whether you will attempt to compose in the more formally challenging three-part line or the less challenging two-part line This may be a question of your poetic capability What do folks think of you, and what do you think of yourself? I’m a respected poet and people listen to what I say People’s expectations vary; I’m doing this for myself You’ve opted to compose a quick couplet in aesthetically challenging—and prestigious—tristich (three-part) lines This is the typical mode of versified conversations between poets, occurring face to face or transmitted over a distance Because these couplets are exchanged as dialogue, there is an expectation of rapid composition (turnaround time), or even extemporaneous composition at public celebrations The next question concerns the complexity of versified conversation you’ll be involved with Will anyone be joining you? No; it’ll just be me Yes; it’s a group effort You’re a top rated poet, and people look to you for political leadership and social guidance You are a highly skilled poet and are deeply familiar with the tropes and formulas of the poetic tradition; you and your poems embody the pedigreed lineage of Mahri poetics You are aware of the fact that people listen to what you have to say, and you must therefore weigh your words appropriately in order to achieve an effect that is moving and sonorous, and that speaks to a communal history You’re addressing an issue with potentially serious consequences, so you’ll take your time while formulating this poem Start a new adventure Here are some examples You’ve opted for the broadly defined genre of dāndān poem, commonly performed at convivial affairs among friends and guests, or quickly rattled off to oneself as brief couplets Less challenging to compose than tribal odes, the topical matter—historical events of social consequence—may overlap with them Or, released from the expectation of gravity generated by three-part (tristich) tribal ode, the topic may be more lyric or even playful Given the relative freedom of topic, tone, and venue, your next question is straightforward How much time do you and your audience have? I’ve got the time to compose a long, coherent poem I have to come up with a catchy line, quick! You’re an excellent poet with a love of poetic tradition, especially the traditional melodies Indeed, one specifically sweeping melody—saməʿīn (“Hark, O Hearers!”)—was at the forefront of your mind when composing this boldly oratorical poem You’ve chosen to address a specific event or occasion in your poem The next question is whether you’ll follow the template provided by one of the conventional genres or whether you’ll compose a poem without a specific type of poem and performance venue in mind The former mode carries with it an assumption of rules, an appeal to tradition, and the potential for greater prestige and circulation The latter are general purpose poems they may be sung to a variety of melodies, their topics may cross the line between sentimental and occasional verse, they may be hummed in private, sung in public, or recited among friends and family What’s your approach? I’ll stick to a specific template I’ll take a free-form approach You’re a ranking social and political personage in al-Mahra, and poetry is an important tool for weighing in on public matters You are familiar with the tropes and formulas of traditional poetry and recognize the power of poetic expression You style yourself a capable wordsmith, even though you may approach the composition of poetry from a utilitarian standpoint Here is an example of a genre unmarked, tristich poem Poetry is a day-to-day component of your work and your highly esteemed public persona Your poetry hews to convention because it serves a utilitarian purpose enabling your judgements and opinions to be rapidly and easily transmitted across a broad public Convention, tradition, and straightforward composition are the order of the day Here is an example of genre unmarked, monothematic, tristich poetry Poetry is a major component of your public self-expression You may not be the finest poet who ever lived, but that doesn’t stand in the way of satisfaction you feel from composing poetry and expressing yourself through it For you, poetry is an important ingredient in keeping social networks strong and tightly knit; poetry is what sociable people do You have something quick you want to get off your chest and want to ensure its circulation You’ll use the workhorse of daily Mahri poetry couplets that are easily composed and transmitted, no fuss, and no requirement of high social standing Some poetic skill is assumed, although it is not required This is poetry for the people You are a well-trained poet and are happy to let others hear your compositions You’re also the proud parent of a daughter and want her to know how much you cherish her and to let everyone in earshot hear about her virtues You also have an ear for music and expect this work to be sung and accompanied by dancing Not everyone can pull off a poem of this type lighthearted yet earnest, traditional yet fresh, musical and prosaic, personal and public You are a well-regarded poet and are happy to have your works publicly circulated, preferably at convivial and informal gatherings You are not shy about expressing sentiment although your poems express personal matters, they are meant for a public audience Melody plays an important role in helping you to compose your poems it serves as the structure over which your ideas are draped Poetry is a pleasurable and sociable pastime; you don’t get overly worked up over formality, innovation, and aesthetic perfection You’ve chosen to compose a poem that utilizes the more quotidian, two-part (hemistich) line structure This is the default mode of Mahri poetics hemistich lines can be used across the spectrum of Mahri poetics, from its finest exemplars to poetic lines by rank amateurs Opting for hemistich lines means that you’ll have the latitude to compose a poem as you wish, free from the formal complexity and heightening expectations of three-part, tristich compositions The next question concerns a practical matter You are a fan of poetic experimentation and innovation, adapting popular Arabic and cosmopolitan sung poetry into the Mahri language Your poems have a pop cultural feel to them they are eminently singable, breezy, and fun You are probably not a venerated political or religious personality if you are composing or singing these poems before a public audience; they lack the corresponding gravitas, and the sentiments expressed are lighthearted and even a little trite You’re involved in a physical task and would like a little ditty that goes along with the rhythmic nature of your work Each song is linked to a particular task; indeed, the melody takes precedence over the lyrics Composing this type of poem requires very little poetic skill because the topic, formal structure, and melody are all drawn from traditional models You’ve chosen to compose a poem that utilizes the more quotidian, two-part (hemistich) line structure This is the default mode of Mahri poetics hemistich lines can be used across the spectrum of Mahri poetics, from its finest exemplars to poetic lines by rank amateurs Opting for hemistich lines means that you’ll have the latitude to compose a poem as you wish, free from the formal complexity and heightening expectations of three-part (tristich) compositions The next question concerns a practical matter You have determined to compose a poem on a personal, emotional topic, not about an event or occasion Poems of sentiment inevitably contain an other someone who has provoked a strong emotional response on the part of the poet Having chosen to delve into the emotional realm, you are faced with the next question will that person be named or remain unnamed in your poem? In a society in which public expressions of desire for an other may lead to disapproval, whether the subject is named or not is an important determiner for how your poem will be composed and circulated You’re a top-notch poet and are capable of putting together powerful poems that resonate with the most traditional—and complicated—cadences of the Mahri poetic tradition the tristich line Your skill is such that you can utilize formal poetic structures and themes to express sentiments and feelings that lie near and dear to your heart; in your hands, poetic content is freed from the strictures of poetic form You’ve elected to have versified conversation with another poet of your caliber using exchanged couplets (reǧzīt maraddāt), or perhaps you’re just going to deliver a poetic slash to an unsuspecting target (individual reǧzīt, or reǧzīt fardī) Your words will be received as powerful, socially significant, and culturally resonant whether or not they are entirely serious or sardonic You are confident in your wordsmithing and are not afraid of the limelight You have something to say and expect folks will want to hear it You’re a top-notch poet but are willing to submerge your unique voice for the sake of tradition and the satisfaction of a united poetic effort You have a deep respect for poetic tradition you know how to work the formulas quickly and confidently People recognize your skill and will follow your lead in a collective chant (reǧzīt maydānī) You love poetry and you’re excellent at crafting lively poems that express whatever you want to say You’re a talented poet but also enjoy the opportunity to engage in less formal poetic modes You’ll leave the tribal odes for some other time (or perhaps for more prominent poets and social notables) You like things that move quickly, in jest or in earnest You’re not going to waste your time worrying about formality you know what you want to say in poetry so you’ll get right to it Proverbs may result Your heart is overflowing with passion, touching off a cascade of thoughts, memories, and impressions that are best expressed through poetry One thought gives rise to another, yet all evoke the powerful sentiment that inspired your poem You’re a very solid poet, well schooled in the traditional tropes and motifs of the poetic tradition, but innovation is not your métier The conventions inherited from earlier generations of poet more than suffice to communicate the way you feel You have an emotional need that requires expression, and poetry is how you go about doing so You’re not necessarily a famous poet or social notable; poetry is simply how you communicate sentiment You’ve grown up in a society suffused with poetic expression so you’ve imbibed its traditions through osmosis You know how to reshuffle and adjust its motifs and formulas to develop a personalized expression At the same time, you may lack the intimacy with the tradition needed to elaborate on your feelings with nuance and originality You simply have a strong feeling, so you’ll say it in verse You are a poet of the traditional school but with a playful, sentimental disposition Your poems meander through the warehouse of poetic tropes, picking and choosing whatever is convenient and pleasurable to you You do not claim any deep social significance for your poems; you simply like to ruminate on your feelings at any given moment While these poems may feel private, their lack of specificity allows for their public circulation Generalized poems of love and longing are your métier; you’ve got a knack for stringing together phrases in a trim and elegant fashion You’re not looking to ruffle any feathers; your poems address love in the abstract and are not explicitly directed to an individual You engaged in exchanging some quick, informal poetic couplets between friends Nothing formal or fancy, just some fun word slinging for the fun of it You’ve decided to compose a poem according to one of the traditional genres This can be a challenge because expectations are high and, consciously or unconsciously, your poem will be compared to others belonging to the same genre The next question concerns your ambitions for this poem and your estimation of your poetic skill and social standing Will you test your skills at composing the most serious and esteemed form of public verse, or will you be trying a genre that has more fluid expectations? Since poetry in al-Mahra is a quintessentially social act, before you proceed you must answer ask yourself What do folks think of you, and what do you think of yourself? I’m a respected poet and people listen to what I say People’s expectations vary; I’m doing this for myself The next question concerns your ambitions for the poem itself will it be an omnibus of poetic themes, topics, and formulas or will it stick to a single topic? For sentimental poetry, your answer may determine whether you take a more traditional approach to expressions of sentiment or whether you opt for an approach more in line with contemporary pop-cultural tastes How complicated is your topic? I’ve got a lot to say and will use every formula at my disposal to say it I have a single idea that I’ll start and end with, but no more than that You’ve decided to compose a strophic song short, lyric lines of monorhymed verse punctuated by a refrain However, the dissemination of cultural forms from Ḥaḍramawt, Oman, and elsewhere in the Arab world means that you have more options than your predecessors Will you compose an old-fashioned work song or a modern strophic song imitative of cosmopolitan sung-poetry? Are you a traditionalist or do you belong to the avant-garde? I have traditional tastes in poetry I like to experiment with poetry You composed an innovative “text poem,” that is, a story in the guise of a poem Unlike strophic poetry that centers on a single emotional pulse, you’ve sketched a tableau that features character and the kernel of a narrative Such poems encourage the audience to fill in the blanks; they play like in-house jokes for the poet and audience You have chosen to compose a poem outside one of the ready templates provided by the distinct poetic genres This provides you with a greater deal of freedom; at the same time, you accept the fact that your work may not take place in the same public venues that are available to poems belonging to one of the esteemed poetic genres You must now choose whether you will attempt to compose in the more formally challenging three-part line or the less challenging two-part line This may be a question of your poetic capability What do folks think of you as a poet, and how do you estimate your own skills? I’m a respected poet and people listen to what I say People’s expectations vary; I’m doing this for myself You’ve chosen to write a sentimental poem in which the object of your affection is named The next question is whether you’ll follow the template provided by one of the conventional genres for sentimental poetry or whether you’ll compose a poem without a specific type of poem and performance venue in mind The former mode carries with it an assumption of rules, an appeal to tradition, and the potential for greater prestige and circulation The latter are general purpose poems they may be sung to a variety of melodies, and they may be hummed in private, sung in public, or recited among friends and family What’s your approach? I’ll stick to a specific template I’ll go wherever the mood takes me You’ve chosen to write a sentimental poem in which the object of your affection remains anonymous or exists as an abstraction The next question is whether you’ll follow the template provided by one of the conventional genres for sentimental poetry or whether you’ll compose a poem without a specific type of poem and performance venue in mind The former mode carries with it an assumption of rules, an appeal to tradition, and the potential for greater prestige and circulation The latter are general purpose poems they may be sung to a variety of melodies and they may be hummed in private, sang in public, or recited among friends and family What’s your approach? I’ll stick to a specific template I’ll go wherever my mood takes me You have a high opinion of your poetic skill and have elected to compose one of the most socially prestigious yet technically challenging types of poem You are comfortable with the role of poet as social and political commentator and expect that your poem will be heard by a large audience and circulated accordingly The next question is a pressing one How much time do you and your audience have? I have to come up with a catchy line, quick! I’ve got the time to compose a long, coherent poem You’ve opted to compose a socially resonant poem that is yet unconstrained by the rules and political expectations of the tribal ode As such, your poem may be linked to a sung performance (which is generally not the public domain of the political and religious elite) and be composed of less challenging, two-part (hemistich) lines Less formal than poems composed of three-part (tristich) lines, you’ll enjoy greater topical and performative scope The next question is about the role of melody in your poetic career Do you have a musical ear and/or a decent singing voice? You may sing this poem or not; it’ll be fine either way Yes; and the melody in mind preceded the words All poems belonging to the ʾōdī we-krēm krēm genre have the following parameters Line Structure Tristich Topic Occasional Length Multiline Polythematic Performance Recited or Sung Poems belonging to this genre marked category are referred to in al-Mahra by their signature formulaic phrase, ʾōdī we-krēm krēm, which typically occurs at a thematic transition point in the poem I have translated the phrase ʾōdī we-krēm krēm as “I begin in the name of the Noble, the Generous,” although this translation is based on an assertion made by a number of my consultants that this phrase is equivalent to Arabic bismillāh (“In the Name of God”) Most Mahra who are not poets simply regarded it as an untranslatable pious formula In all likelihood, ʾōdī is an imperative of the verb wōdī, awōdī, translated by Alfred Jahn as “die Religionspflichten erfüllen” (Jahn, 1902 234, quoted in Liebhaber, 2013 121) While Jahn’s translation suggests that wōdī, awōdī is cognate with Arabic ʾaddā, yuʾaddī (“to convey or bring to completion”), none of my Mahri language consultants responded positively to this etymology One consultant, Musallim bir Rāmes, understood ʾōdī to be derived from Mahri hōdī and therefore equivalent to Arabic nashwa (“an ecstatic state”) Whatever its meaning, this phrase has a functional value it encodes the pattern of rhythmic stress that is shared by every line (ʾṓdī wé-kerḗm kerḗm, schematically | – ̌ – ̌ – ̌ – |) and evokes the traditional melody that accompanies sung performances of poems belonging to this genre ʾŌdī we-krēm krēm poems may be viewed as a thematically linked string of monorhymed reǧzīt couplets, much as the Arabic qaṣīda is viewed as “a string of pearls” according to traditional Arabic literary theory Like the Arabic qaṣīda, poems belonging to the ʾōdī we-krēm krēm genre accrue the highest degree of social esteem when compared with the other genres of Mahri poetry ʾŌdī we-krēm krēm poems are felt to encapsulate the codes and customs of traditional Mahri society and to preserve its official tribal history for posterity Moreover, they do so using the Mahri language’s unique poetic formulations and a lexicon that is specific to al-Mahra’s geography and material culture It is arguably the most “Mahri” of all possible forms of Mahri poetry Since their constituent elements are reǧzīt couplets, ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems always address occasional topics, are formulated in tristich lines, and are meant for public circulation These poems address communal issues that concern the tribe, tribal confederates, and, in recent years, the entire population of al-Mahra regardless of tribal affiliation As a reflection on incidents that demand a communal response, ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems demarcate the lawful and unlawful ranges of collective and personal action during periods of political and social turmoil ʾŌdī we-krēm krēm poems are more than a versified articulation of tribal custom—that is the purview of reǧzīt couplets exchanged by tribal leaders—but rather engage their target audience in a persuasive discourse For detailed analysis of the ʾōdī we-krēm krēm genre, see Liebhaber, 2013 DESIRE Poem #9 from the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, October 7, 2003 Sung and recorded by Ḥājj Dākōn at his home, Mḥayfīf, May 2004 Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, October 7, 2003 rī we-fwōd ymoh ḏ-īrfīf My lungs and heart today are fluttering ber melʾam śawḳ w-bēr ġetlīf Desire has filled them they have been filled to the brim l-ād wiṯḫem lā men zawl we-ḏlīf They haven’t yet settled down from anxiety and excitement we-mbeyn źīlā ḏ-yehharǧīf Between my ribs they are shivering ḏ–ār śefh eśśawḳ ḫṭeyr we-klīf I’ve seen that desire is dangerous and troublesome ʾām bēr metkūn w-ḥel be-ǧwīf If it becomes rooted and settles in its cavities, yesdūd enfəsēt we-tlōbed tlīf It blocks the breathing and you become a wreck we-tkūn maḥśēś śʾōf we-ḥfīf You are agitated quick to anger and impatient ḫā ṭāṭ ḏ-hālūḳ śīwōṭ b-līf Like a dry palm frond with fire on its fibres hoh ṣabrī tim we-ḥḥōlī sfīf My patience has finished and my condition is weak, we-mhawǧesī kel mnī ḏ-nessīf All my emotions have been torn to shreds leywā ṣwāḳār frēr w-āyīf O little falcon! Go quickly! Fly! w-bōṣer w-bār men emḥeyfīf Go at dusk, travel all night from Mḥayfīf, w-hēt ḥatfōṯ̣ ḳā hīnī wkīf Keep my order in mind and act faithfully in my stead w-menbād esslōm mḏebbel rdīf After the greetings have been exchanged twice-over ʾamēr bādīš ḫā hoh mhaṣrīf Say “After you I’m like a man all used up ” DIFFERENT TUNE My consultant, Muḥammad Nǧēma, understood this to be an idiomatic expression for someone with “long-term plans ” DĀNDĀN Even though dāndān poems are presented in this archive as belonging to a genre marked category (and thus implying conceptual specificity), the term can be used to describe different types of poem performed in a variety of different settings When used in the genre marked sense, dāndān poems refer to three types of poetic act 1) couplets of hemistich verse composed individually or exchanged with another poet, 2) tribal-historical poems composed of hemistich lines, and 3) multiline, lyric/sentimental poems composed of hemistich lines In the first case, dāndān couplets are the hemistich counterpart to tristich reǧzīt couplets In the second case, dāndān tribal-historical poems are the hemistich counterpart to tristich ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems In the third case, multiline, sentimental dāndān poems are recognizable as such only when sung according to the characteristic dāndān melody, which is typically accompanied by dāndān metric filler Due to the broad range of potential topics and formats of dāndān poems, some of my consultants defined dāndān not as a poetic type with specific formal and performative characteristics but as a melody that a number of different poetic types might share Others, however, specifically identified specific poetic formats and performance occasions as intrinsic to dāndān poems Generally, my consultants felt that dāndān poems were less formal than tristich reǧzīt and ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems Unlike reǧzīt, for instance, dāndān couplets may address sentimental and jocular topics when performed at a festive event In the words of Mahri poets ʿAlī Nāṣir Bālḥāf and Ḥājj Dākōn, collectively chanted dāndān couplets are performed later in the evening after the “serious business” of the collective reǧzīt is finished (personal communication, al-Ghaydha, 2004) However, dāndān poems were for the most part viewed as the hemistich counterparts to tristich reǧzīt and ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems In this way, the term dāndān demonstrates both the range of the Mahri metapoetic lexicon as well as its lack of concern for strict generic boundaries Indeed, it was the lack of specificity of the term dāndān that initially lead me to focus on genre unmarked poetry in al-Mahra, and thence to the conclusion that formal parameters—rather than genres—were the most effective way to describe the coherence of the Mahri poetic system DĀNDĀN COUPLETS Dāndān couplets have the following parameters Line Structure Hemistich Topic Occasional and Sentimental Length Couplet Performance Recited or Chanted Individual dāndān couplets are the verse type of choice for a broad swath of Mahri speakers who wish to make brief versified statements or engage in poetic exchanges without the corresponding expectations of the more formally rigorous tristich (or reǧzīt) couplet type ṮEBTĪS Earlier versions contained ṯebtīs (“[The Merciful] straightened her”) instead of śemrīs ŠEMRĒT Line Structure Hemistich Topic Sentimental, Specified Referent Length Multiline Monothematic Performance Sung Šemrēt (pl šemrūt, “a little praise poem,” šemrek “I sang a song in praise of a young girl”) is a specific genre of lyric poetry in which the poet expresses his or her parental affection for a young girl and advises her to demand the most from her suitors when she comes of marriageable age This genre of poem is meant for public circulation, and by naming the subject, šemrēt poems bear a relationship to a specific, external reality For this reason, šemrēt poems bear a conceptual similarity to occasional poems despite their explicit sentimentality For this reason, some of the šemrēt poems in this collection take on a explicit political significance the anxiety aroused by foreigners who impinge on the the wealth and resources of al-Mahra (as is the case for “Hays and the Saudi Prince“) However, the most common purpose of a šemrēt poem is to flatter and publicly avow the virtues of one’s child Because the object of the poem—a young girl—is not yet marriageable, there is no social opprobrium attached to describing her by name Once composed and performed (or recorded), the poem becomes the property of the young girl, and she will remember it with pride In general, a parent or a relative will compose a šemrēt for their own daughter or niece, although a more skilled poet, such as Ḥājj Dākōn, can be commissioned to do so for a fee The affection expressed in a šemrēt poem is strictly familial, and a šemrēt poem never includes hurtful sentiments The parental love expressed in a šemrēt poem is at odds with the physical desire expressed in amorous (Ar ghazal) poetry The latter subject is more widely spread in al-Mahra, leaving šemrēt poems to occupy the more marked niche within the domain of Mahri lyric poetry The lyric nature of šemrēt poems and their public performance at festivities (often accompanied by the young girls’ tanwīś dance) means that the šemrēt genre may overlap with the dāndān laylī poetic genre ENDANGERMENT Until fifteen years ago, the vitality of the Mahri language was vouchsafed thanks to its geographic isolation Bounded by the Empty Quarter to the north, by the Arabian Sea to the south, and by mountains and desert to the east and west, the tribes of al-Mahra made their home in an isolated corner of Arabia that neither attracted outside attention nor enabled casual commerce When the market for frankincense dwindled away in the premodern era, the Mahra turned to fishing, rearing camels, and working abroad in the Gulf states for their livelihood Yemeni unification in 1991 put a sudden end to the isolation of the Mahra Paved roads, cell phones, and effective central governance pulled al-Mahra into the orbit of the Republic of Yemen, whose sole recognized language was Arabic Schooling, civil administration, military affairs, and business were conducted in Arabic; indeed, tacit policies excluded the Mahri language from the public arena At worst, the Mahri language was perceived by some Arabic-monolingual Yemenis to threaten the unity of the modern Yemeni state in which a communal, Arab identity presupposed a communal, Arabic language For the most part, however, Yemeni policy towards the Mahri language was characterized by disinterest; most Yemeni civil servants had little interest in the Mahri language and tended to perceive it as remote, folkloric echo of Yemen s past While most young Mahra continue to speak the Mahri language, Mahra born after Yemeni unification may be more comfortable expressing themselves in Arabic than in their maternal language In the realm of scholarship and language policy, powerful language ideologies are at work to undermine the status of the Mahri language as a distinct language worthy of preservation Throughout the Arabic-speaking world, only the written and oratorical register of Arabic (al-ʿarabiyya) is held in esteem; the unwritten languages of daily life are regarded as inelegant and chaotic patois Because the Mahri language lacks a literary tradition, it fails to achieve the status of “language” (Ar lugha) that is awarded to the other written indigenous languages of the Middle East, such as Aramaic or Tamazight Instead, the Mahri language is relegated to the status of “dialect” (Ar lahja), a term of sociolinguistic disparagement for the unwritten regional idioms of Arabic Coupled with the disappearance of vital indigenous languages in the Middle East (excluding North Africa) in the last half of the twentieth century and the success of advocacy for a communal Arabic language, linguistic diversity in the Arab world has come to be viewed as laying exclusively within the dialectal continuum of spoken Arabic or between Arabic and foreign, colonial languages This has led to the overall neglect of the Modern South Arabian languages (Mahri among them) in popular and academic descriptions of language diversity in the Middle East This negative assessment of the Mahri language by Arabic monolinguals (Yemeni and non-Yemeni alike) may have begun to shift in recent years Section 1 Article 3 of the draft constitution proposed by the Yemeni National Dialogue in 2015 stated the obligation of the state to pay attention to the Mahri and Soqotri language (tawallī al-dawla al-ihtimām bi-al-lughatayn al-mahriyya wa-al-suquṭriyya) Had this draft constitution been ratified, it would have marked a departure from the norm across the Arab world and may have spelled a new era for linguistic pluralism in Yemen Overall, pride and interest in the Mahri language has increased greatly within al-Mahra (and elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula) in recent years and the Mahri language has become a respectable venue for local scholarship The increased involvement of Oman and the Emirates in al-Mahra in the last few years may be a factor encouraging communal Mahri sentiment could serve to reorient al-Mahra politically, economically, and socially away from Sana a and Aden towards Gulf patronage A final point is that many Mahra object to the characterization of their language as endangered since the Arabic language is not perceived as an alien or colonial language Rather, the Mahra embrace their identity as Arabs and venerate the literary and sacred legacies expressed through the Arabic language Most Mahra do not perceive the Mahri language as existing in a zero-sum relationship with the Arabic language since both are facets of a deeply rooted sense of belonging and rootedness in the Arabian Peninsula ENOUGH, MY HEART, ENOUGH! Poem #13 from the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, January 27, 2004 ḫīh ḳalbī ḫīh men bī tehǧēs Enough, my heart! Leave off from murmuring to me! fōn berk b-ḫeyr men awsəwēs Once upon a time I was safe from [your] whispers w-ḏēd śeǧyūk w-deḳ eǧrēs And as for the one stirring you up and ringing your bell leh śebk ḥdīd w-leh metrēs She’s got iron bars on her window and bolts [on her door] w-hōd we-ḳtōn w-menh ġmēs Be quiet and be firm and stay away from that one, kmēt eśśəġeyb w-śewḳek ḥbēs Hide your distress and contain your desire tē wlū tḥōm šeh teġweh w-termēs Even if you want her just to sit together and talk all night, yṭarḥek lā lyeh ḥeryēs They will never let you, those who are guarding her EVENING POEMS Some occasional poetic genres carry fewer political, social, and aesthetic expectations than others For instance, a poem that addresses political and social affairs that is composed of two-part (hemistich) lines may not be held in the same esteem as an occasional poem composed of three-part (tristich) lines At a public gathering, such as a wedding (Mhr mahrēs), its recitation may be postponed until after the recitation of the more formal tristich poems has taken place earlier in the day The time for less formal poems is later in the evening, when hosts and guests are well fed and feeling relaxed Or a poem may be composed by a gifted singer with a specific melody at the forefront of his or her mind In both cases, the circulation of such poems is more appropriate to intimate, convivial settings rather than the “town square” setting of collective celebrations or long-distance poetic conversations transmitted by multiple individuals Evening poems may not be suited to performance by the political and religious elite who work hard to maintain a reserved public persona, or indeed by Mahra who simply lack requisite singing ability While many of the categories described in this site are not acknowledged in the Mahri metapoetic lexicon, most Mahra could point to a class of poem that is appropriate to the evening, in which ranking poets and singers might relax their standards and engage in more playful compositions and exchanges Although the boundaries of this category are vague, the category itself has a local reality In short, evening poems may be no less powerful and tied to specific historical affairs than the tribal ode (such as the poem Three Way Conflict ); however, their composition may not be restricted to a poetic and political elite, and their performance may occur under less formal circumstances EVERYDAY I COME COMPLAINING Poem #2 in the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, October 7, 2003 Recorded and sung by Ḥājj Dākōn at his home, Mḥayfīf, May 2004 Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, October 7, 2003 POEM TRANSLATION kel yawm w-hōh ḏ-aśeyk we-hnūk ašenhawr Everyday I come complaining to plead my case with you meyten ġalḳōna šī w-reḥmenī men eǧawr When will you look at me and show pity at this cruelty? maḥḳ ḏē rǧē w-weyd ḥek eṣawber ḏe-ḫḫəṭawr I’m tired of hope and promises my soul’s patience is worn down sēher w-welhīt w-ʾaynī be-dmɛ̄ tġarġawr Insomnia and anxiety and eyes dripping with tears hēt wkōh lbedk ḳōsī w-reḥmatk bers ḫawr Why have you become so cruel and your sympathy so meager? fōna šī lṭīf w-hōdī sōber lī tšeḫbūr Before you used to be kind and gentle and always asked about me hɛ̄śen ḏe-kdūr eṣawlek [we-mhawǧes ḏe-kṯ̣awr] What spoiled your temper and twisted your feelings for me? 8) ʾān nġamk lī ġtīrī haddel we-ksē be-śśawr If you’re angry with me, speak! Advise me and seek advice ḫāf ḫṭā ḏ-heǧreykeh ḏōmeh wēt ṭwōr ydūr Perhaps I made a mistake this happens from time to time we-bnɛ̄dem ɛ̄r yḫawles w-ḏe-ḫlūs yšāḏūr Human beings get it wrong but they forgive the one that does lɛ̄ken hōh tē leheyḫeṭ w-leǧrēh mnī ḳṣawr Even if I wronged you and a shortcoming befell me, hɛ̄śen lī ḏ-heǧreykeh tē ḫṭā leḳā b-dawr What did I do that the misdeed should come back around? aw leḳā men bōlī ġeybet we-msebbəbīn ʾāmūr Or maybe it’s because of gossips or people who make problems hēm wḳōna ʾɛ̄r yʾamrem w-ḏ-ettōma bōlī zawr Perhaps they are saying things but the one who listens to slanderers bɛ̄r yṯ̣ōlem emḥebbeh we-ḫḫəṭā hneh yṣawr Acts unfairly to the lovers and a sin is committed by him hēt ɛ̄r ḏe-ġribk tēhem we-tġawreb ḏ-īźrūr You know them and you know how they cause harm hōh le ġawreb menḥərīyet wel b-ġeyr aśeḥźawr [sic ašeḥźawr] I know nothing about making complaints I’d never speak about this to anyone ṣebrōna le-mśawkī tē men hɛ̄l w-hēd effawr I will endure my grief until the time [my] simmering [feelings] quiet down PROPHETIC POETRY The following exchange is popular across al-Mahra because it is believed to attest to the prognosticative powers of poetry (Ar al-shiʿr al-tanabbuʾ) The exchange involves two poets from the rival tribes of Raʿfīt and Ḥbēs The poet from Raʿfīt claims that his is unassailable in his stronghold of Ḥawf, while the poet of Ḥbēs counters that, even in their mountains, Raʿfīt is still vulnerable to their enemies who will attack them “like a downpour…from the sky ” Not long after this exchange, the British Royal Air Force bombed Jāḏeb, a village largely inhabited by Raʿfīt, in the course of Operation Simba, which was launched in 1972 in order to staunch the flow of supplies smuggled from the PDRY to Marxist insurgents in Dhofār A statement made by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arabian Gulf (PFLOAG) described the airstrike as follows (Halliday, 1974 338) On May 25 the RAF attacked Hauf throughout the day and did not spare any civilian targets they bombed the school, the medical centre, the literacy centre, and the houses of the people Five PLA [People’s Liberation Army] and many women and children were killed, and 6 people were wounded On the other hand, two Strikemasters were shot down The original village of Jāḏeb was abandoned after the attack, and the ruins are still visible next to the sea This couplet is commonly recited by young and old throughout al-Mahra I initially recorded this poem in Rēhen, October 2003, but the recording was subsequently lost However, I heard this couplet multiple times afterwards from a number of different transmitters RAʿFĪT TRANSLATION ḥamd ellāh lēk el-ḥamd šī mǧawnī men eḫawf Praise to God, to You is Praise I have a refuge from fear ḫāṣem yelḥaḳḳī lā b-leǧlīǧ w-bātīḥawf The enemy can’t come near me at Leǧlīǧ or the domains of Ḥawf ḤBĒS TRANSLATION heh w-lū leḳā nwōh b-leǧlīǧ w-bātīḥawf If he so desires it at Leǧlīǧ or the domains of Ḥawf yekhabsen ṣbīb mḏelleb men eġawf He will come at you like a downpour the unceasing rain-star from the sky FIND YOUR POEM Imagine you are a poet possessing neither pen nor paper, and you have never seen your native language written down You’ve never studied poetry in your native language by reading it, but you’ve heard it plenty and may have committed some poems to memory after asking to hear them recited again and again After all, poetry is widely composed and recited in your language; it is a much beloved feature of daily life In consequence, there exists a conceptual warehouse of preprogrammed phrases, expressions, themes, and poetic templates ready to go for poets from all walks of life and with varying degrees of skill Despite the prevalence of poetry in your society, your folk limit their conversations about poetry to specific poems and songs those they like and those that move them There is no communal vocabulary to talk about poetry in the abstract other than a few words to describe certain prescribed types of poem recited at formal occasions However, the majority of poems are not composed for these occasions Most people lack the appropriate traits—verbal dexterity, love of tradition, and self-confidence—that enable public performance at weddings or other social gatherings Their poems may be more modest in scope and circulation How will you, a Mahri-language speaker, proceed from inspiration to the recitation of a completed poem? What factors will you weigh in determining the route your creative impulse will take through the warehouse of premade themes and poetic templates? Without the guidance of an articulated body of knowledge, how do you think about your specific expressive needs and the dictates of the poetic tradition? In short, how will your poem come together when the melodies gather? What follows is an attempt to place you in the shoes of a Mahri poet by offering you the decisions she or he could take toward the composition of a poem Answer the “yes” or “no” questions as the spirit takes you; every route leads to a collection of previously composed Mahri-language poems that respond to the poetic persona and occasion that you’ve determined In doing so, you can live the thought process undertaken by Mahri poets, professionals and amateurs alike Begin Your Adventure Skip to the Index of Poems FĀTEN/HAYFA AND THE MOON Poem #10 in the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, October 14, 2003 Sung by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, October 14, 2003 ḳawlī bə-wrīt w-fāten ġawten w-meśtibhūten I say Fāten and the moon are sisters, the one like the other, tneṣṣeyfen hazweymet w-āṣūr mehtīdyūten They split the night watches equally and share the night we-ḏ-ber ḥaźrūt mdōret tehǧōś eḫḫarǧūten Whichever one appears on the dancing ground she outshines the rest even if they are just married [we-tźōṭ] eṣṣīyet kemlet līsen we-l-neḥǧūten And snatches away all the talk, from them and from those who are dancing bālī hes ehhōdī zeyna w-hōmūr mehhīdyūten When God divided beauty amongst women and commanded his distributing [angels], wezmīsen ḳasm zōyed l-effəwōrā ḏ-ġaǧnūten He gave [Fāten and the Moon] the greater share, [even more] than [all] the supple, graceful women mōken ḏe-wrīt nġarbes wel nheh [sic nḥā] meffīsərūten Concerning the moon, we know much about it and we are not going to describe it w-fāten źaḥkets bōreḳ w-ayenten dehśūten But Fāten, her smile is like a flash of lightning and her eyes dazzle we-ḏ-ber šeḥyeth fāten yehneh eġarhūten Whoever has passed a greeting with Fāten forgets all the others FED UP WITH MAHRI Short poem composed by an unknown Arabic monolingual living in al-Mahra, recited by Sād Sheyl and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at one of Sād’s seasonal camp sites in the mountains (śḥēr) above Ḥawf, March 2004 Translated with the help of Muḥammad bir Nǧēma ʾĀmr Ǧīd al-Mahri, in Ṣalālah, February 2012 In this short poem, the author expresses his frustration with the Mahri language He wants to leave al-Mahra and return to a place where he’ll be in the linguistic majority Although this poem is essentially in Arabic, its topic and scattering of Mahri vocabulary earns it a place in this collection Recitation by Sād Sheyl FED UP WITH MAHRI allāh yukhārijnā min bilād nkā l-boh May God get us out / of the land of nkā l-boh [“come here!”] li-nārhum śīwōṭ w-māʾhum ḥmō For fire, [they say] śīwōṭ / and their water is ḥmō ġanamhum ḥārawn baqarhum lheyten Their flocks are ḥārawn / and their cows are lheyten FOR A LONG TIME Poem #1 in the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recorded and recited by Ḥājj Dākōn in his home, Mḥayfīf, May 2004 Recorded and sung by Ḥājj Dākōn in his home, Mḥayfīf, May 2004 POEM TRANSLATION šī meyken wḳeyt ʾāǧēbek ḏ–ḳerk For a very long time I’ve hid my love for you aśśeyn beh lā wel hād hāberk I do not show it and I’ve told no one teymōh men eźīḳ hōh teh heźherk Until today from distress I revealed it lād ḥamlek lā wel sāten ṣberk I couldn’t bear it or be patient another hour, ʾāǧēbek ḳwey ān teyk šenḥerk I love you strongly even if I have complained to you men hēs bī ḥel w-beh ḏ-henkerk Ever since [love] settled inside me I’ve come to know it well lād hōh b-ḫeyr lā wel hōh ḏ-henśerk I’m not doing all right and I cannot find any peace wēt menk ġmisk w-rēḥeḳ syerk Whenever you leave me to travel far away aśīnek hnī hel ḥissek w-derk I see you with me and feel you wherever I turn w-hōh lewḳəfeyt fōn ār ḏe-źmerk I stayed silent before, when I hid the secret, ʾār bōlī eśśawf w-ʾāmūr w-ʾāmerk But the people who embarrass others the “he-said-I-said” type yeffezʾam bī wēt lūk šeḫberk They frighten me whenever I ask about you we-yʾamrem hī hēt berk w-berk They tell me “You’re just like this and that ” hōh wudʾak lā we-ḥḥōm lāberk I don’t know anymore and want to let it out ḏē ǧeybek ēr šī w-lī ḏ-ḳetrerk Is your position with me and have you settled on me? ʾaw śī men ḥwōl / bī hōh ḏ-šeḳṣerk Is there some condition of which I fall short? aw śīnek ṣlēyeḥ w-ġeyr ḫetyerk Have you seen some virtue and chosen another hrēǧ lī ṣedḳ w-hōh ḏ-hāḏerk Tell me the truth I’ll forgive you hōh l-hōh feḫrī wēt hēt fetkerk I’m not vain or deluded even if you think [me] so wel men feḫrēt akūn ḏ-zetwerk In vanity, I’m not even interested wād le-nhōr wēt hissek lezerk There never was a day when I though to visit you ʾaḥawseb ḥsūb leḳā ḏ-fetḫerk That I gave any consideration to being overly proud wel hōh men lyēk be-ʾawś yeġrerk I’m not one of those to impress you with a splendid appearance, tē w-lū ḏ-ettəleyk we-ḥḥōm leǧrerk Even if I hoped and wanted to draw you away yḫeyz effəwōd w-āyn tšāserk My heart would refuse since my eye adores you FUṢḤĀ MAHRI A SHORT LYRIC POEM Ḥājj Dākōn described the following lines as a good exemple of fuṣḥā (“eloquent”) Mahri due to the fact that they utilize time-specific and trade-specific vocabulary and hew closely to the typical formulae of Mahri poetics and their conventional sequencing This lyric poem (to which these lines are merely the introduction) was composed by a bedouin from the Ḥrēzī tribe and, according to Ḥājj, is very old I have no recording available of these lines in actual performance For a more detailed analysis of fuṣḥā Mahri and these poetic lines in particular, see Liebhaber, 2010b ǧawneš ḥell yā ġmīź yā mġāb The evening has arrived, O Sunset, O Dusk hōlā medd ṭayr eḳā we-sḥāb The shadows spread over the land and flow across [it] w-kūrīt w-āǧēb zawl w-tɛ̄b Desire and passion bring restlessness and pain yɛ̄mīl be-ryē we-fwōd śewġāb Causing unrest in the lungs and heart wēġī līs we-ġṣīṣ w-āḳāb A flock of birds over her, fish and birds in a feeding frenzy, the seagulls that follow [i e , she is relentlessly pursued by many suitors] GENRE MARKED To determine whether a poem is genre marked or unmarked, one should imagine the response by a theoretical Mahri speaker to the question “What kind of poem is this?” If the response is immediate and consists of one or two words, the poem is genre marked since its type has an abstract existence in the Mahri poetic practice that may be recalled by the causal listener or poet The poem in question evokes the memory of similar poems, poets, and performance venues and thus imbues the poem at hand with a sense of history, tradition, and cultural authority Such poems occupy a clearly bounded space in the Mahri metapoetic lexicon Since a conceptual category and performative act exists for genre marked poems, they are more easily categorized and catalogued than genre unmarked poems The number of distinctive genres is limited, although this number appears to expand if we take the various metrical possibilities of Mahri verse into account Like Arabic vernacular nabaṭī poetry, the various meters of Mahri oral poetry are referred by a signature melody that denotes the number and sequence of long and short syllables for each meter (Sowayan, 1985 99) For the occasional genres of poem, a specific meter and melody is required for a particular marked genre (reǧzīt or samʿī, for instance), although this is not always the case for genre marked sentimental poems, such as the polymorphous kṣīdet or dāndān Because the poetic genres that address occasional topics are tied to the public sphere, poets who compose them assume a degree of poetic expertise and are willing to project a public persona Only poets who feel they are up to the creative challenge and publicity will apply themselves to the composition and performance of named poetic genres The reason for this is partly technical only those poets who have studied and internalized the formulas, melodies, and recurrent structures of the genres are capable of reproducing them More casual composers of Mahri poetry may simply lack the appropriate training necessary to forge a unique expression within the strict exigencies of a specific genre As a result, poets composing genre marked poems will often rank among the finer poets of al-Mahra, as well as among its most esteemed personages Indeed, given the prominence of poetry as a vector of collective expression, poetic skill and social status are often one and the same GENRE UNMARKED Poetry in the Mahri language falls into one of two conceptual domains genre marked and genre unmarked The distinction between these two domains is best illustrated by a theoretical Mahri speaker’s response to the question “What kind of poem is this?” If the response takes the form of a single word, it is genre marked If the answer requires a longer response that relates details regarding the poem’s topic or context, it is likely genre unmarked Most poetry in the Mahri language is genre unmarked This does not mean that it is of lesser caliber or quality, it simply means that its author did not compose it with a specific, culturally prescribed performance in mind Since the poetic genres occupy the limelight in local estimations of poetic value, poems that do not appertain to a specific genre are more readily overlooked by transmitters and scholars of vernacular Arabian poetry alike Some truly exceptional poems are genre unmarked; however, they may be less easily recalled and circulated than genre marked poems whose memory is anchored in the formal circumstances of its initial performance Genre unmarked poems are not embedded in the same, socially numinous practices that key the performance of genre marked poems, and for this reason a broader swath of the Mahri-speaking public may feel comfortable engaging in the composition of genre unmarked poems Expectations may be lower for such all-purpose poems because immediate and obvious comparisons may not exist with other poems Poems occurring within the genre unmarked category may display a greater range of quality and success than genre marked poems However, by no means should a genre unmarked poem be assumed to be lesser quality than a genre marked poem The finest poets of al-Mahra also compose poems for circulation outside of the prescribed templates and venues of the poetic genres In short, genre unmarked poems are the warp and woof of the Mahri poetic practice, with the genre marked poems standing out against this background poetic activity GENRES While many—if not most—of the poems in this collection do not fall strictly within the parameters of a specific genre, other poems were conceived with a clear model in mind and thus adhere to the same structural, thematic, and performance parameters Such poems may be referred to by a specific categorical name; these poems may be conceived of and described as belonging to a poetic genre Whereas poetic genres are often conceived of as the smallest integral unit of the poetic tradition by the Mahra and non-Mahri observers, genres are nothing more than a frequently visited intersection between the four parameters of poetic composition They are, in other words, preprogrammed settings on the poet’s radio dial Poems that are not affiliated with a genre encompass any number of possible parametric combinations, and poets who eschew the preset combinations have a great deal of freedom in following their poetic whims As suggested above, genre-affiliated poems are the general domain of al-Mahra’s better-established poets and social notables because composing a poem modeled on a common template will invite comparison with the finest poetic specimens still remembered and circulated in al-Mahra Poems affiliated with a specific genre are embedded within a matrix of associated poems; inserting oneself into a well-established tradition requires a great deal of confidence In contrast, to compose a poem that is not affiliated with a specific genre is to adopt a more modest course; poems that are not genre affiliated therefore span the range of poetic quality from its finest specimens to its most humble In short, the poet’s own sense of his or her poetic capacity and social stature may play a role in determining whether a poem will be composed at a parametric intersection occupied by a commonly accepted genre In summary, one may categorize poetry in the Mahri language into one of two conceptual domains genre marked and genre unmarked The Mahra inhabit a swath of land from eastern Yemen through western Oman that extends from Wādī Masīla and Sayḥūt in the west to the highland plateaus of Dhofār in the east The core of their territory is coterminous with the Governorate of al-Mahra (Ar muḥāfazat al-Mahra) in Yemen, although indigenous Mahra-speaking populations can be found to the north, east, and west of the Governorate of al-Mahra, including the island of Soqōṭrā in the Arabian Sea Along its north–south axis, the territory inhabited by the Mahra stretches from the coast of the Arabian Sea in the south to the Empty Quarter in the north Toponymic evidence indicates that Mahri territories once extended further to the north and east into Oman than they currently do (Dostal, 1989) Historically, the western boundary of al-Mahra appears to have been more or less fixed at Wādī Masīla, although political domination by Mahri-speaking tribes and families has occasionally extended as far west as al-Shiḥr Many Mahri speakers can be found on the island of Soqōṭrā due to familial ties between the Mahra and the native Soqōṭris (a relationship reinforced by their common political history under the ʿAfrārī sulṭānate of Qishn and Soqōṭrā); however, the Mahra are still a minority population among the native Soqōṭrī-speaking population Although the overall territory inhabited by Mahri speakers is extensive, the inhospitality of its terrain has traditionally been a check to agriculture and thence to settled populations on the scale of Ḥaḍramawt to the west or the coastal plain of Dhofār to the east Lack of reliable pasturage means that flocks of sheep and goats, common elsewhere in southern Arabia, are limited; instead, the flora of al-Mahra (including the mountains of Dhofār) primarily support herds of the indigenous Mahri camel The exception to the general desolation of al-Mahra’s landscape is the monsoonal forests of Ḥawf and Dhofār, which offer a verdant refuge to the Mahra and their livestock during the three months of the monsoon (kharīf) While al-Mahra is the Republic of Yemen’s second largest governorate (88,000 km sq ), it is also its least settled Traditionally, the majority of Mahra have subsisted on their camel herds and the rich fisheries of the Arabian Sea The coastal waters of al-Mahra abound in sardines, which are caught for immediate human consumption and dried for camel fodder or pressed for oil Shark, eaten fresh or dried, is likewise an important staple food in al-Mahra The exportation of cuttlefish and lobster has become a profitable source of income across al-Mahra, and the appeal of its quick (but by no means easy) money attracts seasonal fishermen from across southern Arabia Al-Mahra is perhaps best known for its breed of swift and hardy camel While few people outside of southern Arabia have heard of the Mahri language, the mahri (pl mahāri) camel remains the most highly regarded riding camel among the nomadic Arab and Berber peoples of North Africa and the Sahara, where it was likely introduced to native populations by Mahri camel cavalry during the Islamic conquest of Ifriqiyya (modern-day Tunisia) The military virtues of the mahri camel were noted by the French colonial authorities of North Africa who organized Compagnies Méharistes to patrol the Sahara (and later the Syrian Desert) To this day, the mahri camel is celebrated in poetry and prose across North Africa, at festivals dedicated to méhari races, and even by the French auto manufacturer, Citroën, which boasts of its “Méhari” utility jeep For more information on the relationship of the mahri camel to the formation of the Touareg linguistic identity, see Liebhaber 2015 For a comprehensive collection of references to the mahri camel in medieval Arabic poetry and prose, see al-Jidḥī, 2013 88-105 Agriculture is decidedly secondary to the economic fabric of al-Mahra Irrigation-fed agriculture is practiced in Wādī Masīla thanks to the perennial flow of its waters; elsewhere, large agricultural plots are limited to the wādī beds around Sayḥūt, Qishn, and al-Ghaydha where the water table has historically been relatively high Inland, small garden plots can be found near the few springs that dot the inland steppe or that receive mountain runoff channelled into cisterns by low stone walls Coconut and date palm groves are found along the coastal strip and near the few spring-fed oases in the interior of al-Mahra Historically, the Mahra have been engaged in maritime trade at all points around the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf The seasonal calendar of al-Mahra is based on the ocean’s dual moods During the tempestuous monsoonal months (June to September), the majority of the Mahra turn to agriculture and their cottage industries, whereas the rest of the year can be devoted to fishing and oceanic trade Thanks to their close relationship with the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, the Mahra have produced some of its finest navigators, among them Sulaymān al-Mahrī (d 1554), a disciple of ʾAḥmad b Mājid and author of al-ʿUmda al-mahriyya fi ḍabṭ al-ʿulūm al-baḥriyya The harvest and transportation of frankincense played an important role in the economy of al-Mahra and Dhofār through the first half of the twentieth century, although lubān is now solely harvested for local consumption Another cash crop of sorts, the ambergris which occasionally washes ashore can fetch a high price, and the Mahra always keep an eye open for it For a brief description of each region of al-Mahra represented in this poetic collection, click here GLOSSARY (PLEASE WAIT WHILE THE TERMS LOAD) B D D habdīd < B D D a group, collection, Ar kammīya, majmūʿa B D R bōder < B D R Ar badhr (pl ), budhūr seeds, powder or < Mhr B D R “bədōr/yəbōdər/yəbdēr to win, outstrip” (Johnstone, 1987​ 43) B D Y ybōdī < B D Y “bədō/yəbáyd to lie, tell lies” (Johnstone, 1987 43) B D Y bdīyet < B D Y Yem Ar “badā to initiate hostilities [commencer la guerre]…a term for war thār al-bādī, bādī al-ḥarb, badā bādī bayn al-qabāʾil, ‘hostility erupted amongst the Bedouin’ [il a surgi une inimité entre les Bédouins]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 141) B H L bhēl < B H L “bəhlīt/bəhēl word” (Johnstone, 1987​ 45) B H M bhīmet < B H M “bəháymət poor, simple fellow” (Johnstone, 1987 45) B H R yebhōr (heh bhōr), ebhīrūt < B H R to call out for help, “bəhēr/yəbhōr/yəbhērən to appeal for help to (b-) so ” (Johnstone, 1987 45), Ar istighātha B H T bhīt < B H T exceedingly wide (said of a wādī that is crossable after a long trek), Ar mutabāʿid al-ʾaṭrāf B H T bhēt, yšebhūt < B H T “B H Ṣ̌ bəhōt/yəbhōt to convince, out argue, reduce to silence… šəbhōt to give up arguing, be out-argued, convinced, reduced to silence; to think st too much, too far for further effort” (Johnstone, 1987 45-46) tebhōt < B H T to hide sth in the shadows, Ar taẓallala B H Ź bheź < B H Ź “bəhēź/yəbhōź to jump up on being awakened from sleep, start up in surprise” (Johnstone, 1987 46) B H [V] tebhōt < B H T to hide sth in the shadows, Ar taẓallala, Mhr B H [V] “bəhēt/yəbhōt to convince, out argue, reduce to silence, leave without a leg to stand on” (Johnstone, 1987 46) B K R bkōr a mound, a pile (of earth, anxieties), Ar kawm B K R bkōr < B K R “le mehri bokôr, amas de pierres [heap, pile of rocks]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 192) B L D yešbeyled (šbeyled, hōh šbeldek) < B L D to collect, find information B L H bloh to be tested, to suffer, Ar balā B L H bīleh (bilhek, pres ebōleh) < B L H to be distracted B L Ḳ blūḳ < B L Ḳ “bəlōḳ to spit out st distasteful” (Johnstone, 1987 49) B L L ebtəlūl (poetic) < betlūl (heh bettel, yebtəlūl) to be slaked, Ar irtawī B L W blē < B L W Yem Ar “balāʾ (in the South) = war [dans le Sud c’est = guerre]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 209) B L Y ebelyōt ancient, untouched by floods, Ar qaḍīma B L [V] bōlek < B L [V] “bəlō/ybáyl to trouble, tire out; to nag, interrupt” (Johnstone, 1987 49) B L [V] yehbōl to smash to pieces, Ar yuḥaṭṭim, < B L [V] “bəlwēt/bəlyēt catastrophe, disaster” (Johnstone, 1987 49-50)? B L ʿ bellēt < B L ʿ mixed fat, oil and meat, “šəblē (st pleasant) to be easily swallowed” (Johnstone, 1987 48) B N D bnēd, bnūd < B N D Yem Ar “bannada to close” (Piamenta, 1990 40) < Persian band knot, tie B N D M bnɛ̄dem < Ar ibn ādam B N [V] bnīw < B N [V] “bənō/yəbayn/yəbnē to build” (Johnstone, 1987 50) bēnī < B N [V] storeys B R D mhebrīd < B R D sharpened, “bərōd/yəbōred/yəbrēd/yəbrēdən to sharpen (a knife); to file smooth” (Johnstone, 1987 51) B R K brūkem (heh brūk, ybūrek) to kneel (in order to shoot a rifle) B R Ḳ berḳayn “berḳawt to lighten, flash” (Johnstone, 1987 53) B R R ḏeybar rich soil, good for farming, Yem Ar “ḏabr land, irrigated land, field” (Landberg, 1920–42 1 917), alternately derived from Mhr < ḏə-bar (that) of the land/desert < B R R “bar/bəráwr (poet ) desert, land” (Johnstone, 1987 51) bēr < B R R “abárr outside” (Johnstone, 1987 51) B R R šebrīr < B R R to consider sth easy, Ar ʾistashala B R R bar < B R R “barār blister on the hand [ampoule à la main]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 145)? B R W ḥebrētī my daughter, < B R W “həbrē son; həbrīt daughter” (Johnstone, 1987 165) ḥabrēs < B R W + def art “son” + poss suffix B R [V] brē Ar shafā, taʿaddala, barā (i e , Ar baraytu saqamī) B R ʾ ybōrī < B R ʾ “abōrī/yabáryən/yabōrī to free (from guilt or debt)” (Johnstone, 1987 51) B S L bsūl (sing bōsel) Ar bāsil, qawī, riyādī, used specifically for a swift, strong mount (mṭeyyet) ebsəlōt (sing beslet) < B S L strong female camels, Ar maṭāyāt quwiyyāt, bāsilāt B T T hebtūt < B T T “həbtōt/yəhəbtōt/yəhábbət to lop off, chop off, cut off at a stroke” (Johnstone, 1987 56) B T Y bōtī Hobyot for bātī B W B bebtek (< bōbet) (your) age, (your) caliber, Ar bi-ʿumrika, bi-mustawāka, ʿalā qiyāsika B Y N ybeyn, tbeyn < B Y N “bəyōn/yəbyōn/yəbyēn to appear” (Johnstone, 1987 60) B Y S bhīs = bīs + parasitic /h/ B Z R bzēr, bzūr < B Z R “bəzār coll , Ar peppers…a piece of dry stuff” (Johnstone, 1987​ 61) B Z Y habzēʾ the East Wind < B Z Y “ʾazyab North Wind” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 76) B [V] L ebōlī…lɛ̄ he is not worried about, unconcerned with < Ar lā yubālī B Ǧ D bǧūd (hoh bǧidk, ybūǧed) to race after something, pursue something, Ar rakaḍa warāʾ shayʾ B ʿ L bōtī (masc bōlī) < B ʿ L the ones (the young, female goats) of…, Ar dhāt (masc dhū), “bālīt/bātən she of…; mistress, owner, possessor; having, possessing” (Johnstone, 1987 41) bēl < B ʿ L “bāl/báyli owner, possessor; having, possessing” (ibid ) B ʿ R bār < B ʿ R “bār/yəbōr to go by night, be out at night” (Johnstone, 1987​ 41) B ʿ W bawt < B ʿ W “bō (boh), bawt (animal) to give milk when the teats are fondled” (Johnstone, 1987 42) B Ḏ L beḏlīs to abandon (her), a faux ami with Ar badhala B Ḫ L bīḫōl < B Ḫ L literally, a miserly, stingy illness, i e , a disease that won’t let its victim go, Ar maraḍ bakhīl B Ḫ S bḫeys (sing baḫs) pain, Ar ʾawjāʿ, heh yebḫōs, bḫās to feel pain B Ṣ R hebṣeyr, hebṣōr < B Ṣ R “həbṣáwr/yəhəbṣáwr/yəhábṣər to see well” (Johnstone, 1987 55) yebṣeyr Ar yarā B Ṣ R bōṣer < B Ṣ R “abōṣər to go in the twilight, evening” (Johnstone, 1987​ 55) B Ṭ N lebṭayn < B Ṭ N Ar al-buṭayn, “three obscure stars, forming the points of a triangle, in the belly of the Ram, between Sharaṭān and the Pleiades (Thurayyā)” (Lane, 1955 221) B Ṭ ʿ hebṭā (heh yehbōṭa) < B Ṭ ʾ Ar taʾakhkhara D F R yedfīrem (defrek, dīfer) < D F R to be consumed with fire, Ar ʾiḥtaraqa dēfer fire (& bullets), Ar lahīb al-nār D F ʿ dūfe < D F ʿ “dōfa/yədōfa/yədfē to push, to pay, bribe; to pay (h-) so to do st ” (Johnstone, 1987 64) D H Ḳ edwēhēḳ (dim ) < D H Ḳ “dahḳ, dēhəḳ precipice, slope” (Johnstone, 1987​ 66) D H Ś dehśūten < D H Ś Ar mudhish D K F dkīf (sing dekf) < D K F irrigation channels whose ends curve toward each other, Ar qurūn al-wādī, mutarābiṭāt D K S dkūs (heh ydiks) when the needle of a scale or an instrument panel points to one side D Ḳ [V] dḳā < D Ḳ [V] Ar dhakāʾ? D L F dlūf (< ḏə-ydōlef, [ydūlef in coastal dialects], dlūf]) < D L F “dəlōf/yədōləf to jump” (Johnstone, 1987 70) ḏ-īdōlef to jump, i e , to compete at high jumping and long jumping, Ar yaqfiz D L L haddel < D L L “hədlōl/yəhədlōl to inform (of); to show, direct, guide (to)” (Johnstone, 1987​ 70) D L W hadlūt < D L W “hədlō to pick st up” (Johnstone, 1987​ 70) D L [V] hedlōh (heh hedlēk) to take, Ar ʾakhadha D L Ḥ tḏelhen < D L Ḥ Yem Ar “to throw, pour, winnow [jeter; verser…vanner]” (Landberg, 1920–42 1 953) and D R Ḥ “to winnow wheat [vanner le blé]” (ibid 1 926); see also D R Y “ḏáyər/yəḏōrə/yəḏrē to bleed” (Johnstone, 1987 81) D M M dmēm conscience < D M M “aḏmēm to give all the responsibility to so ” (Johnstone, 1987​ 80) D R B mehdərīb < D R B “darb village street, yard” (Johnstone, 1987 73) and Yem Ar “darraba to encircle with a wall [entourer d’un mur]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 726) D R F derfeyn < D R F Yem Ar “darf, pl durūf leaf of the door [ventail de la porte]; shutter of the window [volet de la fenêtre]” (Landberg, 1920–42 759) D R K drēk quickly, Ar bi-surʿa, < Ar ʾadraka D R K emderrəkīn < D R K heroes, brave men, Yem Ar “darak ʿalā to triumph over…darraka to charge s o with responsibility…darīk main body of an army” (Piamenta, 1990, 149) mderrek strong, vigorous, brave D W D ḥdīdī < D W D (+ def art and pers suffix) “ḥə-dīd/ḥə-dūd paternal uncle” (Johnstone, 1987 75) D W L yedwōl < D W L “dəwáyl, dəwáylət/dīwōl, dīwētən to be old, worn out” (Johnstone, 1987 75) D W R tedwīrī < D W R to work, Ar khadama D W ʾ edwēsen < D W ʾ Ar dawāʾhā D [V] R tdūrem < D [V] R their homes? D [V] R edawr < D [V] R the seat of authority, Ar majlis al-ḥukm, al-qilʿa, i e , Aden D [V] Ġ dġawt (heh dġō, ydēġ) to sprout, grow tall (plants, trees) D [V] Ṯ dōṯer a star that arrives with the rainy season and immediately precedes the period of the star miġtāḍ/miġṭāḍ, when the sea is at its greatest period of tumult and the south wind (Mhr mdīt/Ar kaws) is blowing most strongly The appearance of these two stars (one after the other) heralds the arrival of the spring star, rbɛ̄, when the male camels are in their rut “Dōṯə spring rain, spring” (Johnstone, 1987 75) Dōṯer was understood by my informants to be more “eloquent” (faṣīḥ) than dōṯā or dōṯe For a discussion of the root D Ṯ [V] and its south Semitic cognates, see Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 699-700 dōṯəyūt of/pertaining to the star, Dōṯa D Ġ [V] dġā a deeply rooted, firmly planted palm tree, Yem Ar jabrūt and rawʿ dġawt (masc dġōh, pl dġīw) date palm, Ar nakhla D Ḥ Ḳ hedḥawḳ (heh dḥawḳ, yedḥōḳ, hoh dḥaḳk) < D Ḥ Ḳ to step down, Ar dāsa D Ḥ Ḳ medḥeyḳ well trodden, well travelled, < heh yedḥōḳ, dḥāḳ to trod upon, follow a path repeatedly D Ḥ M deḥmeh to attack, oppose < Ar D H M to attack suddenly D Ḥ R dḥōr (hēh dḥār, yedḥōr) < D Ḥ R to head-butt, Ar naṭaḥa D Ḫ Ḫ tedḫīḫen to travel down (a road), < D Ḫ Ḫ Ar “al-dakhdakha to pick up the pace…to pass by quickly” (Ibn Manẓūr, 2005 3 227) F D R yešfedren < F D R “šəfēdər/yəšfadrən to outstrip, race past (in a race)” (Johnstone, 1987 87) F D [V] fdōh (hoh eftedk) Ar ʾibtaʿada, ʾiftadā, Ar tatafaddā ʿan al-ḍayq F F T effeyt when a road broadens after passing through a narrow canyon F Ḳ ʿ fḳāt < F Ḳ ʿ Yem Ar “to hit [frapper]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2426-27) fḳayn cymbals < F Ḳ ʿ “to burst (rifle) [éclater (fusil)], to resound (music) [erschallen (Musik)]” (ibid ) F L K flēk Ar falak F L K flēk < F L K to get ready, “fəlōk to manage to acquire things such as provisions” (Johnstone, 1987 93) and Yem Ar “fallaka to provide food (for a camel) [donner qch à manger, ex fallaka al-baʿīr]…food, sustenance [ʾakl, ʿaysh]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2485-86) F L L flōl (bedouin pronunciation, flūl elsewhere sing fell) < F L L groups of people, Ar majāmiʿ heflōl Ar fulūl, squadrons F L S effəlūs < F L S to become bankrupt, to be ruined, to fail, Ar ʾaflasa, also “fəlōs to take away, deprive a camel of its young” (Johnstone, 1987 94) F L S fwālēs < F L S (dim ) small change, Ar fils, pl fulūs F L [V] eftəlēt he fled F L Š flēš (hoh flešk) to suddently disappear, to cut town F N D meffənīd < F N D itemized, detailed < Ar fannada F N D fnūd < F N D “fənōd to recognize one individual thing, person among others of the same species” (Johnstone, 1987 95) F R D frūd (heh yfōred) to flee (animals), Ar haraba F R H ferhīn < F R H “fərháyn/fərhəyēn mare, horse” (Johnstone, 1987 98) This line is missing from the final version of the Dīwān, although it was present in all earlier versions of it F R Ḳ frūḳ (heh yefrūḳ, hōh ferḳek) to be scared, to glance around in fear and worry, Ar ikhtalasa al-naẓar F R Ḳ effīrōḳ differences or people (foreigners, strangers, and guests) who have settled in a community (i e , tribal dependents) < “fərōḳ to distribute guests over various houses in a community” (Johnstone, 1987 100) F R Ḳ mhāfrəḳ < F R Ḳ “frōḳ/yəfrōḳ/yəhafrəḳ/yəhafrəḳən to frighten (b-) so ; to recover from a fever” (Johnstone, 1987 100) F R R fir < F R R “fər/yəfrōr/yəfrēr to fly, jump up; to flee” (Johnstone, 1987 96) F R T frawt (hoh fretk, she fertūt, heh frūt) < F R T to shift the orientation of sth F R ʿ effəreyt (masc fārā’, pl fwōrā) < F R ʿ < Ar fāriʿ, superior (to one’s companions), Ar dhakī, ḥakīm (fem due to poetic license) F Ś L fēśel (pl hefśōl) < F Ś L issue, concern, no verbal derivatives F Y L fyōl < F Y L “fəyōl/yəfyōl/yəfyēl to be saved, safe” (Johnstone, 1987 111) F Z ʿ fzɛ̄t = Ar fazʿa F Ź Y fźey (sing feźyet) < F Ź Y irrigated palm groves F Ź Ḥ feźḫōt < F Ź Ḥ (?) “fəzāḥ/yəfzōḥ to be embarrassed” (Johnstone, 1987 111) F [V] Ḳ tfēḳ (fyūḳ, fēḳek) < F [V] Ḳ to occur to so , regain o ’s wits, to enjoy, Ar insharaḥa F [V] N fōn there was = Ar kāna, not conjugated F Ǧ Ǧ feǧǧ (also hefǧūǧ) < F Ǧ Ǧ one of the super-sized wādīs of al-Mahra F ʿ L fōl a dream, fantasy, Ar khayāl < F ʾ L “fōl omen” (Johnstone, 1987 86)? F ʿ M fām, effāmeh< F ʿ M “fēm, fawm foot, leg” (Johnstone, 1987 87) F Ḏ R fḏīr < F Ḏ R the heart and liver, Mhr “fōḏər pubes (us animals, women); large milkless udders, breasts” (Johnstone, 1987 87) It is possible that “heart and liver” was my informant’s G-rated translation of a more scurrilous original F Ḫ R fetḫawr < F Ḫ R “əftəxawr/yəftəxayrən/yəftəxōr to be proud” (Johnstone, 1987 110) F Ṭ N fṭayn, efṭōn < F Ṭ N “fēṭən/yəfṭáwn to remember, recognize” (Johnstone, 1987 108) Felġem Felġem the wādī between ʿItāb and Raʾs Darja H B B ehhəbūb a harsh, desert wind, Ar habūb H B B mehhəbīb < H B B to compose a habbōt, “habbīya a marching song [chant de marche]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2843) Johnstone considers habbōt to be an eastern dialectal variant of reǧzīt; see his entry for R Ǧ Z “rəgūz (E hbéb) to sing, rəggōz (EC məhbéb) poet singer, rəgəzēt (EC hibbṓt) poem, song” (Johnstone, 1987 319) As its usage in this poem demonstrates, habbōt can be found in the western dialects as well H B T hōbītem (heh hōbūt, yhōbūt) to grab and force so to the ground, similar to Ar ḍaghaṭa H B T hbūt without thinking, Ar bi-dūn taḥassub, istinzāf, Mhr yhōbet, hbūt, Ar istanzafa H D D yehdawd to thunder, Ar yarʿad H D F hdīf (hdūf, yhūdef) < H D F to converse, Ar tabādala al-kalām H D Y hdīyet a present H D Y ehhōdī < H D Y “hōdi to divide, share out” (Johnstone, 1987 152) mehtīdyūten < H D Y “ehtōdi/əhtádyəm to divide amongst oa ” (Johnstone, 1987 153) H D ʾ yhēd < H D ʾ “hōdi quiet (person)” (Johnstone, 1987​ 152) H F L hōfel belly H K F mōtkīf (hēh hōkūf, yhūkūf) < H K F to bear a burden, to support sth , Ar sanad al-ẓahr, Ar mutaḥammil bihā This second hemistich seems to be missing a syllable or two H K [V] hkūt (heh hkō, yheyk = Ar yamīl) leaning, tilt, Ar al-maylān H Ḳ B thāḳawb (heh hāḳawb) to change place, to migrate H Ḳ F ehhəḳayf an obstacle, impediment (made from branches) < H Ḳ F hḳawf (1st pers hḳafk) to block, deny access, close off, Ar ḥajara H Ḳ L yhōkel < H Ḳ L “həḳawl to make so incline, lean over” (Johnstone, 1987​ 155) H Ḳ Y lehḳā, yhaḳyem < H Ḳ Y “həḳū/yəháyḳ to irrigate; to give a drink” (Johnstone, 1987 155), Ar saqā H Ḳ Ṭ tehḳawṭ (heḳṭawt) < H Ḳ Ṭ to give birth (used only for camels) H L ʿ hlā, hlats (+ poss suffix), hōlā, hēlʿayyēn (dim ) < H L ʿ “hōlaʾ/hīlaʾ shade, shadow…(met ) protection” (Johnstone, 1987​ 156) H L ʿ ehhele < H L ʿ to swear “no!” (< neg particle lā?), “hlē/yəhōlaʾ/yəháhlaʾ to adjure” (Johnstone, 1987​ 156) H M hem conditional particle, distinct from hēm (3rd pl independent pronoun) H M L L hmīlūl (seh hmīlūt, tehmīlūl) < H M L L to fall down, drop, Ar saqaṭa H M M yehmūm, yehmūm, ehmūm < H M M “həm/yəhmōm/yəhmēm to be able (to do st )” (Johnstone, 1987 157) ehhəmūt vigor, energy, Ar ḥamās < H M M “šəhmūt (vn) to dare, be bold, be encouraged, unafraid” (ibid ) hammēt power, ability, Ar qūwa H M N hāhmənōn a group of bullet cartridges H M Y tešhūma (caus -refl verb) < H M Y to be called (by a name) H M ʿ yehmayn < H M ʿ is heard, “hīma and hūma/yəhūma/yəhmē to hear” (Johnstone, 1987 157) tehmey, ettōma < H M ʿ “əttōma/yəttáman/yəttōma to listen” (ibid 158) H N heynī (hnī) with me, hnūk with you H N D hendwōn < H N D iron < Ar “hinduwānī a sword made in the country of al-Hind [India] and well fabricated, made of the iron of that country” (Lane 1955, vol 2 2904), also Yem Ar “handī/yihandī to sharpen by forging” (Piamenta, 1990, vol 2 512) H N ʿ tettōna < H N ʾ to take pleasure in sth , Ar tahannaʾa H R her = ʿār H R H herhō (hoh herkeyk, heh herho) to be immune to fear H R M hrūm < H R M yellow grass, “hərmáyt/hərōm tree…Jahn, hermīt/hīrémten Grasland” (Johnstone, 1987​ 160) H R R heryēr a type of tree? H T F hatf a type of rifle H W H hwoh to pour down, Ar tāḥat al-dumūʿ H W R hwīr < H W R “háwrət drought, rainless period; parched barren land” (Johnstone, 1987 162) H W Y hwūt < H W Y “həwū to fall, swoop” (Johnstone, 1987 162) H W Y hwēt < H W Y desire, energy, Ar qūwa H Y B yehyūb to fear < H Y B “əhtəyūb to despair” (Johnstone, 1987​ 162) H Y B hāyəbīt < H Y B Ar nāqa H Y F hyīf (sing heyf) < H Y F a steep road down a mountainside, Ar ʿaqaba H Y M hoyām < Ar H Y M to roam around distractedly, to be crazy for H Y R hayr < H Y R an inaccessible place, see line 5 from the poem by Ḳanṭōrī Belḥāf in which heyr is used to mean an object that can’t be grasped hayr < H Y R a slippery, elusive substance, like soap or mercury H Y Ǧ hōyeǧ < H Y Ǧ an angry, excited camel, Ar “mihyāj a she-camel that is excited by desire for its accustomed place, and hastens thither” (Lane 1955, vol 2 2911) H Y ʿ ehyīt = Ar khāṭara H Z F mahzīf < H Z F narrow, encircled by mountains H Z R thawzer Ar taʿrif H [V] D hād (“Humorous Couplets”), hād (“The Battle of Aḳəbbōt”) Ar ʾillā H [V] M tehyūm = Ar hāʾim H [V] N hān “hən-…with, in the presence of, at” (Johnstone, 1987 158) Hān is used here as an independent particle, not attested by Johnstone for Najdī Mahri (i e , Eastern Mahri) but attested by Jahn as hené for Southwestern Mahri (Jahn, 1902 188) H [V] R (heh) hawrēs (seh hawrōt, heh hōra, yehwōra, hōh hōrāk, ahwōr) Ar manaʿahā (seh hawrōt manaʿat) H [W] M hōmet < H [W] M mountain peak, Ar ʾaʿlā qimmat al-jabal H Ġ F haġfō (heh yhaġeyf) to sleep H Ǧ M hǧōm < H Ǧ M “həgūm/yəhūgəm/yəhgēm to attack, assail (l-) so ” (Johnstone, 1987 154) H Ǧ S mhawǧes < H Ǧ S excited, wrought up H Ǧ S hǧisk < H Ǧ S “həgūs/yəhūgəs/yehgēs to ponder, think; to think st is st ; həgəsk; bar əhūgəs, I think so” (Johnstone, 1987 154) haǧs < H Ǧ S “hags/həgaws thought, idea” (ibid ) H Ḫ R hwāḫār < H Ḫ R “hēxər/hīxār old man” (Johnstone, 1987​ 162) hēḫer < H Ḫ R brave, responsible man, Ar shaykh H Ṣ R yehṣeyr < H Ṣ R to hit o ’s target (with cutting speech or the evil eye) H Ṣ [V] mahṣāt a water catchment basin, usually ~1 5 feet deep, located on a water channel, Ar majrī al-suyūl H Ṭ F haṭf < H Ṭ F “haṭf one-shot rifle” (Johnstone, 1987 161) K B B yekbūb < K B B “kəb/yəkbūb/yəkbēb to spill out all of [something]…to go down, go south, go down to town” (Johnstone, 1987 201) K B B or K Ḏ B The second hemistich of this line was not clearly recorded, and Ḥājj had trouble making sense of it Ḥājj heard the final verb as lekbīb, although only lekḏīb makes any sense here Furthermore, I am uncertain whether /l-/ here is for verbal negation or for marking the verb of a subordinate clause (i e , “[My nature is not that of one] who lies”) K B D šebdīt < K B D “šəbdīt/šəbádtən liver” (Johnstone, 1987 392) K B Ś kebś the hand, the palm of the hand K B [V] kōbī (hōh kabyek, heh kābeh, pres hōh akōbī, heh ykōbī) < K B [V] to be certain, consider true, Ar ʾiʿtaqada K B [V] kōbī (hōh kabyek, heh kābeh, pres hōh akōbī, heh ykōbī) < K B [V] to be certain, consider true, Ar ʾiʿtaqada K D [V] kdeyt < K D [V] or K D ʾ to hurt with words, “kdū/yəkáyd and yəkūda to make (a camel) trot, run at a fast trot” (Johnstone, 1987 203), Ar nakkada K D ʿ ekdīd a basis for complaint, Ar mabdaʾ shakāh, < K D ʿ kádda to be shy, sad, sorry (about st ), to be nervous (Johnstone, 1987 203) K F F lekfīf (hēh kiff, yekfūf) < K F F to protect, to prevent intrusion and transgression, Ar yamnaʿ K F T kfūt (heh ykūfet) to pinion the arms, when two people grab someone else from behind, Ar kafata (dialect?) K H N khēn, khēn < K H N “kəhēn (us poet ) old times, ancient days, long ago” (Johnstone, 1987 206) < “ke-nhōr some time ago” (Johnstone, 1987 290) K H R khēr < K H R like sfā but with a continuous force, not a single gust K H T khūt the base camp, where the troops gather, often hidden K L B klūb (ykūleb, hōh klibk, mekleb) to be hooked together, Ar imtasaka, “kōləb to sling a hook on to a branch to pull it down…to fetch up with a hook…kátləb to be pulled (up, down) with a grappling hook” (Johnstone, 1987 208) mekkəlīb < K L B to be intertwined, woven into sth K L B kwōbi < K L B wolf, dog K L F ketlīf (hēh ketlūf, yektəlūf) < K L F to bear the expense and pain, Ar takallafa klīf < K L F painful, difficult lektəlūf < K L F “əktəlūf/yəktəlīfən/yəktəlūf/yəktəlīfən to be troubled” (Johnstone, 1987 208) K L F klēf Ar kalafa, taklīf, al-ʿabāʾ K L K L kelkəlēt a fishing term meaning the rocking of a boat in stormy waves K L L klūl < K L L “klūl/yeklūl/yehakkəl to catch st dropping before it reaches the ground (e g water from a hole water-skin)” (Johnstone, 1987 207) K L L ketlūl < K L L “əktəlūl to become little, reduced, dwindle, shrink” (Johnstone, 1987 207) K L L klawl to sleep on the ground on top of pointy rocks that keep you awake all night (like the duty to avenge a kinsman) K L L killem (heh kill, yeklūl) Ar tawajjaʿa, taʾallama K L Ṯ kleṯk < K L Ṯ “kəlūt/yəkūlət/yəklēt to tell, speak to, inform” (Johnstone, 1987 209) kelṯēt < K L Ṯ “kəwtēt/kələttən story” (ibid ) K M T kmūt < K M T Ar “kammata thawbahu he dyed his garment of the colour of [fresh ripe] dates; i e , of a red colour inclining to black” (Lane, 1955, vol 2 2629) K N D yekkənūt to drop (a load), < K N D Yem Ar “kanada to oppress…kinād heavy load…mikannid bearing poverty and hard work” (Piamenta, 1990, vol 2 436)? K N N meknīn < K N N a cave or shelter from the rain K N N kīnen (knenk) < K N N I wish that , not conjugated K N S D kensīt < K N S D “shoulder kənsiid/kənsood” (Nakano, 2013 8) K N Ḥ kūneḥ (also pronounced knūḥ by some) (heh ykūneḥ, seh kenḥawt) to walk, to go, Ar mashā, dhahaba K R D F (?) ekkerdəfūt < K R D F (?) the edge of a wādī K R F (seh) škerfūt (heh škēref, teškerfen) to smell, Ar shammat K R F tekkerfūt < K R F to drink, Yem Ar “čarafah water trough…krīf large pond, rainwater reservoir” (Piamenta, 1990, vol 2 429) The fact that tekkerfūt appears to be a denominal verb leads me to suspect the grammatical and lexical integrity of this line; in fact, Ḥājj Dākōn did not recognize the first hemistich as a prepositional phrase, which it certainly is K R M kermərōm< K R M Ar al-kuramāʾ K R R (heh) yekrūr (heh kerr) to attack, Ar hājama, Ar al-karr wa-l-farr K R R kerr < K R R intersection, where roads meet, Ar makhnaq al-ṭarīq K R T kūrīt < K R T Ar al-ʿishq, ʿizzat al-ḥubb K R Š berḳleyš alternately rendered ibn ḳleyš, binḳleyš, and binḳreyš, “English” or “British,” also Mhr enḳrīzyet English K R ʾ krā’ sweet, non-salty water, Ar māʾ ḥālī/ʿadhib K S B ksūb < K S B “kəsayb good investment” (Johnstone, 1987 215) K S F mhaksīf < K S F narrow, constricting, Ar ḍayyiq, also Mhr ykūsef, ksūf = Ar ḥasara meksīf < K S F Ar qaṣīr, maḥsūr K S L ksēl slowly? < Ar al-kasal? Ḥājj understood it to mean “after fatiguing themselves” < Ar baʿd al-kasal Ḥājj was uncertain about this word and felt that it was incorrect K S R ksīr < K S R a magic plant that preserves milk and turns frankincense into silver, Yem Ar “kisr le petit poteau de bois qu’on place à chaque extrémité de la ṭarîqah [a small, wooden post that one places at each end of a road]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2573) K S R mekser, meksēr, maksēres (pron attached) < K S R coral ridge in the ocean over which waves form, a very dangerous place in which boats are often destroyed K S S ekkes < K S S “šəksūs to get very little (food, money)” (Johnstone, 1987​ 215) K S W ksē < K S W to clothe (in vegetation), “ksū to clothe, give so clothes…(Eastern Mahri) ksé” (Johnstone, 1987 216) kessī < K S W “kássi to get new clothes” (ibid ) K S ʾ ksōh, tkūs < K S ʾ “kūss/yəkūsa to find, meet” (Johnstone, 1987​ 215) K S ʿ ykeys < K S ʾ “kūss/yəkūsa and yəkays/yəksē to find, meet” (Johnstone, 1987 215) K Ś R B kaśrīb < K Ś R B cinder blocks K T B ktōb < K T B treatment using the Qurʾān K T L tektūlī (ketlī, yektūlī) < K T L Ar taʿadhdhaba, taʾallama K W L tektəwōl < K W L “əktəwūl/yəktəwīlən/yəktəwūl to be hasty, unnecessarily quick” (Johnstone, 1987 218) K W R kwōrī narrow feeder ravines K Ź R ḳźawr < Ḳ Ź R “ḳəźáwr to twist (the neck)” (Johnstone, 1987​ 248) K Ź Ź keźź the roaring, breaking of waves, Ar qaṣf al-mawj K [V] L kīlōten Ar kaylāt K [V] R kwōrī (sing keryet) a feeder ravine, Ar shiʿb, used by the bedouin, called śwēġī by non-bedouin Mahra K Š F kšīf (ykūšef, kšūf) < K Š F to uncover, i e , when times are so bad that you have to borrow from your friends, leaving you exposed K Ḏ [V] kḏē kḏē many, without count K Ṭ R kṭawr (hoh kṭerk, seh keṭrūt) to tie (a knot), used idiomatically to express the age of someone (“tied together two years”) K Ṭ R kṯ̣awr < K Ṭ R “kəḍáwr/yəkūḍər to know, tangle kaḍḍər to be knotted” (Johnstone, 1987​ 203) The autograph contains an alternative final stich w-heḳśēy ḏ-heh hźawr K Ṯ F ekṯīf < K Ṯ F Ḥājj translated this term as “sands” (Ar ramāl) He admitted that he wasn’t certain what this word meant, although he averred that it is a geographical description Ḳ B L ḳōbel to think about something, be aware of something, Ar intabaha Ḳ B L lešḳābel < Ḳ B L to orient oneself toward something (a light breeze, drizzle during the ḫrīf) or toward a place Ḳ D L heķdōl < Ḳ D L knot, tie, Ar rabṭ, ḫatm Ḳ D M ḳdēm < Ḳ D M “ḳədūm/yəḳawdəm/yəḳdēm to come, go before (so )” (Johnstone, 1987 223) ḳōdem, eḳōdem < Ḳ D M “aḳōdəm/yəḳadmən/yaḳōdəm to offer (food); to fancy” (ibid ) heḳdōm < Ḳ D M “həḳdūm to bring forward” (ibid ) Ḳ D R yḳawder < Ḳ D R “ḳədūr/yəḳawdər/yəḳdēr to be able” (Johnstone, 1987 224) teḳdīr < Ḳ D R “təḳdáyr God’s decree” (ibid ) Ḳ D T yeḳḳədūt (fem sing , yeḳḳədīt fem pl ) when wave followed upon wave, Ar mawj yalū mawj This verb should be plural since “waves” (shīb) here is plural Ḳ F D heḳfīd < Ḳ F D “kəḳfūd/yəhəḳfūd/yəhaḳfəd/yəhaḳfədən to lower, unload” (Johnstone, 1987 225) Ḳ F L ḳfōlū < Ḳ F L “ḳəfūl/yəḳawfəl/yəḳfēl/yəḳfēlən to close, lock” (Johnstone, 1987 225) šeḳfūl < Ḳ F L “šeḳfūl to make sure of st , find out the facts of st with so ” (ibid )? Ḳ F T hāḳfūt the foothill of a mountain (Ar ḥayd min al-jabal) or a sandy hill (kadma min al-raml) where animals (camels) run for protection, not pastureland Ḳ F Y tenḳawf < Ḳ F Y to set out, to lift (baggage) over one’s head, “aḳōfī/yaḳáyfən/yaḳōfī to go away; to turn o ’s back…ḥəḳfū to finish st , put st behind one; to throw st backwards over o ’s head…to take o ’s family behind the mountain” (Johnstone, 1987 226), also Ar “iqtafā ʾatharahu [to follow so ’s tracks]” (Ibn Manẓūr, 2005 6 166) Ḳ H B ḳhēb, khēb, yeḳhībek < Ḳ H B “ḳəhēb/yəḳhōb to come about 6-9 a m , come in the middle of the day” (Johnstone, 1987​ 226) haḳhōb < Ḳ H B “həḳhūb to bring the animals back at midday out of the sun” (ibid ) Ḳ H D ḳhēd (ḳhedk, yeḳhōd) < Ḳ H D to burn with insomnia, Ar sahada Ḳ H R meḳhayr < Ḳ H R to hobble, Ar qahara to overcome, subdue Ḳ L B ḳlōb < Ḳ L B “ḳāb/ḳəlawb, dim ḳəwēlēb mind, intelligence, memory; heart; intention” (Johnstone, 1987 230) Ḳ L B yšeḳlūb < Ḳ L B “šəḳláwb/yəšḳəláwb/yəšáḳləb to take back, want back” (Johnstone, 1987 230) Ḳ L B ḳlūb “ḳəlōb/yəḳáwləb/yəḳlēb to turn, return…to turn into” (Johnstone, 1987 229) Ḳ L B eḳḳəlēb < Ḳ L B dowry, Ar mahr Ḳ L L mḳalle < Ḳ L L how little!, Ar qallamā Ḳ L S naḳlēs < Ḳ L S to finalize, to wrap up, to set the bounds of sth , Ar ḥaddada, < “ḳəlōs to do up a button” (Johnstone, 1987​ 230) Ḳ L T ḳlatsen (ḳlat) camel lips (when dry?) Ḳ L W ḳlūten, eḳḳəlūten (sing ḳelyēn) < Ḳ L W brothers or a group of young, vigorous men Ḳ L Ṭ ḳlōṭ, yḳawleṭ < Ḳ L Ṭ to surround, to send (an army) out to defend the borders, to build defensive wall around a city Ḳ M M eḳemmeth < Ḳ M M the top (of her head), Ar qimma Ḳ M R teḳmēr < Ḳ M R “ḳəmūr/yəḳáwmər to beat in a game, win; to surpass” (Johnstone, 1987 231) šeḳmīr < Ḳ M R “šəḳāmər to vie with oa in showing off possession” (ibid ) Ḳ N N ḳnets (3rd fem sing + d o suffix) < Ḳ N N verbal derivative from “ḳənnáwn, ḳənnét child; little, young” (Johnstone, 1987 232) Ḳ N [V] ḳnūt, yḳayn < K N [V] “ḳənū/yəḳayn/yəḳnē to rear; to look after; to suckle” (Johnstone, 1987 233), Ar rabbā (rabbat) šeḳnōh < Ḳ N [V] “šəḳnū to be reared, brought up” (ibid ) Ḳ N ʿ tḳayn < Ḳ N ʿ “ḳawna to have had enough, to be satisfied” (Johnstone, 1987 232) mettəḳeyn < Ḳ N ʿ “əḳtōna to be convinced” (ibid ) ḳtōn (ḳatnāk, ḳatnā) < Ḳ N ʿ satisfied, Ar qaniʿa Ḳ R R teḳrīren (seh ḳrīret [Ḥājj doesn’t like this verb in the past tense]) to trot, Ar takhubb, not to gallop, Ar [dialect?] tirbaʿ, = rakaḍa Ḳ R R heḳrawr (yheḳrawr) < Ḳ R R to leave in the afternoon Ḳ R R ḳreyr < Ḳ R R certainly, inevitably, absolutely, Ar ḥataman Ḳ R [V] ḳerk, aḳayr < Ḳ R [V] “ḳərū/ḳōrək to hide” (Johnstone, 1987 237), Ar ʾakhfā Ḳ Ś ʿ eḳśeyt (masc ḳeyśā) < Ḳ Ś ʿ dry, desiccated (of fish), Ar yābis Ḳ T B ḳtūb to carry a load on the upper back, i e , to bear a burden, “šəḳtūb to bear an unpleasant reality…ḳātəbēt fibrositis, pain in the shoulder” (Johnstone, 1987 243) Ḳ T N and Ḳ Ṭ N ḳāten peak, mountaintop ḳāṭenyōt (denominative adj ) belonging to the highland plateau of the ḳāṭen, here likely a road, although a woman living in the ḳāṭen is also possible Ḳ W M mḳeym < Ḳ W M Ar ṣāḥib mulk, rabb al-bayt Ḳ W Ś ḳāś (ḳāśōt, yḳōś) < Ḳ W Ś to lift Ḳ Y D teḳyīd to disappear, used only in poetic contexts Ḳ Y D tḳeyyōd binding laws and customs, Ar taqyīd Ḳ Y S ḳyōs < Ḳ Y S “ḳəyōs good fit, proper measure; proportion” (Johnstone, 1987 247) Ḳ Y S ḳyīs (heh ḳyīs, yḳīs) to resolve on a course of action Ḳ Ź F tḳaźfen, maḳźayf (heh ḳźōf, hoh ḳźaft) to have control, authority over, to constrain, Ar sayṭara, taḥakkama, kabbala Ḳ Ź N ameḳźānōt < Ḳ Ź N inner beauty, deeply beloved, Ar ḥabūb, al-jamīla al-muḥabbaba, Mhr maḳźān, maḳźānet (fem ) a cute, little child Ḳ Ź [V] ḳźā reparation, Ar thaman al-khaṭʾ Ḳ [V] N ḳōn a mountaintop, the highest point where one can see for 360 degrees, < Ar qirn Ḳ Š B ḳešbāyōn name of a place or possibly “and [take] the little shortcuts,” dim ḳešbōn Ḳ ʿ R ḳaʾrēr place name, also a box canyon Ḳ Ṣ L ḳṣeylet is used by the bedouin for a ceasefire (Ar hudna), called fṣīlet by the non-bedouin Mahra, it is a time-out period between two periods of hostility and the fighting will break out once again when the appointed time has expired Ḳ Ṣ R ḳṣawr < Ḳ Ṣ R “ḳəṣawr to fall short (in a race); to give short measure” (Johnstone, 1987 240) Ḳ Ṣ W ḳṣaw, tḳaṣyen < Ḳ Ṣ W “ḳəṣō (road) to end; to finish; to come to the end (of a road)” (Johnstone, 1987​ 241), Ar tamshī li-ākhir al-mishwār heḳṣōh < Ḳ Ṣ W “həḳṣō/ḥəḳəṣōh (life, etc ) to finish” (ibid ) Ḳ Ṭ F ḳṭōyef < Ḳ Ṭ F Yem Ar “qatāyif carpet” (Piamenta, 1990, vol 2 406) Ḳ Ṭ R ḳāṭer < Ḳ Ṭ R Ar ʿalā qiyās, kalām ṣāʾib Ḳ Ṭ R ḳṭerk < Ḳ Ṭ R “ḳəṭáwr/yəḳáwṭər to turn round and round (us in children’s games); to tire to look around, go far and wide” (Johnstone, 1987 245) Ḳ Ṭ R ḳṭawr spin, whirl, twirl (overhead), “ḳəṭáwr/yəḳáwṭər/yəḳṭār to turn round and round (us in children’s games)” (Johnstone, 1987 245) Ḳ Ṭ ʿ ḳāṭā < Ḳ Ṭ ʿ “ḳəṭāt piece…məḳṭāt/məḳṭā waterless desert…(Eastern Mahri), ḳéṭʾōt great heat” (Johnstone, 1987​ 244) Ḳ Ṭ Ṭ ḳeṭ < Ḳ Ṭ Ṭ to toss down, to lay down, Ar ramā L B B lbīb < L B B slender, Ar rashīq L B B ḳalbəlōb < ḳalb (heart) and lōb < L B B heart, pith, Ar lubb L B D lebūd, lebdūt, lbōdem < L B D “əwbūd/yəlūbəd/yəwbēd to shoot, strike; make, knock together” (Johnstone, 1987 250) lebbōd hunter (poetic), “trigger striker,” Ar al-qināṣ L B [V] elōbī < L B [V ] to respond, answer < Ar “labbā to respond to so ’s call [répondre à l’appel de quelqu’un]” (Dozy, 1968 523) L D F ldīf < L D F crashing of waves, Ar laṭm al-ʾamwāj L F F yūtfīf < L F F to join together in a single line < hēh yeltəfūf, hēm yeltəfīf In the interior bedouin dialect the /l/ is assimilated to /t/ L F L F helfəlōf < L F L F the narrow constrictions and broad expanses of a wādī whose width is not consistent throughout L H B elhēb < L H B “lahba flame [flamme]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2648) L H N lehne but (conj ) L H [V] lēhī < L H [V] the lowing of an animal when it calls for its young, to bleat, “ləhaytən cows” (Johnstone, 1987 253) L K K lkēk < L K K Yem Ar “lakk (pl ) lukūk a very large number [eine sehr grosse Zahl], a hundred thousand [cent milliards]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2643), < Hindi lakh L Ḳ F līḳef (hoh liḳfek) to be stuck or stopped L Ḳ F lḳawfem (hēh lḳawf, yelḳawf) < L Ḳ F to hold tightly onto something, “līḳəf to take, get hold of” (Johnstone, 1987 254), Ar masaka, tamarkaza mhelḳawf < L Ḳ F held, Ar mamsūk meltəḳawf < L Ḳ F a handle, something to grab hold of L Ḳ T alḳeyt a cave located near a mountain peak, Ar qār fi-ʾl-jibāl L M ʿ elmeth < L M ʿ to appear, shine; elmeth ḏe-ssewīṭ to show the dorsal fin above the waterline L W B lawb asseverative particle indicating regret, Ar taḥassur lawb absolutely, inevitably < L W B “lawb indeed…lōb-lōb yes indeed” (Johnstone, 1987 257-58), Ar ḥataman L W Y teltūwī < L W Y “látwi/yəltūwi to get bent, bend” (Johnstone, 1987 258) mletye < L W Y to turn towards so , to wend o ’s way mhelwūt < L W Y to be tied up, twisted up L Y F līf < L Y F “layf coconut hair, fibre” (Johnstone, 1987​ 259) L Y N nleyn, (impv ) layn! < L Y N to go in the time between mid-afternoon (al-ʿaṣr) and sunset (al-maghrib), uncertain etymology L Y [V] elṭəyūm to coalesce, group together, Ar tajammaʿ L [V] le connecting particle, not negation L [V] Ǧ ? šelwīġ < L [V] Ġ ? to hear L Ġ N lġīn (pl līġōn) < L Ġ N feet not used to walking barefoot, tender feet L Ḥ Ḳ leḥḳayn < L Ḥ Ḳ “ləḥāḳ to catch up with, overtake (b-) so , to help” (Johnstone, 1987 253) L Ḥ N leḥnēt (pl leḥnōṭen) blood relationship comprising a smaller unit than the Ar fakhīdha, Ar qarāba, ʿaṣaba M D D yšemtūt to set out for vengeance < (caus -refl š-stem) M D D Yem Ar “madda al-ghazw to go on a raid [faire une razzia]…to set forth [s’en aller, partir]…madda blood wite [prix du sang]” (Landberg, 1920–42 vol 3 2680-81)? M D Y mdīt < M D Y South Wind (Johnstone, 1987 261) M H B mehyēb < M H B awesome, tremendous, Ar muhāb M H R emhūr a necklace of gold, < “mēhər bride-price” (Johnstone, 1987 262), < Yem Ar “mahār nose-ring or loop (of camel)” (Piamenta, 1990, vol 2 473) M H S emuhsēt < M H S malaria, Yem Ar al-mawhisa M K N men mkōn anywhere, Ar ʾayy makān M K S meks < M K S to anger, pester so , Ar naghghaza M K Y Ǧ makyāǧ < Fr maquillage makeup M Ḳ D mķawdeḥ < M Ḳ D a bore used in ship making M Ḳ L mḳall < M K L Ar ʾākhiruhā < Ar maqall? M L D mlōda the eyes of a camel M L K hemlōk < M L K “həmlūk/yəhəmlūk to give legal possession of a wife in a marriage contract” (Johnstone, 1987 266) M L Ḏ mlōḏa cheeks M N Y heh mōne, ymenyen, hoh amenyek < M N Y Ar khayyara, manna, anā manaytak M R R (?) mrōyes < M R R (?) those who wish to continue (a problem), obstinate M R S mīrēs < M R S camel’s halter (through the nose), Ar khiṭām, “mīrēs girth on the back of a camel” (Johnstone, 1987​ 270) M R T (?) hīmrēt < M R T (?) piled up (bodies) decapitated, Ar qaṣqaṣa, < Yem Ar M R T “marata make hairless, smoothen [rendre glabre, lisse]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2685)? M R [V] mōren (1st & 3nd pers past) mōrek/mrōh < M R [V] Yem Ar “marā to rub [frotter], to squeeze [presser] (the udder [le pis] of cow or camel [de la vache ou de la chamelle])” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2690) The phrase ḏ-bɛ̄r mrōh ḥlūb (“whoever fondles the teats, gets milk”) is equivalent to the Arabic expression man zaraʿa, yaḥṣad/yajnī (“whoever plants the field, harvests the crops”) M R Ġ mrawġ (sing mraġ) < M R Ġ pangs, pains, Ar ʾawjāʿ, “mətōrəġ (us camels) to roll in the dust to relieve itching” (Johnstone, 1987 269) M R Ḍ merḍāt < M R Ḍ My consultant, Muḥammad bir Nǧēma, was certain that /ḍ/ was the correct phoneme here and that the word meant a letter or testament (Ar risāla or waṣiyya) Muḥammad argued that merźāt would mean “a sick woman” and contrasted mreyḍ (“something sent”) with mreyź (“someone sick”) However, see merźōne in the sung poem by Musallim Rāmis, where it clearly means “I will entrust you with advice/a testament ” M R Ḥ mīrēḥ < M R Ḥ (?) plate, platter, < Ar mirʾāh mirror? M S K mask < M S K “musk” (Johnstone, 1987 271) M S R mśīr < msīr? M Ś R mśēr (mśūr, ymōśer) < M Ś R to cut across the land or sea, used only for mounts or boats, Ar yaqtaʿ al-ʾarāḍī M T N emettənī to desire, wish for, Ar tamannā M T N hamtōn < M T N having a strong back, Yem Ar dhuwī ʾamtān jamīla M T N hāmtōn Ar al-matn M T ʿ le-ttōt < M T ʿ (for) pleasure M T ʿ mtāt < M T ʿ “mətāt food” (Johnstone, 1987​ 273), Ar al-kūt, al-ʾakl M W L mawləyīn (sing mawlī) < M W L equivalent to Ar al-ʿuẓamāʾ noble, excellent people M W Y emettəwī < M W Y “mátwī/yəmtūwi/yəmtáyw to have leisure, not to be busy” (Johnstone, 1987 275) M Y D myīd < M Y D to oppose, counteract, Ar ʿākasa M Z R mezrūt (hēh mzūr, ymūzer) < M Z R to inflate with breath, to fill, Ar ʿabbaʾa, malaʾa M Ź Y mźī < mźīź a trickle of water, a weak, dribbling spring, Ar “muḍāḍ brackish water, brine, salt water” (Wehr, 1979 912) M [V] L emawl < M [V] L rope, Ar ḥabl M [V] N men < mōn who M [V] R mōret reason (for killing), i e , self-defense M [W] H moh < M [W] H Ar sawāʾ, ʾammā M Ġ B mġāb < M Ġ B Ar maġīb al-shams M Ġ R mġōr < mġōren afterwards M Ǧ R meǧrē < M Ǧ R road, way, path that is customarily used M ʾ mōh < M ʾ “mō well, indeed” (Johnstone, 1987 260) M ʿ D mɛ̄d, emādēš < M ʿ D “mēd intelligence” (Johnstone, 1987 260) M Ḏ H mḏahk (maḏh, yemūḏeh) < M Ḏ H to bewitch, saḥḥara M Ḏ L mḏōlel women M Ḥ Ḳ maḥḳ < M Ḥ Ḳ “məḥāḳ/yəmḥōḳ, vn máyḥəḳ, maḥḳ (children) to annoy so , pester” (Johnstone, 1987 263) M Ḥ N yemḥōn, yemḥayn < M Ḥ N “məḥān/yəmḥōn to give so bad news; to disturb so while he is working; to sadden” (Johnstone, 1987 263) memḥayn < M Ḥ N “matḥəm/yəmtəḥawn to take, have trouble; to have work, tasks one is obliged to do” (ibid ) memḥayn (heh ḏ-matḥan, hoh hemḥawk tēk) to run so down, to bother so , Ar mamḥūn M Ḥ R əmūḥeyr (sing meḥyīr) a fence to keep animals out of a garden (bedouin word) M Ḥ Ṣ emehṣet < M Ḥ Ṣ “məhṣāt/məhēṣ shallow well” (Johnstone, 1987 263) M Ḫ Ḳ temḫayḳem < M Ḫ Ḳ to upset, disturb, “məxāḳ to pull out (a dagger) violently; to flee; to be scratched; and to scratch” (Johnstone, 1987 275) M Ṭ W mōṭī < M Ṭ W stature, Ar qāmat al-bint, “palm frond [rameau de palmier]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2701) M Ṯ Ḳ māṯīḳ to have confidence in something, something anticipated, Mhr ʾawṯaḳ fīk “I have confidence in you” < Ar al-thiqa, ʾittathaqa M Ṯ R emṯōr < Yem Ar M Ṯ R “to be shed, spilled (tears or blood) [se répandre]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2675) N B T nbīt (yenbōt, nībet) < N B T to do something well, Ar ʿamila al-jamīl, tafaḍḍala N B Ġ tnebġen < N B Ġ to steal N B ʾ yembōt (passive) < N B ʾ “nəbō/mbúh to inform” (Johnstone, 1987 279) N D B mneddəbīn < Ar mandūb = Ar muʿānin, certain people in the tribe who function as “tribal spies” (Ar firqat istiṭlāʿ, al-istiḫbārāt al-qabaliyya) and are well positioned to collect information due to blood ties with the enemy, also called in Mahri sabyēr (i e , Ar murāqib dāʾim) N D F ndīf (ndift) < N D F (?) to be ready to go, clean N D H eneddeh < N D H nedhūt, tnūdeh to take to pasture (used only for women), nedhīt, nedhūten (pl ) shepherdess N D R mendīr < bandar, a trade entrepôt, site of commercial activity N D R sendrōs < N D R (?) tar, an oil slick, what oil tankers leave behind, Ar qaṭrān, dāmir N D Ḫ šnēdeḫ (heh yešnedḫen) to make so arrive, Ar waṣṣala, Mhr ndūḫ, ynūdeḫ to arrive, Ar waṣala N F hnēf < N F “ḥə-nōf self” (Johnstone, 1987 283) N F Ḳ lehenfeḳ < N F Ḳ to go past sth , to exceed, Yem Ar “nāfaqa convenir, passer” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2809) N F L nefl < N F L Ar nafāya, damr N F S menfēs < N F S to make an excuse for so , uncertain etymology N F S nfēs < N F S “anōfəs to make space for (h-) so ” (Johnstone, 1987 285) N F Ś nfūśem to set out in the late afternoon < N F Ś “nənfūś to take the goats to pasture in the afternoon…šənēfəś to go somewhere in the late afternoon” (Johnstone, 1987​ 285) N F Y enūf < N F Y to refuse N F Y enāfyūt (denominative adj fem ) of the tribe of ʿAnfān N F Ź enfīź air, something that appears to be there but isn’t, like a mirage, Ar al-hawā N F [V] anūf < N F [V] Ar nafā N F Ġ ynūfeġ < N F Ġ “nūfəġ[sic]/yənūfəġ/yənfēġ to throw” (Johnstone, 1987 283) N F ʿ enōf emergency flag, Ar ʿalam al-istinjād < N F ʿ , Yem Ar and Mhr “to serve, to render a service” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2808) N F ʿ nfeyt < N F ʿ profit, gain, Ar nafʿa, manfaʿ N H L mnōhel stream, spring, Ar al-nahr, manhal, mawrid māʾ N H L šenhawl Ar ghalaba N H R ke-nnehōr < “k-anhōr every day, some time ago” (Johnstone, 1987 290) N H R yenhīr < N H R to head toward sth , Ar ʾittajaha N H Y yehneh, yehneyh < N H Y (caus stem) to cause so to forget, “náyhi to forget, leave (sth ) behind (he)nhú/yinhéy/yinnē” (Johnstone, 1987 290–91) N H Ǧ mentəhīǧ committed to a course, path, or way, Ar mutaʿannī, qāṣid, yajīʾ ʿānī N K F nkīf (sing nekf) < N K F a stationary cloud, Ar rukām ʿinda maṭāliʿ al-suḥub N K R henkerk < N K R “hənkūr/yəhənkūr to feel, to feel (as if); to realize, understand; to feel (pain)” (Johnstone, 1987​ 295) N K S menkēs < N K S “nəkūs “to move, to fall on (l-) so , st ; to put sth down; to hang (l-) o ’s head…to hang o ’s head low” (Johnstone, 1987 296) N K Ś enkəśūt, nekśīt, nekśōt < N K Ś Yem Ar nakasha “to stir, trouble, upset [déranger, troubler, inquiéter]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2823), Yem Ar nabasha, hayyaḍa nkūśes (heh nkūś, ynekś) to dig under sth , to search underneath sth , Ar (dialect?) nakasha; tentəkūś (heh entekśōt) to be found, Ar yanbaḥiṯ nekśūt to be turbid, roiling (the ocean), Ar nakkasha, al-taqlīb, tantakish (dialect?) when the ocean is in tumult N K Z mnakkez a precious wild honey produced by mountain bees N K ʿ nūke, nūkā, nkōn, nkayn, tenke, < N K ʿ “nūka/yənūka/yinkē to come” (Johnstone, 1987 293) N Ḳ B ənḳəbūt tapping, clicking N Ḳ D ənnəḳawd, nḳawd (poetic) heh nḳawd, ynūḳed/ynaḳden to choose, to weigh between choices, to judge which is the best, Ar naqada, ikhtāra, Yem Ar naqqā, Mhr nōḳī N Ḳ F nḳawf < N Ḳ F “to pull out, to pull outside of so , to take away, to remove [arracher, tirer dehors de quelque chose, emporter, enlever]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2815-16) N Ḳ L neḳlīn < N Ḳ L “nəḳawl to choose…ənḳēlēʾ choice (livestock)” (Johnstone, 1987​ 297) N Ḳ Y nḳā < N Ḳ Y compensation, Ar muqābil N Ḳ [V] enōḳī (yneḳyen, nōḳī) < N Ḳ [V] to choose (between sth good and sth bad, between two piles of qāt), Ar ikhtāra, naqqā The semantics of this word in Mahri is linked to the Yemeni/South Arabian expressions radd al-naqā (“to declare war [déclarer la guerre]”)and tanaqqa (“to avenge [se venger]”) (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2817) For a discussion of al-niqāʾ/al-nigā in tribal North Yemen, see Dresch, 1989 49 and Caton, 1990 34 N S B nsīb < N S B a dear or precious person, not exclusively a relative, Ar ʿazīz, ġālī N S F ǧensəfūt tree stump N S F nessīf (nesfek, nsūf) < N S F to shred, Ar mansūf N S L hanselōt < N S L “nəsūl (unfastened clothes) to fall down…to feel completely exhausted…hənsūl to lower slowly” (Johnstone, 1987 300) N Ś F neśfek < N Ś F to sip, to drink N Ś Ḳ ənśəḳōt (seh tenśūḳ) to be empty, to be emptied of water, Ar jaffat min al-māʾ N Ś R nśōrem < N Ś R Ar nashara N Ś R menśēr < N Ś R “nəśūr to wear new clothes” (Johnstone, 1987 302) N Ś R neśrūt (heh nśūr, yenśūr, although henśūr, yhenśūr is more common) to wake up, rejoice, be excited, to walk proudly while wearing new clothes, Ar fāqat, iftaraḥat N Ś R nśēr < N Ś R periods of the night, stages of sleep, hanśerk, hanśūr to pass a peaceful night N Ś R henśerk < N Ś R “hənśūr/yəhənśūr to have had enough sleep and feel fresh” (Johnstone, 1987​ 302) N Ś R nśēr < N Ś R “naśśər (people, animals) to spread out, separate” (Johnstone, 1987 303) N Ś S nśēs (nśesk) < N Ś S to become disheveled, to be in disarray, to lift up the head and refuse to give milk (a camel), Yem Ar marshūkh < “rashakha to throw, fling, kick” (Piamenta, 1990, vol 1 182) N Ś W nśūt < N Ś W “nəśū/yənáyś to transhume, migrate” (Johnstone, 1987 303) N Ś [Y] menśūt all of o ’s moveable possessions, the bedouin’s home < nśō, yneyś < N Ś [Y] to move with everything you possess, including family N T Ṭ entīṭ (heh yentəyīṭen) to come in tight succession, used of waves, fog, etc but never for people N Ṯ R nenōṯer < N Ṯ R “nəṯōr to untie (l-) st , so ” (Johnstone, 1987 305) N W B aḥnōb < N W B “nōb/nəyōb big” (Johnstone, 1987​ 306) N W B bōtī nōb “Those [She-Camels]-of-the-Bee,” Ar dhawāt al-naḥl, < N W B “nōbēt/nəwēb bee” (Johnstone, 1987 306) The “She-Camels-of-the-Bee” are the celebrated milch camels of al-Mahra whose milk is both abundant and sweet N W M S nūmsēt < N W M S proper upbringing, virtuous tribalism (al-nakhwa al-qabīliyya), Yem Ar “nawmasa to educate, teach manners tnawmas to be polite, well-mannered, well-bred” (Piamenta, 1990, vol 2 501) N W Y nwūt < N W Y “hənwō/yəhənáyw/yəhēnəw to intend, decide (to do st )” (Johnstone, 1987 307), also < Yem Ar N W ʾ “to lift os with difficulty [se lever avec peine]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2829) N W Ġ nwīġ < N W Ġ to disturb, strike, pain (the head), < Ar N B Ġ ? N W ʿ ettənāyū < N W ʾ to darken the sky (clouds) nōwet < N W ʾ dark clouds, an atmosphere of impending catastrophe, “nəwō/yənáyw poet (rain clouds) to pile up…nēwət poet rain-clouds…clouds starting to pile up” (Johnstone, 1987 305-6) N W ʿ nwūt (hēh nwō, yneyw) < N W ʿ to become visible (said for rainy weather) N Y F enwayf < N Y F Yem Ar “nayāfa pl nawāyif lofty mountains” (Piamenta, 1990, vol 2 501) N Y Ś menśūt (hoh neśk, heh nśoh, ynēś) < N Y Ś to follow after the rains (i e , for pasturage) N Y [V] ḥanwēy (sing nyēt) < N Y [V] intention, Ar niya N Z Ḥ enēzḥeyt lofty, towering (of a mountain) N Z Ḥ yešzaḥyem (heh yenzōḥ, het šenzaḥk, hoh mešnēzaḥ) to wander from the path, to stray N Ź F menźōf < N Ź F “nīźāf/nəźəfōtən covering, covers; mattress” (Johnstone, 1987 310) N Ź F nźōf lit “to clean” but understood idiomatically to mean “to toss away sth annoying” or “to wash one’s hands of a troublesome matter ” N Ź F menźōf < N Ź F vital organs, viscera N [V] B nwōbī (sing neybet) Ar zawāj N [V] Ź nwōź (sing nōź) lightning, Ar al-barq N [Y] Ḳ enēḳa < N [Y] Ḳ a white stripe on a cow’s nose and forehead, Ar ḫuṣla, name of a lineage, not necessarily the name of a single cow N Š ʾ ānēš < N Š ʾ (?) < Ar nāšiʾ, a young man N Š ʾ anšē < N Š ʾ (N Š [V]) extension (of patience), Ar muṭāwala, Yem Ar “nashā être en convalescence…ʾintashā to be in a good humour” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2768) N Š ʿ ntōšī < N Š ʾ to dance, Yem Ar “intashā to be in good humor” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2768) N Š ʿ mnawśī instruments, Ar muʿaddāt, < N Š ʾ Ar munshaʾa, military installation N Ǧ B ənǧəbūt Ar mustakhraja, muʾayyada N Ǧ D enǧūd < N Ǧ D the highland plateau in the hinterland of Ḥawf, “nágd Negd (in Dhofar)” (Johnstone, 1987​ 286) N Ǧ Z ynūǧez (heh nǧūz, seh neǧzūt) to empty, Ar yufḍī (min al-riṣāṣ) N Ǧ Ḥ nǧiḥt (heh nǧēḥ) to burn fiercely, hot, and consistently due to the quality of the firewood, also Ar ʾaṣliyya, < Mhr neǧḥawt it was cooked, Ar najaḥat and nǧōweḥ/henǧōweḥ well cooked = Mhr nōǧeḥ N Ǧ Ṭ yhenġawṭ (henġawṭ) to make so angry, Ar ʾazʿala N ʿ M yhanʾem (also yhēnem) < N ʿ M “hənáwm (God) to grant a favor…hənáwm līn abēli God has favoured us (e g , with rain)” (Johnstone, 1987​ 278) N Ḥ R šenḥerk < N Ḥ R “šənḥáwr/yəšənḥáwr to complain, to raise a plaint in court” (Johnstone, 1987​ 292) N Ḥ T nḥatš < Ar N Ḥ T to fashion, hew (in equal proportions) I would have expected to find /-s/ as the object suffix for this verb and the following verb, and not the personal, 2nd fem suffix /-š/, which we have here Translated according to the latter, these two verbs would be addressed directly to the mother of Ṭmā N Ḥ W nḥāt < Ar N Ḥ W naḥḥawa? N Ḥ Ǧ neḥǧōt, neḥǧūten < N Ḥ Ǧ “nəḥāg/yənōḥəg (women) to dance, (men) to be at leisure, (children) to play” (Johnstone, 1987 291) N Ḫ L nḫālī < N Ḫ L “ənxāli under, underneath” (Johnstone, 1987 308) The preposition “under” figuratively refers to the rights possessed by every sovereign nation and literally refers to the oil reserves that were believed to lie beneath the PDRY N Ḫ W enḫəweth (neḫwēt) < N Ḫ W pleasant interpersonal atmosphere, “nəxū to relax” (Johnstone, 1987 309) N Ḫ [V] nḫā < N Ḫ [V] sincere happiness, “hənxū to be happy to do sth , to be glad (for sth )” (Johnstone, 1987 309) N Ḫ [V] nḫā under, poetic form of nḫālī, Ar taḥt N Ṣ F tneṣṣeyfen < N Ṣ F “hənṣáwf to be fair, treat justly” (Johnstone, 1987 300) N Ṣ L neṣwōl < N Ṣ L “to withdraw, take away [retirer]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2776) N Ṣ R šenṣawr < N Ṣ R “šənṣawr/yənšənṣawr/yəšanṣər to be victorious, win” (Johnstone, 1987 301) N Ṣ [Y] nṣā (nṣō, yneyṣ) < N Ṣ [Y] (impv ) to recall, to praise, Ar majjad! udhkur! N Ṭ B mhanṭeyb < N Ṭ B “hənṭáwb to drop st , let sth fall” (Johnstone, 1987 304) N Ṭ R lenṭeyren < N Ṭ R to polish, make shine, make blossom, Yem Ar naẓẓara, zahhā R B B errab < R B B Ar al-rabb R B B yerbūbem < R B B “rəb/tərbūb (camel) to become disoriented herbūb to have a pain in the groin” (Johnstone, 1987 311) R B B ertəbūb to become excited, Ar yataḥammas al-nafs < “mərbēb/mərōbəb camel over-attached to its young…a wife who likes her husband very much” (Johnstone, 1987 312) R B Ḳ mrēbēḳ < R B Ḳ “rībəḳ to approach, come near, near to so ” (Johnstone, 1987 313) R B T yertəbūt to increase, Ar yazīd ʿalā kullahā al-baʿḍ R B Ź rebźā < R B Ź Ar “al-rubuḍ and al-rubaḍ a man’s wife because she settles him down [turabbiḍuhu]…al-rabḍ and al-rubḍ and al-rabaḍ the wife, mother or sister who takes care of [tuʿazzibu] her relations” (Ibn Manẓūr, 2005 3 80) rabźā [brothers] of the same mother R B ʿ rebyeh < R B ʿ “arōba/yaraban/yarōba to give so protection” (Johnstone, 1987 312) R D D redīd < terdīd; rōdeš < R D D “rəd/yərdūd/yərdēd to return, give back” (Johnstone, 1987 314) R D D emred < R D D “mərád return” (Johnstone, 1987 314) R D D retted < R D D here, to echo R D F yerdīf < R D F one group following the other R D F mreddef bound twice over, Yem Ar muḏḏabal doubled R D H rdoh the throw (away), Ar ramā R D W rōdek < R D W “rədū/yəráyd to throw overhand, pelt herdū/yəhəráyd to leave to jettison st ” (Johnstone, 1987​ 315) R D Y rehdīd plot of land, Ar masāḥat al-ʾarḍ, < R D Y “rīdīt field, fertile area” (Johnstone, 1987​ 315) R D [V] rdōten (sing reddēt) gusts of wind, to and fro, Ar habbāt al-rīḥ, hazzāt al-rīḥ R F S rfēs < R F S “rəfūs/yərəfs to kick and bruise” (Johnstone, 1987​ 317) R H B yenterhūb (< yterhub) < R H B to slip, slide, to fall into sth , Ar inzalaqa R H F rīhōf Ar rahīf R H F erhayf razor sharp, cutting, Ar rahīf R H W rhūt < R H W Ar “rahw going easy…being soft, gentle, with continuance…being still, quiet, motionless, calm, allayed, or assuaged” (Lane, 1955, vol 1 1174) R K B trōkeb organized troops of men, Yem Ar fulūl R K B mrākeb boats for trading and business, Ar bawākhir R K N rkenh < R K N (his) support, i e , (his) tribe < Ar rukn R K N hārkōn (sing rēken) < R K N Ar rukn R K S erwēkēs < R K S rain clouds R K T rkūt, rektīsen < R K T “rəkūt/yərəkt/yərkēt to step on, stand on, tread on (l-) st ” (Johnstone, 1987 323) erkēt (hoh rkatk, heh rkūt, heh yrūket) to take steps, walk yrikt (or yrūket [some say one, some say the other, poetry vs everyday speech?], heh rkūt, hōh rketk) to step on, to stomp on R K Y merkē a place to which everyone goes, a place that draws you in and embraces you, Ar muḥtaḍin R K Z erkēz < R K Z straight, “rəkūz, yərūkəz to straighten st , put st straight, stick st upright” (Johnstone, 1987 324) R K Ḥ merkaḥsen < R K Ḥ to carry a heavy load, to be burdened, < Ar “mustarkaḥ position of support [point d’appui]” (Dozy, 1968 554)? R Ḳ D erḳād tribal subdivision, clan, Ar fakhīdha R Ḳ F ḥarḳafōt < R Ḳ F (Jibbāli) “ḥorqōfōt waist” (Nakano, 1986 8) R Ḳ Ḳ ertəḳawḳ Ar ʾaṣbaḥa raqīqan R Ḳ M b-raḳm a type of embroidered thawb, “’raqama’ al-thawb yarqumuhu raqman wa-‘raqqamahu’ khaṭṭaṭahu” (Ibn Manẓūr, 2005 3 207) R Ḳ Y (?) rwāḳāt < R Ḳ Y (?) thunderheads, dark rain clouds I suggest that Mhr rwāḳāt is related to Ar R Q Y “to be high, elevated” and Heb /Ar raqīʿ (< R Q ʿ ) the waters of the sky, i e , the firmament of Semitic cosmology Landberg, 1920–42 1361–79 provides an extended discussion of the interrelationship of the Semitic roots R Q ʾ , R Q ʿ , and R Q Y R M S termēs < R M S “rəmūs/yərūməs to chat at night to so ” (Johnstone, 1987 327) R S H rēseh (sing resh) < R S H trouble, boredom, anxiety, Ar malal, humm R S W yrēs < R S W “hərsū/yəhəráys/yəhárs to anchor; to stay in one place” (Johnstone, 1987 328) R Ś W erśī < R Ś W “rəśū/yərayś/yerśē to tie, tether raśśi (animal) to be tied, tethered (to st )” (Johnstone, 1987 330) R T B yertəbūt < R T B “arōtəb/yarátbən/yarōtəb to arrange; to pile stones up” (Johnstone, 1987 331) trebten (yrūteb) < R T B to arrange os , Ar tartīb R T Ḳ yertəyīḳ (heh retyeḳ, hoh retyeḳk) to be satisfied, Ar raḍiya, ʾirtaḍā R W Y rwōh < R W Y “tell, recite, sing” (Johnstone, 1987​ 333-34) Contrary to Johnstone, I believe this root has nothing to do with singing or chanting but is used strictly for nonmelodic recitation R W ʿ rwe < R W ʿ “arōwa to divide st (as, e g , meat) into lots for o’s companions…ráwa/arwā lot; lots that are drawn for food so that there can be no selfishness or greed between travelling companions” (Johnstone, 1987​ 332) R W Ḥ hārwāḥ (sing rāʾeḥ) < R W Ḥ people, “rawḥ spirit” (Johnstone, 1987 333) R Y S rōyes rational, Ar ʿāqil R Ź D yerźawd to chop up finely, Yem Ar yadaqdaq, yarḍad R Ź Ź rźayn < R Ź Ź “raḍḍa light bruise [contusion légère], injury [meurtrissure]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 2 1290–91) R [V] H rēhī cool, refreshing (used only for wind), Ar al-burūda, al-jaww al-laṭīf R [V] Ḳ līrīḳ (yrīḳ, hoh ertəyeḳk) to eat in the morning R [V] N hārwōn (sing rawn) large ibexes, Ar al-wuʿūl al-kabīra R [V] Y rōyā unstable, rocking, waving (a tree in the wind), Yem Ar nāyif R Ġ B raġb, erēġeb < R Ġ B “rēġəb/rəwōġəb small branch of a tree” (Johnstone, 1987​ 319) ʾārwāġāb (dim sing rāġeb, pl arġeyb) < R Ġ B a slender branch without leaves R Š T rišt trigger R ʿ F terhōf < R ʾ F Ar raʾūf, “En ʿOmān, ʾarhafa est devenir pauvre…= tarayhaf” (Landberg, 1920–42 2 1485) R Ḥ Ḳ rḥāḳ < R Ḥ Ḳ “rīḥeḳ yərḥōḳ to be distant” (Johnstone, 1987 321) R Ḥ M terḥam, yerḥōm < R Ḥ M “rəḥām to be kind to someone… šerḥáwm to rain; to have rain in a dry period” (Johnstone, 1987 321) R Ṭ N rṭayn < R Ṭ N Yem Ar “raṭana to speak an unknown and incomprehensible language [parler une langue inconnue et incompréhensible] tarāṭana to speak a foreign language together [parler ensemble une langue étrangère]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 2 1295–1300)? S B B messəbīb < S B B troublemaker, rumor monger, “səb/yəsbūb/yəsbēb to insult, miscall, abuse so (as by calling him by foul names)” (Johnstone, 1987 338) S B T sbūt (heh ysūbet) Ar taqaddama S B T ṣebbēt < Ṣ B T form, shape, color, Ar al-shakl al-kāmil S B Y essəbe < S B Y Yem Ar , “sabā to attack by surprise [attaquer par surprise]…to reconcile, settle a difference [réconcilier, arranger un différend]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 1898) The verb makes more sense if it is actually derived from ʿ Ṣ B “šāṣəb to join in (a fracas) on the side of one’s own people” (Johnstone, 1987​, 30) S B Y sebyōt (masc sōbī) < S B Y to wander around thoughtlessly, Ar yahīm (fem because it describes the thieves as animals, not as rational humans) S B Ḫ sbēḫ < S B Ḫ plain, trackless, endless desert sbēḫ desert, low, flat land All of Ramāh is sbēḫ, flat and featureless S D D tesdidh < S D D “səd/yəsdūd to be enough to block so’s vision” (Johnstone, 1987 341) S D D sād < S D D “sad relations; relationship, friendship” (Johnstone, 1987 341) Sād was also explained to me as deriving from an active verb (“to load a camel evenly [on both sides]”) or from a stative verb (“to have teats on both sides [of a camel]” < Ṯ D Y ?) In either case, the sense of this stich remains the same Bir Ǧawn will treat both parties to the dispute in a fair, unbiased manner S D D essədīd < S D D “sdūd/yəsdūd/yəhássəd to bring together estranged people…šəsdūd to be reconciled with o’s wife after a separation, divorce” (Johnstone, 1987 341) S F F sfīf (setfek, settef) < S F F to be weakened, Ar naḥīf S F Y sfā (sfey, sīfā) < S F Y a sharp gust of wind that blows sand or dust in o ’s face, “həsfū to throw dust, sand sátfi to throw sand, dust over os , play with dust” (Johnstone, 1987 343), Yem Ar yasfī S F [V] yseyfeh < S F [V] to roll downwards, “səfū/yəsáyf to throw sand, soil” (Johnstone, 1987 343) S F ʿ setfī (heh yestūfī) to throw dust over os in excitement or anger, also Mhr yʾawfer, yātfūr S H B sehb (pl shōbet/shīb/hashīb) < S H B waves S H W shūt < Ar S H W to neglect or omit sth (knowingly and unknowingly), to be unmindful (Lane 1955, vol 1, 1455) S K N ysūken, skūn to live, reside S L B slēb < S L B “salab, pl aslāb firearms [armes]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 1961) S L M slōmet Ar al-najāh S N N sennēt < S N N an exchange (of fire), throwing < Ar Š N N ? S N [V] messənūt (a well) from which water may continuously be drawn, < S N [V] heh snō, yseyn to continuously, habitually draw water (from a well), Ar yasqī mutwāṣil S N Ḥ ysenḥem (ysūneḥ, snūḥ) < S N Ḥ to protect, Ar yuḥāmū ʿalayhi, sanaḥa S R sēr < S R “sār behind; because of; back, backwards” (Johnstone, 1987 351) S R B sarbēt < S R B Yem Ar “surba a pack, a troop [un certain nombre, troupe]” (Landberg, 1920–42 3 1922) S R F ḏīṣrayf < S R F (?) channels, uncertain derivation Like the previous line, Ḥājj had trouble interpreting the first hemistich Ḥājj’s initial interpretation of this line seems more on the mark “they spent the night (working) and he covered the cost” < ʿ T M “hātōm/yəhātōm to spend the night” (Johnstone, 1987 33) and Ṣ R F “ṣərūf/yəṣáwrəf to be economical…use carefully, ration out; to spend” (ibid 366) S R Ḥ msawreḥ (sing mesrēḥ) < S R Ḥ place where action happens at sea (i e , when a boat is pulled onto the beach or fishing grounds), Ar sāḥat al-waḍʾ S R Ḥ essərethem < S R Ḥ (esserḥethem?) “sərḥāt/səwōrəḥ custom, mode of conduct…sərḥáth (it is) his custom” (Johnstone, 1987 352) or < S R W Yem Ar “sarāt brave, great leader [brave, grand chef]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 1927)? S S D essed here understood as borders S T S sats < Ar sāʿa Ar fī ḥīnihā S W Ḳ swīḳ (yeswiḳ, heswiḳ, hoh sweḳk) to reveal, disclose something, Ar ʾafshā S W Y msōwī < S W Y to do, make, act, Yem Ar sawwā/yisawwī swīyet < S W Y the things done, deed, actions, Ar al-ʾafʿāl, al-ʾawqāʿ S W [V] eswōh an action, deed < Yem Ar sawwa, yusawwī S W ʿ swīyet < S W ʿ time, Fate < sāʾəh (Ar ) hour; watch (Johnstone, 1987 353) S W ʿ sāten < S W ʿ “sētən for a while, time (in the past)” (Johnstone, 1987 353) S Y B estəyūb < S Y B to flow, Ar istāba S Y F syīf < S Y F lifting dust into the air (ppl ), < sfō, yeseyf to blow dust, stir dust up, Ar ghabbara, sōfī the dust trail behind a car S [V] D sed friendship, Ar ṣadāqa matīna, mukhawwa S [V] Ḳ msōḳ < S [W] Ḳ Ar masāq S [V] L ysūl to deserve, merit, to equal, “sōl/yəsōl to demand payment of a debt” (Johnstone, 1987 338) S [V] S sōs bottom of a well, Ar ʾasās al-biʾr S Ǧ F sǧīf < S Ǧ F lethargy, apathy, Ar khumūl S ʿ D sād < S ʿ D “O for joy!” < Ar yā saʿd! = Ar yā layta S ʿ F sʿayf < S ʿ F companion for the road, Yem Ar saʿīf, Yem Ar “saʿafa to accompany” (Piamenta, 1990 1 223) S ʿ F sʿīf (pl sāfeʾ) a travelling companion, Ar ṣadīq fī-l-riḥla S ʿ F sāf < S ʿ F travelling companion, Ar saʿīf, rafīq al-darb S Ḥ Y sīḥī < S Ḥ Y Yem Ar “sayḥ flowing water [eau courante]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2007) S Ḥ Ṭ seḥṭayhem < S Ḥ Ṭ “səḥāṭ/yəsḥōṭ/yəsḥáytən to slaughter” (Johnstone, 1987 345) + obj suffix –hem (“them”) S Ḫ M sḫōm expense, settlement S Ḫ Ṭ sḫawṭ (sing sḫeyṭ) Ar fursān S Ṭ R essōṭer (heh esseṭrek) < S Ṭ R to begin to speak, to organize o ’s thoughts, Ar rattala al-kalām, sōṭer to put sth in lines (sardines on the beach to dry) S Ṭ Ḥ elmeth ḏe-ssewīṭ to show the dorsal fin above the waterline Uncertain etymology Ś B B śōbī < Ś B B “śəb/yəśbūb/yəśbēb to climb…śbīb to go up a mountain (us with animals, o’s family)” (Johnstone, 1987 370) < Yem Ar SH B W “shabā to ascend [monter]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2019) mśeb (hoh śebbek, heh śebb) going up (gerund) Ś B H mśōbeh < Ś B H equivalents, Ar mušābih Ś B H meśtībhūten < Ś B H “śátbəh to be like oa , look alike” (Johnstone, 1987 371) Ś D D śdīd (hoh śdidk) to be ill and fatigued (The plural is used here although the subject is understood to be the poet ) The middle stich of this line was unclear Ś D D yeśdawd (śidd) to stand in for so , to represent so , Ar yanūb ʿanhum Ś D D yeśśədawd (śdūd) to be incapable of sth Ś F eśśefh < Ś F (+ poss suffix) “śaf/əśfūtən trace, track(s)” (Johnstone, 1987 373) Ś F F śefh (śeffeh, not conjugated) < Ś F F “śaf as it transpired…it turned out [that he]” (Johnstone, 1987 373), Ar fī ʾiṯrihi Ś F Ḳ eśfēḳ < Ś F Ḳ Ar shafaq twilight, dusk Ś H R śēher moonlight, the crescent moon, Ar hilāl Ś Ḳ Y (?) yśeyḳ < Ś Ḳ Y (?) Ar yashqī Ś L L ślēl, śōleš < Ś L L “śəl, śəllūt/yəślūl to carry (st light), take, take away” (Johnstone, 1987​ 379) Ś L L śill (heh yeślūl) to lift up, Ar rafaʿa Ś L [W] yśōlī (ślō, yśeyl) to be sufficiently strong to carry a burden, Ar yaʿizz, yaḥmal al-madḥ Ś M M śim < Ś M M to turn out in preparation for sth , Ar shammara Ś M Ṭ śmūt (articulated by Ḥājj as šmūt) to consolidate o ’s forces, Ar mutamāsik al-ʾaʿwād, uncertain derivation < Ar Š M Ṭ to mix, intermingle, to become long, elongated (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2082)? Ś N N yeśayn < Ar Š N N šanna/yašunn Ś N Y śūnī < Ś N Y “śīni/yəśūnī/yəśnē to see; to see to; to consider” (Johnstone, 1987 381) Ś N Y śnīs, tśeyn, meśśənī < Ś N Y “śīnī/yəśūnī/yəśnē/yəśnēn to see; to see to; to consider” (Johnstone, 1987 381) aśśeyn (eśśenō, yeśśeyn, hōh eśśənēk) < Ś N Y to show, make visible, Ar taẓāhara śēnī < Ś N Y “śēni sight, view” (ibid 382) nśē In the rapid delivery of this poem, the ś and n appear to have been transposed Ś R F meśśōref < Ś R F “śōrəf to honor, respect” (Johnstone, 1987​ 383) śterfūt excellence, loftiness, Ar al-taraffuʿ, al-taʿālī (heh yeśtərūf, śetrūf Ar salaka darb al-taʿālī, al-ʾamjād) teśrīf < Ś R F highest place, place of honor, Ar tashrīf Ś R Ḳ śerḳawt < Ś R Ḳ “śarḳ east; sunrise; overcast morning” (Johnstone, 1987 384), Ar sharq Ś R Ḳ (hem) śrūḳem (heh śrūḳ, yśōreḳ) to split, to part o ’s hair, Ar qasama, inqasama al-ẓahr, Mhr meśreḳ comb, Ar mishaṭṭ Ś R R śer < Ś R R “śar ill-health, evil” (Johnstone, 1987 382) Ś R R śrōyer < Ś R R splinters Ś R R śir < Ś R R trouble, mischief Ś R T śōret < Ś [W] R rainy weather, Ar ʾajwāʾ mumṭira Ś R Y śrēhem < Ar Š R Y (+ obj suffix) to purchase (them) Ś R Ġ śrēġ desire; śwerreġ < Ś R Ġ passion, strong feelings, Ar hawāyā, also “śrōġ/yəśōrəġ/yəháśrəġ to like, fancy (a person of the opposite sex)…śərġāt (physical) desire” (Johnstone, 1987 383) Ś R ʿ śrawn heroes, Ar ʾabṭāl, fawāris < Ś R ʿ “śrayn legs” (Johnstone, 1987 382)? Ś R ʿ eśōre < Ar al-sharīʿa Ś R ʿ śrɛ̄t < Ś R ʿ Ar shirʿa Ś R Ḥ śōreḥ (1st & 3rd pers past śriḥk/śrūh) < Ś R Ḥ mindful, one who keeps everything under control, Ar ṣāḥib al-ʾamr, ḍāmir Ś R Ḫ śerḫī = Ar wirthī/ʿurfī Ś T T neśtūt (śett, śtūt, śetten) < Ś T T to go Ś W F eśśawf < Ar Š F F “shaff, shufūf desire, need, matter/concern [désir, besoin, affaire]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2036) Ś W F śwīf (sing śawf) < Ś W F things which are asked for yet o is unable to provide, causing shame, Ar ʾiḥrāj Ś W F śawf < Ś W F embarrassment, Ar ʾiḥrāj, Mhr śewwefkek = Ar ʾaḥrajtuka Ś W K śawket bullet, Ar shawk Ś W R śwōr < Ś W R calm, Ar hādiʾ < hēh śwīr, yeśwīren (sēh śawret, teśwīren) to calm down, abate (purely a maritime word) Ś W R eśśawr < Ś W R (+ def art ) “śawr advice; consultation; opinion” (Johnstone, 1987 388) Ś W R meśtīwer < Ś W R talented, Ar māhir, also “əśtəwīr/yəśtəwīrən/yəśtəwīr to whisper to one another…to give confidential advice” (Johnstone, 1987 388) The paranomasia of this line evokes the root Ś W R (“to consult”), which is precisely what Bir Frēǧ is asking his Sulṭān to do more often Ś W R eśśōret < Ś W R “śawr advice; consultation; opinion” (Johnstone, 1987 388) Ś W Ġ śwēġī flood beds, the water channels of a wādī, Ar madhāhib, majārī al-sayl Ś W Ṭ śōṭeyn < Ś W Ṭ “śīwōṭ/śəwṭayn fire” (Johnstone, 1987 388) Ś W Ṭ yaśtūt < Ar Š W Ṭ “ʾakhadha shawṭ/mishwāṭ to walk around [faire une promenade]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2097) Ś Y N yeśayn < Ś Y N “to ruin, dishonor [rendre vilain, déshonorer]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2110) Ś [V] Ḳ śḳāt (pl śḳā) a step, Ar khaṭwa; heh śūḳa, yśōḳa to step, to proceed step after step Ś [V] N śōneh his sake, Ar shaʾn(uhu) Ś [V] R śɛ̄ra Ar al-sharʿ Ś [V] R śūra (seh śrōt) to drink (used for camels), śōr! drink! (used by bedouin), heh śetra, hōh śetrāk to be drink o ’s fill (for humans), Ar imtalaʾa Ś [V] Ḫ śśyēḫ (ellative) < Ś [X] Ḫ “śōḫ, śīyəḫ big, old, oldest, senior” (Johnstone, 1987​ 391) Ś [Y] S śīseh < Ś [Y] S a line of garden plots that follows the twisting of a canyon before reaching the wādī bottom Ś Ġ B eśśəġūb < Ś Ġ B “śəġāb to disturb, distract, annoy…śəġawb stranger…śēġəb, śəġawb difficulty” (Johnstone, 1987 375) Ś Ǧ R śīǧēr small, ascending mountain paths Ś Ǧ R śǧēr (hoh śǧerk līhem [“I have proved sth to them”]) to advance an argument without revealing everything at once, to debate in a quiet, meticulous fashion, Ar taḥajjaja Ś ʾ N men śont Ar min shaʾn, min ʾajl Ś ʿ F śʾōf (śetʾafk, yeśtōf) < Ś ʿ F to get angry very quickly Ś ʿ M ḏ-īśtōm < Ś ʾ M “śētəm/yəśtōm to buy” (Johnstone, 1987 369) Ś Ḥ F heśḥəfūt < Ś Ḥ F (caus stem) to cause harm to so Ś Ḥ M śīḥem < Ś Ḥ M Class Ar “shayyaḥa to bring to the attention of so , to make so aware [rendre attentif, circonspect]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2105) Ś Ḥ N heśḥayn < Ś Ḥ N “śəḥān to load” (Johnstone, 1987 376), “shāḥana burden [charge]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2027) Ś Ḥ R śḥayr < Ś Ḥ R “śəḥáyr/śḥayr mountains; the fertile part of the Dhofar high plateau” (Johnstone, 1987​ 377) Ś Ḫ F yeśḫayf < Ś Ḫ F “śəxāf/yəśxōf to drink milk” (Johnstone, 1987 389) śḫōf < Ś Ḫ F “śxōf, dim śəxēfēn milk” (ibid ) Ś Ḫ Ṭ śeḫṭ My consultant had difficulty with this word and thought that it might be related to Mhr šāḫiṣ (“an array of decorative [gold] chains”) Ś Ṭ Ṭ śiṭṭ < Ś Ṭ Ṭ “(poet ) to come from afar, come over hill and dale to see so ” (Johnstone, 1987 387) Ś Ṭ Ṭ yeśṭawṭ to exceed the proper bounds, to deviate, Ar yashiṭṭ T B ʿ ettūb to be joined together, < T B ʿ T B ʿ twōba, tetbē < T B ʿ “tūba/yətūba/yətbē to follow” (Johnstone, 1987 399) tōba Ar tibāʿ, pursuant or following sth , of sth T B ʿ štēba (yeštəbān, tūba, ytōba) < T B ʿ to continue o ’s journey, Ar sāʾir, wāṣala al-sayr T Ḳ F R teḳḳəfōren a pious formula whose closest equivalent in Arabic is jazāhunna (fem pl ) allāh bi-khayr T L Ḳ tālōḳ < T L Ḳ tamashkala, tawarraṭa T L L ettəlīl (ettəlelk, yettəlīlen) < T L L to recite poetry, Mhr rīwī T L W twōlī < T L W “təwōli to, towards” (Johnstone, 1987 401) T L Y mtellī < T L Y Ar al-ʾakhīr T L Y tēlī < T L Y “tōli then, afterwards” (Johnstone, 1987 401) T L [V] twōl < T L [V] “təwōli…to, towards” (Johnstone, 1987​ 401) T M M tmōm < T M M “completeness; completely…təmōm, complete amount” (Johnstone, 1987 402) T R B tetrūb < T R B to dry out, to be stuck in o ’s throat (words), Ar taraba to be dusty, to abound in dust, to become poor, wretched, destitute T R S emtərēs < T R S Ar matras, pl matārīs T W Ǧ twīǧ (nḥā twōǧen) < T W Ǧ to pause for a quick, confidential conversation, nḥā b-seyr lit “we’ll go together” but used idiomatically to mean “carry your load or message in safety” (Ar ḥamlak ʾamāna) T W Ḥ ḏ-ītwōḥ (tawḥak, twōḥ, yetwōḥ) < T W Ḥ to cry violently (infant) T [V] Ḳ tḳawnem (heh ytūḳem/tōḳen) to be expert in sth , Ar al-ʾitqān T [V] L ettəleyk (heh ettəlō, pres hōh atteyl, heh yetteyl) to wish, want, Ar tamannā, ʾarāda T Ḥ R meťḥayr < T Ḥ R (speech that is) certain, to the point, well balanced, and direct T Ḫ F metḫōf (hoh wetḫefk) to arrive at night, spend the evening W B R ewōber (pl ) mount, Ar maṭāyā, no singular form, mṭeyyet is used instead W D wdūk (wdī, wdūk, wdeh, wdēhem) with you/in your company (Qishn dialect, equivalent to hnūk and twelyek in other Mahri dialects), Ar ʿindaka W D F weddīf (sing weddef, hēh wōdef, ywedfen, infin wedf) < W D F to complete, finish off, top off, to fit together in a complementary way (i e , houses built right up against each other), wōdef lī “finish sth for me!,” Ar takmīl, mutaʿāwin W D F šūdəfūt (masc šawdef) the consequences, upshot(s), Ar radf, takmīl, Mhr heh hōdef & heh wōdef, ywedfen to give more, to finish off W D ʿ wudʿam < W D ʿ “wīda/yəwōda/yēdē to know” (Johnstone, 1987 421) W F F mhōhəfūt (heh[?] wīfēf) to hobble a camel by tying a rope around its thighs while the camel is sitting on the ground in order to completely immobilize it W F H ʾawefh < wefh the percussion of the firing pin, Mhr ṭerrāb W F Ḳ wōfeḳ (heh ywefḳen) to find sth , come across the thing you were looking for, Ar ḥaṣala ʿalā mā yurīduhu, iltaqū W F Ḳ fōḳet < W F Ḳ position, agreement W F Y ʾōfyōt (wefyīteh it will finish up, expire) Ar istawfat (< W F Y ), = Ar intahā but used only with reference to ceasefires (Ar hudna) šōfū < W F Y to grow to completion, “šewfū/yəšwayf/yəšawf/yəšawfən to be paid in full; to be revenged for (b-) so ” (Johnstone, 1987 423)? W H Y ettəhūt to disappear from sight, become hidden; possibly related to Ar W H Y wāhin lax; weak; frail; wanting in strength, compactness, firmness, or toughness; unsubstantial; unsound (Lane, 1955, vol 2 3062) W K B wukbeh, wkawb, ywūkeb < W K B “wəkūb/yəwūkəb/yākēb to enter” (Johnstone, 1987 425) W K F tšekf, tšūkōf < W K F “šəwkūf/yəšəwkūf to sleep, go to sleep, lie down” (Johnstone, 1987 426) On “The Girls Have Abandoned Their Honor” A verb derived from the same stem, həwkūf/həwkéfk, means “to let so ill rest on your breast” (ibid 425) and forms a nice pair with the first hemistich she sits in her mother’s crossed lap during the day and rests her head on her mother’s breast at night W K F wkīf < W K F a support, an equal (colleague), “həwkūf/hewkefk to let so ill rest on your breast; to set up (a stone)” (Johnstone, 1987​ 425) W K ʿ mdawkī < W K ʾ Yem Ar “matākī cushion or pillow to lean on” (Piamenta, 1990, vol 2 530) W Ḳ F awḳawf (heh wḳawf) to be silent, mute lewḳəfeyt < W Ḳ F “wəḳáwf/yəwḳōf to fall silent, keep quiet” (Johnstone, 1987 427) W Ḳ ʿ wəḳōna < W Ḳ ʿ “about; maybe” (Johnstone, 1987 427) W Ḳ ʿ ḳā < W Ḳ ʿ (or per Johnstone, < Ḳ W ʿ ) “ḳā ground, land, place” (Johnstone, 1987 246) W L F wēlēf something you’ve already said or done, Mhr elifləfāt W L F wlīf (pl welfē) friend, companion, cousin W L F yōtlīf < W L F (wetlif, yawtəlūf) to be of one nature W L H welhīt < W L H (?) anxiety, Ar qalaq, Mhr heh ḏ-wīleh he’s anxious W L M wōlem < W L M “awōləm/yawálmən/yawōləm to prepare (us food)…əwtəlūm/yəwtəlīmən/yəwtəlōm to be prepared, on o’s guard” (Johnstone, 1987 429) lūtlōm < W L M “əwtəlūm/yəwtəlīmən/yəwtəlōm to be prepared (food); to be prepared, on o’s guard” (ibid ) W L Y ewlē < W L Y property, capital, Ar mulk W R [V] mawrā < W R [V] dam, Ar sadd, Mhr hawrā, hawrāk/yahwōrā, ahwārā to lock, Ar ʾaqfala W R ʿ šūrɛ̄ < W R ʿ “šəwrē to back off, stand down” (Johnstone, 1987​ 429) W S ʿ wsā’ < W S ʿ Ar wāsiʿ W Ś Ḳ yūśeḳ < W Ś Ḳ “həwśūḳ to load (camels)” (Johnstone, 1987 432) W Ś R yūśīr < W Ś R (< N Ś R ) to build a boat from rudder up, Yem Ar “washara scier [to saw]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2921) W Ś R wśawr assembling the planks to build a boat, Ar tarkīb W Ś R Wśēr a woman’s name, meaning “something white” (such as cotton) W Z M ywōzem, wzmīhem < W Z M “wəzūm/yəwūzəm/yāzēm to give” (Johnstone, 1987​ 434) W Ź ʿ awźayn < W Ź ʿ < Ar waḍīʿa, something entrusted or deposited? W Ź ʿ mwōź < W Ź ʿ (things) landing, striking, falling W Ġ D ewaġdeyn < W Ġ D to sneak up on so , to spy, Ar al-mutajassisūn, < Ar waghd (pl ) awghād, (scoundrel)? W Ġ Y wēġī < W Ġ Y when seabirds form a swirling column over a school of sardines, Ar ḥawm al-ṭayrān W Š N šnēt < W Š N “šənēt sleep” (Johnstone, 1987 432) W Ǧ Ś mōǧīś < W Ǧ Ś to set out in the evening šewǧūś, šūǧōśen < W Ǧ Ś “šəwgūś/yəšəwǧūś to go in the early evening (4–7 p m )” (Johnstone, 1987 424) W Ǧ Ś hūǧēśeš < W Ǧ Ś to arrive before, to beat (in a competition), Ar sabaqa, fāza, “həwgūś/yəhəwgūś/yəháwgəś to take out (the beasts) in the late afternoon; to bring home (the beasts) in the early evening” (Johnstone, 1987​ 424) W Ǧ Ś tehǧōś < W Ǧ Ś to surpass (in competition), to take, Ar fāza, “həwgūś/yəhəwgūś to take out (the beasts) in the late afternoon; to bring home (the beasts) in the early evening” (Johnstone, 1987 424) W ʿ D weyd < W ʿ D Ar waʿd W Ḏ Y ewēḏī trouble, anxiety, Ar ʾadhan W Ḥ [V] ʾawḥāhem (ʾawḥā) their rescue, heh hawḥū, hoh hawḥeyk W Ḥ [V] twaḥyen (1st pers past waḥyek) < W Ḥ [V] to be able, “həwḥū/yəhwáyḥ/yəháwḥ to come to help; to call appeal for help to so ” (Johnstone, 1987​ 425) ʾawḥāhem (ʾawḥā) their rescue, heh hawḥū, hoh hawḥeyk W Ḫ F ettáḫf < W Ḫ F “wátxəf to be, come in the evening; to remain” (Johnstone, 1987 434) W Ḫ R wetḫeyr, wetḫawr (hoh wetḫerk, heh wetḫōr, ywetḫeyr) < W Ḫ R to be late or to stay in the same place, “wətxawr to come last; šəwēxar to come late, last” (Johnstone, 1987 434) W Ḳ F lewḳəfeyt < W Ḳ F “wəḳáwf/yəwḳōf to fall silent, keep quiet” (Johnstone, 1987 427) W Ḳ ʿ leḳɛ̄ < W Ḳ ʿ “wīḳa/yəwōḳa/yāḳā to be, become” (Johnstone, 1987 426) W Ṣ F ʾāṣfeh < W Ṣ F “məyṣayf, məwṣəfūt fine-looking, famed, famous” (Johnstone, 1987​ 431) W Ṣ F mhawṣayf < W Ṣ F “həwṣáwf/yəhəwṣóf/yəháwṣəf to describe, give a description (of st )” (Johnstone, 1987 431) yšūṣōf < W Ṣ F to describe sth or so šūṣōf < W Ṣ F (caus -refl stem) to receive a description waṣf < W Ṣ F “description” (ibid ) W Ṭ F yhawṭayf (past hūṭayf) < W Ṭ F to surrender, Ar istaslama W Ṭ F wṭayf (sing waṭf) prone, laying senseless on the ground, Ar ṣarīʿ W Ṭ ʿ twōṭī < W Ṭ ʾ Yem Ar “tawaṭṭaʾa to humble o s ” (Piamenta, 1990, vol 2 526) W Ṯ Ḳ hōṯūḳ < W Ṯ Ḳ to hold onto, grasp, Ar ʾamsaka, “həwtūḳ to fix, secure” (Johnstone, 1987 433) W Ṯ Ḫ weṯḫōn < W Ṯ Ḫ to be broken apart, uncertain derivation Ḥājj had difficulty interpreting this line and came up with a number of different possibilities W Ṯ Ḫ wiṯḫem (wiṯḫek, wīṯeḫ) < W Ṯ Ḫ to settle down, to become quiet Y D N haydōn, haydənūt < Y D N “yədīn (haydēn, haydōn) new” (Johnstone, 1987 461) Y H T yheyt a call, a cry, to call out hayyā ʾilā, Ar nidāʾ Y K N ykīn < Y K N a mistake, should be plural (ykīnem) Y M L ḥmīleh < Y M L (+ def art and poss suffix) “ḥáyməl right; right hand” (Johnstone, 1987 461) Y [V] yā = Ar yā al-nidāʾ Another interpretation is that this syllable (yā or ye) is the verbal prefix of the two following verbs yeġmīd and yemġāb respectively Z F Z F zefzīf < zefzef a blowing back and forth, Ar hazhaza Z H B zhōb < Z H B “zəháyb/zəháybət/zīhōb to be ready, prepared” (Johnstone, 1987 466) zhīb the above and “azhīb to dress up (a woman) in her finery, make so look beautiful” (ibid 465-66) Z H D zhīd, zhedk < Z H D “zəhēd/yəzhōd, vn zayhəd to be expert, possessed of good counsel, know the best pastures; to find out, realise” (Johnstone, 1987 466) mezhawd wisdom, intelligent, correct opinion, Ar al-raʾy al-ṣāʾib ezehd knowledge, ḏ-zehdek teh I’m certain it’s you, ḏe-zhēdek aḳā ḏōme I’m 100% certain of this area Z H L zhūl < Z H L “zəhēl to be sure, re-assured” (Johnstone, 1987 466) Z L L zell carpets, Yem Ar qaṭāyif (Piamenta, 1990, vol 2 406) Z L L yezlēl, ḏīzlūl (< ḏ-yezlūl) < Z L L “zəl/yəzlūl to accost, attack (l-) so without right” (Johnstone, 1987​ 467) In “The Dog Days of Summer” Raġbōn is playing with the meaning of hānōh (“to decide, intend”), yezlēl (“to fall upon, to attack”) and ʾāmūd (“roof beams”), because the latter may also be interpreted as a verb “ʾāmōd, yáwməd to hit so on purpose” (ibid 23) This line describes a progression of the dry season’s hostility from a malicious intent to taking aim and culminating with an assault Z M L īzōmel < ḏə-lə-yzōmel (zmūl, yzōmel) < Z M L to migrate, Ar raḥala Z M M zimm (yezmūm) < Z M M to lift sth to o ’s chest and to carry it forward Z M R zmōmer core strength, virility, Ar al-rajūla, fī al-kitf wal-rijl, < Z M R Ar “al-zamīr good qualities/beauty in a man [al-ḥusn fī al-rijāl]…rajl zamir a man of meagre masculinity” (Ibn Manẓūr, 2005 4 56)? Z R N ʿ (?) ezernīw < Z R N ʿ (?) a thundering cloud, about to rain Z R ʿ yḥazreh < Z R ʿ “həzrē/yəhəzōra/yəhazraʾ to cultivate” (Johnstone, 1987 469) Z W L zawl > Z W L Ar nakt Z W M hāzwōm < Z W M the night watches, rotations, turns, Ar nawba Z W M ettəzūm < Z W M zōm/yezwīm (1st pers zamk, azwūm) to stay awake and guard (a flock or offspring) Z W R zetwerk (zetwūr, fem ztūrōt) < Z W R to be interested in sth Z W ʿ zōwa force, strength (of water or a storm) < Z W ʿ Ar “zāʿa to vomit [vomir], to crawl quickly on all fours, to rush out [courir ventre à terre, s’en aller avec precipitation], zawwaʿa to shake, make tremble [secouer, faire trembler], zawwāʿ rapid, muzawwaʿ strong” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 1875-76) Z Y D zyūd < Z Y D “zəyūd/yəzyūd/yəzyēd to increase; to be, become more (than)” (Johnstone, 1987 470) lešizd < Z Y D (caus -reflex stem) to augment, amplify Z Y N tzehyen < Z Y N “azyīn to dress a woman in her finery and make her up; to beautify” (Johnstone, 1987 471) Z [V] H zhē a wedding, happiness, Ar al-zawāj, al-faraḥ < (seh) tzēh, zhūt (heh yzēh, zhō) to be happy, hezhō to bring good cheer to a wedding zhūt (heh zhō, yzē) to ripen, blossom, grow tall, Ar yazhar Z [V] M hazweymet < Z [V] M zām (pl ) zōm periods of time into which the night is divided, Yem Ar “zām time (temps)” (Landberg, 1920–42 3 1878) Z Ġ F zġīf to weigh out, Ar al-kayl Z Ḫ [V] ezēḫī small whirlwind of dust and sand; uncertain derivation Ź B Ṭ źabṭāt taking aim and knowing the distance to the target Ź D D źawdeh < Ź D D (?) (testified) to it, against it Ź F W yźeyfeh < Ź F W Yem Ar “ḍafā entourer, enfermer [to enclose, surround, encircle] ʾistaḍfā submerger [to submerge]” (Landberg, 1920–42 3 2174) Ź H R źhēr to show a part of sth Ź L ʿ źālā’ < Ź L ʿ a rib that protrudes from the wādī’s side wall, Ar ḍilʿ Ź M M eźeymet < Ź M M to embrace, gather together Ź R B źrūb < Ź R B pain, “həźrawb to be ill, afflicted” (Johnstone, 1987 477) Ź R S źrēs < Ź R S bitter, harsh “Bitter water” (ḥmō ḏe-źrēs) refers to the negative qualities that Northern Yemeni merchants and tradesmen (i e , “Ǧūbōn” from Jubān) have brought with them to al-Mahra As the eponymous ancestor of the Southern Arabs with whom the Mahra associate themselves, the name “Qaḥṭān” evokes a pure Southern lineage, unmixed with the negative qualities of the so-called Northerners Ź W L eźawlet(?), źeywelet (dim ) < Ź W L Yem Ar “ḍawla hubbub, uproar, fuss [vacarme]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2179) Ź Y F źfūt < Ź Y F Ar ḍiyāfa, hospitality Ź Y F źōfī < Ź Y F nontribal dependent, below the rank of a tribesman, “źəʾáyf, źāf non-tribal, ḍaʿīf” (Johnstone, 1987​ 471) This word was not clear in the recording; it is possible that it is also a reference to God (al-rabb), but it is not clear to me how to make sense out of źōfī if this were the case Ź Y Ḳ źeyḳī (yeźyōḳ) < Ź Y Ḳ = Ar ḍāqa Ź Y Ḳ źīḳ a narrow place < Ź Y Ḳ “źayḳ narrow, cramped” (Johnstone, 1987 479) Ź Y ʿ yeźyɛ̄ < Ź Y ʿ “azyēʾ/yazyē to lose; to waste money” (Johnstone, 1987​ 478) Ź [Y] F eźyīf (yźīfen, źyīf) to complete the duties of a host In this context, the word means that he has completed his service as a mercenary in the Saudi Arabian military Ź B Ṭ yźeyṭ < Ź B Ṭ “źāṭ/yəźōṭ/yəźáyṭən to take” (Johnstone, 1987​ 472) bīt sād men ešrūb bīt sād men ešrūb Bīt Sād is a subdivision (Ar ʿashīra) of Šāreb, itself a subdivision (Ar fakhīdha) of the tribe of Ḳamṣeyt bə-dābūm It was unclear to myself and my consultant why the place name Dābūm is preceded by the preposition bə l-hān l-hān anything in the way of…, Ar ʾayy min… leh There was some uncertainty with the preposition in the first stich and whether it was leh (“for him”) or līs (“for her”) In the latter case, this stich conveys the sense that Sʿīd has grown up to be a source of trouble for his mother Certainly both meanings can be conveyed at once through double entendre merḍāt merḍāt My consultant, Muḥammad bir Nǧēma, was certain that /ḍ/ was the correct phoneme here and that the word meant a letter or testament (Ar risāla or waṣiyya) Muḥammad argued that merźāt would mean a sick woman and contrasted mreyḍ (“something sent”) with mreyź (“someone sick”) However, see merźōne in the sung poem by Musallim Rāmis, where it clearly means “I will entrust you with advice/a testament ” sīn l-hays sīn l-hays Yā Sīn for Hays Yā Sīn is a protective blessing based on the “mysterious letters” of the Qurʾān yā sīn This exclamation is commonly heard in Ḥaḍramawt and is likely linked to popular reverence for the pre-Islamic moon god, Sīn śyōḳī Though the poet appears to say “śyōḳī,” this doesn’t make any sense in this context Only “śīwōṭ” appears to fit Ġ B R ġayber < Ġ B R “ġəbōr/yəġawber/yəġbēr vn ġáybər to meet, come to meet” (Johnstone, 1987 131), used here in the sense of “all of a sudden ” ġeyber (pl ġbūret?) < Ġ B R guest Ġ B Y yeġtebyen < Ġ B Y Ar yataʾakhkharū, yataghayyabū Ġ B Y ġbawter foolish, ignorant, < Ġ B Y “ġəbō/yəġáyb/yəġbē to mislead” (Johnstone, 1987 131-32) or < Ġ W Y “ġəwō to be wrong” (ibid 146) Ġ D L yeġdōl, yaġdōl, ġadlem < Ġ D L “ġáydəl/yəġdōl to carry on the shoulders” (Johnstone, 1987​ 132) Ġ D W haġdūt < Ġ D W “ġədéw go! perish!…to go…heġdō/yəhəġáyd/yəhēġəd to forget, lose” (Johnstone, 1987 133) Ġ F Ḳ leġfēḳ < Ġ F Ḳ “ġəfōḳ/yəġáwfəḳ to lower, bring down (a price)…to cheat” (Johnstone, 1987​ 133) Ġ F W līdġayf (le [neg ] yedġayf) < Ġ F W (t-infix) to doze off, take a nap, Ar ghafā Ġ F W haġfūt < Ġ F W h-stem, Ar ghafā Ġ L F meġlōf < Ġ L F veil, Ar niqāb Ġ L F eġlīf (hēh ġatlef) < Ġ L F to become fed up with sth , Yem Ar mughtalif to be fed up Ġ L F ġetlīf (sing ġetlef, transitive eġelfek, eġōlef) < Ġ L F to be filled with fluid vs ketlīf < K L F to be filled with a solid Ġ L Ḳ leġlēḳ < Ġ L Ḳ “ġəlōḳ/yəġáwləḳ to look” (Johnstone, 1987​ 136) eġawleḳ (heh ġlūḳ, yġawleḳ, hoh ġleḳk) < Ġ L Ḳ to look at/for, Ar naẓara (seh) ətġawleḳ (heh ġlūḳ) to look at, see ġlē < ġlēḳ look! (impv ) Ġ L Ḳ ġalḳet < Yem Ar Ġ L Q “ġluq, fem ġilqa dark, difficult to understand [dunkel, difficile à comprendre]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2378) Ġ L L ġallōt < Ġ L L monsoonal fog, Ar ḍabāb al-kharīf, Mhr , ġallēt, Śḥr ġeźźōt (/ź/= intervocalic, voiced lateral /l/) Ġ L L ġellenseh < ġellēt (sing ), ġlēl (pl ) < Ġ L L material and debris (fabricated and natural) strewn about a wādī; ġellenseh is an inland bedouin dialectal equivalent of coastal Mahri ġlēlseh with an epenthetic /n/ Ġ L L maġlīl < Ġ L L “ġəl to console (a crying child)…to be happy and as a result neglect duties” (Johnstone, 1987​ 135), Ar taslīya Ġ L L ġell anger, bile, rancor, Ar ghill Ġ L S eġlēs < Ġ L S twilight, dusk, Ar shafaq al-shams, “ghalasa al-layl night has fallen [la nuit tomba]” (Landberg, 1920–42 3 2376) Ġ L Y eġlē more precious, < Ġ L Y “ġōli, ġalyət/ġəlyayn, ġəlyōt dear, expensive, precious” (Johnstone, 1987 137) Ġ L Ṭ eġwōṭ < Ġ L Ṭ “ġáyləṭ/yəġlōṭ to be mistaken” (Johnstone, 1987 136) Ġ M L mhaġwōl < Ġ M L “ġəmōl to abandon or kill (a bastard child)” (Johnstone, 1987 138) or < Ġ M Ḍ Ar ʾaġmaḍa to dim, to render obscure Ġ M L ġmōleh (heh ġmūl, yġawmel) to throw someone to the ground eġmūlem they threw him down Ġ M S yeġmīs < Ġ M S “ġəmōs to disappear (behind sth ); to be eclipsed” (Johnstone, 1987 138) Ġ M T ġmūt (heh yġawmet) to block the breathing by grabbing and covering the mouth and nose, Ar kamata, ghafata, ḍayyaqū ʿalayhi al-ʾanfās Ġ M Ź ġamź, ġaymeź < Ġ M Ź “ġəmōz to wink, blink, close your eyes” (Johnstone, 1987 139) Ġ N F ġnēf (sing ġenfēt) < Ġ N F a group of people, Ar majāmiʿ min al-nās Ġ N Y erġayn < Ġ N Y ? “ġənay rich” (Johnstone, 1987 139) yehġayn < Ġ N Y ? “həġnō to make so rich” (ibid ) Ġ N Ṣ ġanṣayt < Ġ N Ṣ “ġáynəṣ/yəġnōṣ to be bent, twisted” (Johnstone, 1987 139) Ġ R B eġawreb < Ġ R B “ġərōb/yəġōrəb/yəġrēb to know, to know how” (Johnstone, 1987​ 140) mheġġerbūt < Ġ R B “məġráyb/məġrōb famous, well known” (ibid 141) Ġ R B mhaġreyb < Ġ R B “həġrōb to cause so to know” (Johnstone, 1987 140) Ġ R B ġrūb (pl ) < Ġ R B “ġarb (sing ) big water bucket; camel’s back in front of the hump” (Johnstone, 1987 140) Ġ R F ġārəffūt the remains of water in a well, continuously replenished by a spring, < Mhr heh ġrūf, yġawref to scoop water Ġ R F ġrayf < Ġ R F Yem Ar “ghārafa to be tearful (eye)” (Piamenta, 1990, vol 2 354) Ġ R M ġrīm the enemy upon whom you take vengeance, Ar gharīm Ġ R Y teġteyrī < Ġ R Y “ġatri/yəġətōri/yəġətayr to speak to (k-) so ” (Johnstone, 1987​ 142) ġrōy < Ġ R Y “ġərōy/ġəryēh talk, speech, language” (ibid ) Ġ R Ġ R tġarġawr < Ġ R Ġ R to continuously drip, “aġərġáwr (rare) to bubble” (Johnstone, 1987​ 141) Ġ S R W ġsīreyyen < Ġ S R W “ġasráwwən (in) the early evening” (Johnstone, 1987 143) Ġ Ś W ġśūt, ġśūh < Ar Ǧ Š W to cover, to conceal, to overcome, to be dark (Lane, 1955, vol 2 2261–62) Ġ Ś Y yġeyś < Ġ Ś Y to overcome, overwhelm, Ar ghashāwa Ġ Ś [V] ġśōh (yġeyś) to transgress, to overstep, to overwhelm, Ar zāda ʿalā, ṭaghā ʿalā Ġ W ġayw < Ġ W [W] “ġā/ġayw brother” (Johnstone, 1987 145) ġawten < Ġ W “ġayt/ġawtən sister” (ibid ) Ġ W Y leġtīwī < Ġ W Y to flirt, “ġáyyət flirtation, love-talk” (Johnstone, 1987 146) Ġ W Y eġwēyen < Ġ W Y “ġəwō to leave behind, forget, lose” (Johnstone, 1987 146) Ġ W Ṭ eġawṭ distance, gulf, Ar ʿamq Ġ W Ṭ aġyīṭ < Ġ W Ṭ (?) to confirm, uncertain derivation Ḥājj had difficulty interpreting the initial hemistich of this line and experienced a number of very different hearings of this word Ġ Y B ġābī, ġībem < Ġ Y B “aġyīb to leave st alone, let st go, drop…aġyīb!, drop it!” (Johnstone, 1987​ 146) Ġ Y R ġarhī, eġārhūten < Ġ Y R “ġāhər, ġarhēt second, another, other” (Johnstone, 1987 148) Ġ Y Ǧ ġyūǧ < Ġ Y Ǧ “ġayg/ġəyōg man” (Johnstone, 1987 147) Ġ Z N ġzōn (sing ġzeyn) new (stock), Ar dhakhīra jadīda Ġ Ź B ġźāb violent surge, Ar hayjān < Ġ Ź B “ġōźəb/ġayźəb bull” (Johnstone, 1987 149)? Ġ Ź F ġźawf (hoh ġźefk) to tuck o ’s legs under os while sitting, considered the polite (if slightly uncomfortable) way to sit Ġ [V] Ṭ ġeyṭāt (heh ġyīṭ, yeġyīṭen) to disappear from the hunter’s vision, Ar ikhtafā ʿan ʿuyūn al-ṣayyād Ġ Ṣ B ġayṣeb < Ġ Ṣ B to be stolen, snatched away, “ġəṣáwb/yəġáwṣəb to disarm; to take by force” (Johnstone, 1987 143) Ġ Ṣ Ṣ ġṣīṣ < Ġ Ṣ Ṣ when a school of feeding fish and the seabirds feeding on them form a roiling tumult Ġ Ṯ Y ġōṯī < Ġ Ṯ Y “ġōṯi neck” (Johnstone, 1987 145) Ś L L śettal (1st pers past śettalk) < Ś L L “śáttel/yəśtəlūl/yəśtəl to transhume, migrate, move o ’s home” (Johnstone, 1987​ 379) Ś N Ǧ śnēǧ, (“Snakebite Chant”), śnēg (“Advice for Ǧwāher”) < Ś N Ǧ relationship, kinship, Ar nasb, uncertain etymology Ś W N śōn < Ś W N sea storm, when weather changes, uncertain etymology śmīmet neṭrōr śmīmet neṭrōr place name in the mountains of the district of Ḥawf Śmīmet means an elevated place (heh śmeym it is high, elevated) Neṭrōr could mean either “a big cow” or “walls of a canyon (Ar ʾaṭrāf); this word was not clear in the recording, and Ḥājj Dākōn, who worked with me to translate this poem, was uncertain of its meaning Š B D šebdānot liver (dim ) Š B Ṭ eššebṭ < Š B Ṭ Yem Ar “shabaṭa to clasp a loincloth (ushbuṭ al-maʿwaz) [serre le pagne]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2017) Š B Ṭ šbawṭ sth still closed, locked, wrapped up, Yem Ar shabaṭa Š Ḏ R yešḏeyr < Š Ḏ R to be on o ’s guard, to distinguish between things, Ar yumayyiz, lafata al-ʾintibāh Š F L šfōlet (sing šeflūt) < Š F L unmarried men Š H šēhī dual possessive (>k-) Š H D šehdoh (yešheyd, hoh šehdeyk, seh šdūt/šehdūt) to do something correctly, Ar tawaffaqa Š H R mešhūr < Š H R Yem Ar “mašhūr well-known, famous [connu, célèbre]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2089) Š K F yeškayf (1st pers past šekfayk) < Š K F to hide os , ensure the safety of os , Ar ʾammana al-nafs Š K F yeškəfīf (šekfūf, yeškəfūf) < Š K F to block a road Š K Y škī (“Legal Proceeding in Poetry”), škī (“Atop the Peak of Ṭarbūt”) < Š K Y “əškáy/əškayyət sword” (Johnstone, 1987 394) Š Ḳ F šḳayf (sing šaḳf) < Š Ḳ F accident, event The word šḳayf (“accidents”) is a pun on the name of the šīḳāf tree, which is commonly used for fodder This final stich can thus be understood as either “the turmoil (relating to) the šīḳāf tree” or “the turmoil (of) the events ” Š Ḳ F šeḳfīf (hēh šeḳfūf, yšeḳfūf) < Š Ḳ F to grow tired of a visitor or a neighbor Š Ḳ S šḳāsī (yešḳasyen, hoh šḳasyik) < Š Ḳ S to confront, Ar wājaha Š Ḳ [V] Šāḳawt is a specific place but can also be used more generally to describe a place devoid of a human presence where gazelles give birth Š M M mešmūm < Š M M amber, Yem Ar “mashmūm bouquet” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2080) Š R B šrāyeb < Š R B folk medicine, i e , making knots, spitting, chanting (such as the rbūt in the case of snake bite) Š W F mešwōf rifle sight Š W H šwūt < Š W H Omani Ar “shāh pl shawhāt goats” (Landberg, 1920–42 2102) Š W Š ešūš < Š W Š Ar ḥaraj al-nās Š Z F yšāzīf (hēh yšāzūf, šāzūf) < Š Z F to resist steadfastly, Ar yaṣtamid Š [V] K šēk an asphalted road, recognized as a neologism by my consultants Š [V] ʿ šōhī < Š [V] ʿ Ar shiyūʿī, communists Š Ǧ B šeǧboh (yešǧeyb, hoh šeǧbeyk) to collect, gather Š Ǧ F šeǧfīf (hēh šeǧfūf, yešǧəfūf) < Š Ǧ F to collect, pick up a child from off the ground, to carry sth with o ’s arms curled to the chest, Ar tawallā, ḥamala Š Ḏ Ḫ mšawḏeḫ (sing mešḏeḫ) < Š Ḏ Ḫ sparks, Ar šarar Š Ḫ L F šeḫlīf (šeḫlūf, yešḫəlūf) < Š Ḫ L F to try or test sth , Ar jarraba According to Ḥājj, this word is very faṣīḥ, versus its rakīk synonym, ǧōreb Ź B Ṭ yźayṭem < Ź B Ṭ “źāṭ/yəźōṭ/yəźáyṭən to take” (Johnstone, 1987​ 472) Ǧ B B ǧbēʾ to surpass < Yem Ar J B B “jabba to arch over, to rise up [voûter, élever]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 259) mǧebbet place where the mountains end < Yem Ar J B B (see above) or < Ar Ġ B B maghabba? Ǧ B N ǧūbōn personal name or town (Jubān) in the governorate of al-Bayḍāʾ where Ǧūbōn hails from Ǧ B Y ǧwōbī < Ǧ B Y “gēbyət/yəwōbī pond, round cistern” (Johnstone, 1987 113) Ǧ D D ǧdēd barren highlands, Yem Ar jōl Ǧ D D ǧdīdem to do sth anew, Ar ʿawwadū, ṯannū Ǧ D L mheǧdelōt < Ǧ D L tresses, Yem Ar “jaddala to plait o ’s hair [tresser les cheveux]” (Landberg, 1920–42 1 271) The translation “well-arranged” is the closest possible fit I could find a modifier for “her body” (bdēn); the fact that the two rest uneasily with each other leads me to suspect that bdēn may be a mistake in the transmission Ǧ D L mǧawdel legs < “ǧēdel/ǧədəwwəl, ḥəǧdōl foot” (Johnstone, 1987 114) Ǧ D L eǧēdel < Ǧ D L “gēdəl/gədəwwəl/ḥəgdōl foot” (Johnstone, 1987​ 114) Ǧ D M H ǧdemh < Ǧ D M H Woe unto…!, Ar yā wayla! Ǧ D Ḥ ǧdaḥt < Ǧ D Ḥ something valuable cast up onto the beach by the ocean, Yem Ar jadīḥa Ǧ F [V] yǧeyfeh < Ǧ F [V] “gəfō/yəgáyf to turn over; to knock over to turn upside down” (Johnstone, 1987 116) Ǧ H L ǧīhāl = Yem Ar al-niswān Ǧ H M ǧhēm (hoh ǧhamk, heh ǧhōm, hem ǧhēm) to leave (a place) Ǧ H M yeǧhīm < Ǧ H M “gəhēm/yəghōm to go (a long way); to go in the morning” (Johnstone, 1987 117) šiǧhīm < Ǧ H M “šəghōm to come in the moring, at the end of the night” (ibid ) Ǧ H R šeǧhīr < Ǧ H R “gəhēr/yəghōr to be dazzled” (Johnstone, 1987 117), Ar ʾistaʿṣaba Ǧ L L yeǧlūl < Ǧ L L “gəl/yəglōl to be alight, glow; to boil” (Johnstone, 1987 118) Ǧ L L ǧellōt a flame that is free of smoke, Ar dafr (Yem dialect?), lihāb Ǧ M Z ġmūzem (ġmūz, yeġamzem) to shake violently (from the wind), Ar yahuzz, yashtadd Ǧ M Ź ġmīź < Ǧ M Ź sunset Ǧ N Š ǧānī, sic ǧawneš? Ǧ N ʿ ǧawneš, ǧōneš, tǧayn, mǧawnī < Ǧ N ʿ “gənō/gənōt/təgōna to be nearly set (sun)” (Johnstone, 1987​ 121) Ǧ N ʿ šeǧnīw < Ǧ N ʿ to move away from the wind, “šəgnē to get warm” (Johnstone, 1987​ 121) Ǧ R D leǧrēd < Ǧ R D in order to, < Ar li-ġaraḍ for the purpose (of) Ǧ R F mheǧrīf < Ǧ R F sweetest water drawn from the wādī’s bed Ǧ R F eǧerf (pl ǧrīf) the closed end of a trawling net where the fish (sardines) are gathered, a large fishing net Ǧ R R yeǧterīr < Ǧ R R to labor, to tire os with work, Ar thābara Ǧ R R ǧer (heh ǧer, hoh ǧerrek, heh yeǧrūr) < Ǧ R R to pull (a rope), Ar saḥaba, jarra, taqaddama Ǧ R S ǧersēt < Ǧ R S fatiguing, tiresome, Ar mutʿib, Mhr ǧetrūs, yeǧtərūs he became tired Ǧ R S ǧrēs < Ǧ R S “agōrəs/yagársən/yagōrəs to annoy (by visiting too freqently)…əǧtərōs to be given a little trouble (by a person, a car, etc )” (Johnstone, 1987 125) Ǧ R Y ǧrōh, tǧēr, ǧrūt, ǧrīw < Ǧ R Y “gərō/yəgáyr to go in front of; to pass (time); to happen” (Johnstone, 1987​ 125) ǧōrem (heh ǧrōh) to befall, to happen ǧrūt < Ǧ R Y “agōri to pass by slowly” (ibid ) Ǧ R [V] ǧeryōt (masc ǧōrī) < Ar jārī Ǧ R [V] leǧrē on account of, Ar min ʾajlika Ǧ S D yeǧsūd to explain os , uncertain etymology Ǧ S M ǧsūm (yǧūsem) < Ǧ S M to pile soil into furrows, Yem Ar khalaba Ǧ S M ǧasm Ar jasāra Ǧ S M eǧesm < Ǧ S M “gəsōm to be brave, do st bravely…gīsəm to feel pain on hearing bad news” (Johnstone, 1987 125) Ǧ S R ǧinzerī < Ǧ S R strong, hard (metal), Yem Ar al-jasūr < Yem Ar “jasār thickness, strong condition” (Piamenta, 1990, vol 1 67) Ǧ Ś F ǧśīf, ǧeśf (pl ǧśōwef) side of the torso and a group of ribs, here used to describe the walls of a wādī, Ar ʾajnāb al-wādī Ǧ Ś M ǧiśm < Ǧ Ś M Ar jashm Ǧ W B ǧūb < Ǧ W B “gawb/gəwēbət shield of hippopotamus hide” (Johnstone, 1987 127) Ǧ W D eǧeyyədīn < Ǧ W D strong, courageous (masc plural) Ǧ W D ǧawd < Ǧ W D a downpour that penetrates through the roof Ǧ W L ǧīwəleth < Ǧ W L “[the sea] took it to land,” to roll sth onto land (only used for ocean), Ar jawwala Ǧ W R tešǧeywer < Ǧ W R to become a neighbor, Ar jāra gwēreš < Ǧ W R “gəwayr/gəwawrət, gūrūn neighbor” (Johnstone, 1987 128) Ǧ W T ġawt middle of the sea, far from land, Ar ʿamq al-baḥr Ǧ W Y yġōwī < Ġ W Y “ġəwō to leave behind, forget, lose” (Johnstone, 1987 146) Ǧ Y D ǧyēd, gīdh (+ poss suffix) < Ǧ Y D “gīd, gədət/gīyēd good” (Johnstone, 1987 128) Ǧ Y L eġayl mountain where there is a spring, < ġayl spring Ǧ Z F ǧzōf he took, < Ǧ Z F “ǧazfun signifies the taking a thing…or the taking largely, or copiously and it is [from] a Persian word” (Lane, 1955 2 420) Ǧ Z L eǧižwelūt < Ǧ Z L “gēzəl/gəzəlōn big rock” (Johnstone, 1987 129) Ǧ Z R ǧzūr < Ǧ Z R a camel whose milk has descended Ǧ Z Y ǧzōm < Ǧ Z Y “gəzō/yəgōzi/yəgzē to prefer, be finished with (mən) so , st to be able to do without” (Johnstone, 1987​ 130) Ǧ Z ʿ ǧzē (“Wedding in Ṣaḳr”), ǧzē (“The Waning Years of the ʾAfrārī Sulṭānate”) < Ǧ Z ʿ tribe, people, kin, everyone under so ’s command (in a maritime setting), Ar qawm, no plural or verbal derivatives, uncertain etymology Ǧ Ź R ǧźawret (sing ǧeyźer) lions, Ar al-uṣūd Ǧ [V] B ǧeyb < Ǧ [V] B Ar mawqif Ǧ [V] D ǧed seriousness, Ar al-jidīya Ǧ [V] F ǧōyef either a specific mountain called “Ǧōyef” or an overhanging cliff that provides shade (< Ar jurf) that is known to all four poets Ǧ [V] N ǧawn (pl eǧwēnet) < Ǧ [V] N a large bull camel, Ar al-jamal al-hāʾij al-kabīr yaḥmal al-thiql, bir ǧawn (“the son of a bull camel”) is any important, well-respected tribal leader Ǧ [V] Š ǧēš human body odor, smell of human sweat Ǧ [W] N ǧōneh < Ǧ [W] N wind break, wind baffle Ǧ Ḥ D ǧḥīd, ǧeḥdīhem < Ǧ Ḥ D “ǧəḥād/yəǧḥōd to deny, refuse” (Johnstone, 1987​ 117) Ǧ Ṣ Ṣ ġṣīṣ when a school of feeding fish and the seabirds feeding on them form a roiling tumult Ǧ Ṯ Ṯ ǧṯūt < Ǧ Ṯ Ṯ (?) to scatter, to disperse (clouds), Ar hamadat al-saḥāb ʾ D D ʾādīd, ʾādēden < ʿ D D “ʾādēd each, every; total, amount” (Johnstone, 1987 11) ʾ D F ādfūt (< ādfūd, yʾawfed, noun āfīd) to cross over, step over, Ar takhaṭṭa, qafaza ʾ D H adh = Yem Ar ʿāduh it is still ʾ D W ʾadīd < ʾ D W Yem Ar “adāh clothes, linen clothes” (Piamenta, 1990, 5) ʾ F Ḳ ʾefēḳ (heh ʾūfūḳ, yūfōḳ, hoh wfeḳk) < ʾ F Ḳ to cut across a narrow, constricted place (like a wādī), side to side ʾ H L ešhelleh (hoh ešhōl, heh yešhelleh) < ʾ H L to deserve (Johnstone, 1987 4), Ar yastaʾhil ʾ H L yešhōl < ʾ H L “yəšhōl to deserve” (Johnstone, 1987 4) yestāhel see above; speaker may have pronounced /š/ as /s/ Otherwise < S H L “əstəhūl to go with ease, safely, in a good fortune” (ibid 344) ʾ K B ʾawakb (and ʾawaḳb) < ʿ Ḳ B rhymes, Ar al-qawāfī ʾ Ḳ B ʾāḳbənōt (dim ) < ʾ Ḳ B a little eagle or tiny bird, an ʾaḳḳəbīt is any small bird ʾ Ḳ R ʾāḳawr (heh yʾawker) to become big, Ar kabira ʾ L B ātlūb < ʿ L B to practice, perform, execute, Yem Ar ʿallaba, “ʿalib to prepare, make ready” (Piamenta, 1990, vol 2 336) ʾ L Ḳ ʾālḳōt (tālōḳ) < ʾ L Ḳ to be pregnant ʾ L Ḳ mʾawleḳ < ʿ L Ḳ senses, feelings, Ar ḥawāss ʾ L Ḳ (seh) ālḳōt (heh āyleḳ, yālōḳ) to kindle a fire, Ar wallaʿat, ishtaʿala, used with reference to firewood, fire, or wood (Ar ḥaṭab, nār, ḥarb) ʾ L [V] ʾālūt where the sands of the desert begin, < ʿ L [V] “ʾālēw at the top” (Johnstone, 1987 23)? ʾ M M ʾāmūm agitated, used for the sea and the wind, Ar ṭūfān, hāʾij ʾ R wrīt < ʾ R “ḥā-rīt moon (Bed hawrīt)” (Johnstone, 1987 7) ʾ R M hōrem, hayyerēm < ʾ R M “wōrəm, def ḥōrəm/ḥāyrēm (f ) road; way to obtain satisfaction” (Johnstone, 1987 7) ʾ S S əsōseh Ar jaḏr ʾ Ś R mhōśīr < ʿ Ś R to be newly manufactured ʾ T M ʾātōm, ʾātūm an abundance of water (or poetry), Ar ghazāra, enṭəweyr to pour down from every direction and side (said of water and rain) ʾ W L b-hāwēl Ar bi-l-ʾawwal in the vanguard, at the front of the group ʾ W L awle or, Ar ʾaw ʾ W Ś ʾawś (conjugated verb ʾaweśk/ʾawīś/ʾawīśōt) < ʾ W Ś to display overweening pride, outward splendor, Ar tabāhī ʾ Y F āyīf (āyfūt, pres tāyīf) < ʾ Y F to take to wing, to fly, Ar jannaḥa ʾ Z B āzīb (< tāzīben) the sprinting of gazelles, Ar rakḍ al-ġazlān ʾ Z M ʾāzmōh < ʾ Z M they were steadfast, worked hard ʾ Ḫ R ʾāḫrān < Ar ʾakhīran ʾ Ṣ B ezzəbūt weight-bearing, < ʿ Ṣ B (?) Yem Ar “to bind, tie up…to back support” (Piamenta, 1990 328) The vocalization of /ṣ/ and loss of /ʿ/ in the Mahri dialect of Qishn might have led Ḥājj to hear and render the interior bedouin Mahri ʿaṣṣabūt as ezzebūt as per his transcription of this poem Only the former – ʿaṣṣabūt – makes any sense in this line due to its evocation of tribal partisanship ʿaṣāba ʾ Ṭ F ʾeṭafk (heh ʾeṭawf, yʾāṭawf) < ʿ Ṭ F to take a drink ʿ B L ʾableth < ʿ B L “ʾābōl/yáwbəl to look after, tend (a sick person or animal)” (Johnstone, 1987 10) ʿ B R ewōber (pl ābūr/ābrōt) < ʿ B R a pack camel or ship ʿ B R lābōr < ʿ B R to cross (i e , the border) ʿ B R tʾābīrī < ʿ B R “ʿáybər/yābōr to gaze, look into the distance…šābōr/yəšābōr to consider (st ) to be so” (Johnstone, 1987​ 11) hābēr < ʿ B R so who can predict events, sees the consequences ʿ B R hāberk < ʿ B R to express, reveal ʿ D D ʾadēd the open end of a trawling net, uncertain etymology ʿ D D mʾawden (ppl ) < ʿ D D “hādōd to make ready” (Johnstone, 1987 11) ʿ D D ādīd < ʿ D D considerable, dear, Ar ghālī < Ar ʿadīd? ʿ F F ʾāfīf (yāfīfen) < ʿ F F to take off quickly, Ar inṭalaqa ʿ F R tē-ʾafōr < ʿ F R “’āfōr/’āfərīn cloud” (Johnstone, 1987 15) ʿ F R mhāfīr < ʿ F R “ʾāfōr to dig, dig over…ʾátfər to paw the soil, play in the soil” (Johnstone, 1987 14) ʾāfrīhem (hēh ʾāfūr, yʾawfer) < ʿ F R to plow, Ar ḥaratha ʿ F [V] yheyfeh < ʿ F [V] “šāfō/yəšáyf to improve in health, get better, recover” (Johnstone, 1987 15) ʿ K B šākūb < ʿ K B “ʾatkəb to be unhappy at having to do sth but not refuse to do it…šākōb not to be up to st ” (Johnstone, 1987​ 18) ʿ K F ʾākōf < ʿ K F Yem Ar “ʿakfa/ʿukfa, pl ʿakaf coiffure” (Landberg, 1920–42 3 2317) ʿ K R ʾōker < ʿ K R a sudden puff of wind, smoke, or sand that blows in your face (when a car passes), ʾākūrēt a whirlwind of dust and smoke, “ʾākərīt smoke rising from a house, ship” (Johnstone, 1987 18) ʿ K S ʿɛ̄kēs < ʿ K S “ʾākōs/yəʾáks/yākēs to mix; to make so fed up…ʾātkēs/yātəkōs/yātəks to be bored, fed up” (Johnstone, 1987 18) ʿ K W yhōkī < ʿ K W to change the course of a water channel, Ar yumayyil al-māʾ, Yem Ar “ʿakā replier et nouer [to fold over and to fasten]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2318) ʿ Ḳ B ʾāḳāb < ʿ Ḳ B seagulls (< Ar ʿuqāb eagle?) ʿ Ḳ D ʾaḳyīd < ʿ Ḳ D Ar al-qiyāda ʿ Ḳ D ʾāḳīd< ʿ Ḳ D colonel, Ar ʿaqīd ʿ Ḳ R ʿɛ̄ḳār, ʾāḳrōt < ʿ Ḳ R “ʾāḳáwr/yáwḳər/yāḳār to be, become big, grow up” (Johnstone, 1987 20) ʿ L Ḳ hālūḳ < ʿ L Ḳ a dry palm frond used as kindling for a fire, “hālōḳ/yəhālōḳ to light, kindle” (Johnstone, 1987​ 21) ʿ L L mhelwūt < ʿ L L Ar ʾiʿtalla?, Ar qāṣir ʿ L M ālūm < ʿ L M Ar muʾlim ʿ L M yʾōlem < ʿ L M “ʾōləm/yāmən/yōləm to teach; to mark, brand” (Johnstone,1987 22)? ʿ L [V] yʾalyen < ʿ L [V] to raise, “ʾālēw at the top Jahn, alīū, ilī, hoch; hoch wohnend” (Johnstone, 1987 23) ʿ M D nāmēd < ʿ M D “ʾāmōd/yáwməd/yāmēd to hit so on purpose, shoot so from a company known to you…to intend” (Johnstone, 1987 23) ʿ M Ḳ ʾamḳəyōt the middle one (here, path) ʿ M L yāmīles < ʿ M L “ʾayməl yāmōl to do, make” (Johnstone, 1987 24) əmāməlēt < ʿ M L Ar maʿmal = Ar mazraʿ ʿ M N šēmūn, mšemne < ʾ M N “šāmūn/yəšāmūn/yəšēmən to believe; to fall in with so ’s wishes” (Johnstone, 1987​ 5) ʿ M R āmūr, āmōrem, tʾawmer < ʿ M R “ʾāmōr/yōmer/yaʾmēr to say; to compose poetry, sing poetry” (Johnstone, 1987 25) men taʾmērem = Ar min ʾan taqūlū hōmūr < ʿ M R “hāmōr/yəhāmōr/yəhēmər, to develop; to order; to repair” (ibid ) šāmrūt < ʿ M R “šāmōr to fondle and talk pleasantly to a child” (ibid ) ʿ N F ʾānīf < ʿ N F Ar ʿanīf, possibly a pun on Mhr mānēf anchor ʿ N Y hānōh < ʿ N Y “hānō/yəháyn to decide, intend” (Johnstone, 1987​ 26) ʿ N [V] eneywōt burdens, < ʿ N [V] Ar ʿānā/muʿānā or < Yem Ar N W ʾ to lift os with difficulty ʿ N ʿ ʾēnāʾ a rain cloud ʿ R F amawref (sing maʾrīf < Ar ʿ R F ) in this context, the customs, habits (Ar al-ʿādāt), also lineages (Ar ʾansāb, sulāla) ʿ R M ārīm plain rice without fish, meat, or ghee ʿ R N erawmī type, Ar ṣanf, uncertain etymology I believe that this word was misinterpreted by my consultant for this poem and should be understood as erawn < ʾ R N “ḥā-ráwn (ērūn) goats” (Johnstone, 1987 7) The stich would then read as “the ones of a single goat,” i e , born to the same mother ʿ R Ź erźeyn < ʿ R Ź “breadth” (Johnstone, 1987 29) ʿ R Ź thārūź < ʿ R Ź Ar taʿarraḍa, lit O Lord who stands in the way of Sʿīd? ʿ S F teḥsayf < ʾ S F to be sorry, Ar taʾassafa ʿ S R tšāserk < ʿ S R “šāsōr/yəšāsōr to love, like” (Johnstone, 1987​ 29) ʿ S Y ʾāsē < ʿ S Y “ʾāsē one hopes, it is to be hoped” (Johnstone, 1987​ 30) ʿ Ś Ḳ leʾeśśōḳ to dally, to flirt, Ar tadallala ʿ Ś Ḳ māśēḳ < ʿ Ś Ḳ Ar maʿshūq desireable ʿ Ś Ś āśōt < ʿ Ś Ś “ʾəś/yāśōś to rise, get up” (Johnstone, 1987 31) ʿ T M ātūm fields, uncertain derivation ʿ T M mātīm < ʿ T M a sleeping place, “hātōm/yəhātōm/yəhētəm to spend the night” (Johnstone, 1987 33) ʿ W M ʾāmōh < ʿ W M great-uncle or maternal grandfather ʿ W R yehwarʾen < ʿ W R “ʾāwēr/yāwēr to hurt… hāwēr to hurt” (Johnstone, 1987​ 37) ʿ W Ź ewźōnek < ʿ W Ź Ar ʿawaḍa ʿ Y N māyōn (pl ) < ʿ Y N a flowing spring or river, Ar maʿīn, maʿyān ʿ Y N ʿaynet < ʿ Y N “ʿáynət a little” (Johnstone, 1987 38) ʿ Y Ś ʿēś < ʿ Y Ś to sprout, grow (plants) ʿ Z B azzūbet < ʿ Z B “ʾāzōb to stay alone with the herds, flocks…mōzəb/məʿazəbōtən camel-herd, goatherd away from his wife and family with the beasts” (Johnstone, 1987 39) ʿ Z M āzūm, āzyēm < ʿ Z M “ʾāzōm/yázəm/yāzēm to decide, intend” (Johnstone, 1987​ 39) ʿ Z T ʾazzəteyn If only…, Ar yā rayta, min al-tamannī ʿ Z Y ezey < ʿ Z Y herd, flock, Ar riʿāya, qawm ʿ Ź D yāźeyd < ʿ Ź D “ʾayźəd to become stiff (after unaccustomed exercise)” (Johnstone, 1987​ 39) ʿ [V] L ʿiley (sing ʿāl) < ʿ [V] L heights, Ar murtafaʿāt ʿ [V] L eḥāwlōʾī < ʿ [V] L Ar ʿawāʾil or ʾ H L Ar ʾahālī ʿ Ǧ B māǧōbes < ʿ Ǧ B + poss suffix remarkable (qualities), ār mkōn Ar bi-lā mathīl, mā lahā makān ʿ Ǧ B ʾāǧēb < ʿ Ǧ B “love” (Johnstone, 1987 16) yātǧūb < ʿ Ǧ B to be in a state of excitement, arousal ʿ Ḏ D ʿāḏīd difficult, painful labor, Ar al-shiqqa, al-ʿidhāb ʿ Ḏ N mhēḏen (heh hēḏūn, yhēḏen) < ʾ Ḏ N to transmit, announce dangerous or important news, Ar naql al-ʾakhbār ʿ Ḏ R šadrūt < ʿ D R “šāḏōr/yəšāḏōr/yəšáyḏər to refrain from; to refuse (a favor), excuse os , let so down” (Johnstone, 1987 14) ʿ Ṣ B ʾāṣṣeb < ʿ Ṣ B “ʾāṣsəb to be tied” (Johnstone, 1987 30) ʿ Ṣ R ʾāṣer, āṣūr < ʿ Ṣ R “ʾāṣər/ʾāṣōr, ʾāṣáwr night” (Johnstone, 1987 31) ʿ Ṭ F āṭōf “The Cobra,” the nickname of the judge (Ar qāḍī) Muḥammad bir Labīź, uncertain etymology ʿ Ṭ L mentəhōl < men āṭōl < ʿ Ṭ L , Ar min al-ʿuṭl ʿ Ṭ R tʾāṭṭīrī < ʿ Ṭ R “ʾāṭṭər to be twisted” (Johnstone, 1987 35) ʿ Ṯ R mhōṯīr < ʾ Ṯ R to follow the traces, to accustom os ʿansēs ʿansēs name of the milch cow (ǧzūr) Ḏ B B ḏib < D B B (1st pers ḏíbbek), a dialectal variant < Ś B B (1st pers śíbbek) to rise up, come up suddenly, “śəb/yəśbūb/yəśbēb (fire) to flare up; (youth) to grow up” (Johnstone, 1987 370) Ḏ B L heḏbōl < D B L “ḏōbəl/ḏəbōl side, edge” (Johnstone, 1987 79) Ḏ B L ḏōbel Ar ṭaraf Ḏ B R ḏbōr, ḏbūr < Ḏ B R a small plot of muddy soil ready for planting, watched over and guarded, Ar ṭīn maḥrūs, Yem Ar ḏabr Ḏ H B ḏhēb “gold” (Johnstone, 1987 80) Ḏ H B ḏhīb, ḏhōbet (sing ḏhīb) < Ḏ H B “ḏəhīb flood water; torrent” (Johnstone, 1987 80), Ar suyūl teḏhōben < Ḏ H B “həḏhōb/yəhəḏhōb to flood” (ibid ) eḏhībeh its flood Ḏ H L menḏəhīl a place of blessing and good pasturage, Ar makān fīhi raḥma Ḏ H L ḏhūl (ḏhelk, ḏhēl to be quiet) < Ḏ H L peace, quiet, Ar sakt Ḏ L F ḏlūf (heh yḏūlef) to jump, Ar qafaza Ḏ L L eḏlōla a riding she-camel Ḏ R F ḏerf < Ḏ R F itchy welt, flea bite Ḏ R Ḳ ḏerḳāt (heh ḏriḳ, yḏawriḳ, hoh ḏriḳk) hope(s), wish(es), Ar taʾammala Ḏ R Y ḏrey (in Qishn, ḏrē) strange, Ar gharīb Ḏ Y B mḏeyyeb fleet of foot, courageous Ḏ Ḥ [V] heḏḥ (causative stem) < D Ḥ [V] “həḏḥō to make (st ) out, see (st ) hidden by so ” (Johnstone, 1987 80) Ḏ Ḫ N yeḏḫōn to live (in a place), uncertain derivation ḏekmeh ḏekmeh that, Ar tilka ḏā ḏā demonstrative article Ḥ B B ḥbeybet (coastal dialect hbeybet < hāyəbīt female camel, Ar nāqa) < Ḥ B B this is probably an affectionate name for his favorite she-camel Ḥ B R hbōr, ḥebbōr < Ḥ B R “ḥəbōr (poet ) when, while” (Johnstone, 1987 165) Ḥ B S ḥībes < Ḥ B S its flood = Ar sayl(u)hā Ḥ D D ḥdīd paternal uncle, Ar ʿamm Ḥ F D līḥawfed (lə-yḥawfed, ḥōfūd) < Ḥ F D to follow or read the tracks of humans and animals Ḥ F F ḥfīf < Ḥ F F “ḥáttəf to be easily angered ḥəfáyf easily angered” (Johnstone, 1987​ 168) Ḥ F F ḥeyfūf < Ḥ F F dry bread, Ar ḥāff Ḥ F L tḥafleh < Ḥ F L “(Eastern Mahri) ḥfōl to pay heed” (Johnstone, 1987​ 169) Ḥ F L teḥfōl < Ḥ F L to become ripe, Yem Ar tanḍaj, “ḥatfəl (wild figs) to be ripe…ḥəfəlīt ripe (wild) fig” (Johnstone, 1987 169) Ḥ F T ḥaftetsen (ḥfūt/ḥaftūt/yḥawft + d o suffix) < Ḥ F T to surpass, to beat (in competition) Ḥ K M ḥōkem < Ḥ K M “ruler” (Johnstone, 1987 174) Ḥ Ḳ B ḥḳabk (heh ḥḳabh, hoh ḥḳābi) an expression used to shame someone for doing something wrong (“you should have known better!”), Ar ʿayb, malāma, ʾistinkār, ḏamm, istiġrāb, taʾassuf, khasartak! In this context, it expresses the poet’s sorrow over the cow’s fate Ḥ Ḳ B šeḥḳabk < Ḥ Ḳ B “šəḥḳáwb to mourn, grieve, sigh for so dead and gone” (Johnstone, 1987 176) Ḥ Ḳ F ḥḳawf to show the entirety of sth Ḥ L F emḥallef (1st pers pres eḥōlef) < Ḥ L F sharpened, whetted, Ar masnūn Ḥ L L yeḥlūl < Ḥ L L “ḥəl/yəḥlūl/yəḥlēl to settle” (Johnstone, 1987​ 176) ḥellēt < Ḥ L L to settle (see above) or < Ḥ W L “ḥawl/ḥəwēlət year” (ibid 194) ḥallī < Ḥ L L inhabitants Ḥ L L ḥellenseh < Ḥ L L like ġellenseh, ḥellenseh is an inland bedouin dialectal equivalent of coastal Mahri ḥlelseh Ḥ L S ḥlēs < Ḥ L S desire, craving, Ar ḥils Ḥ L T ḫūṭeyt < ḫalṭeyt < Ḥ L T a strange animal from outside of the flock (< Ar khalaṭa?) Ḥ L W ḥalweyneh (his) first part of the night (dim ) Ḥ M L mḥawmel beast of burden < Ḥ M L “ḥəmūl/yəḥawmel/yəḥmēl to carry ḥəmawlət/ḥəmōyəl camel load” (Johnstone, 1987 181) mḥawmel < Ḥ M L In this poem, it means a giant cargo boat or anything that carries a lot of cargo and is used symbolically for all of the people who are arriving mḥawmel < Ḥ M L luggage, baggage, Yem Ar simān It is unclear to me how mḥawmel should be understood in this line; Ḥājj was unable to find a satisfactory interpretation of this phrase and left it unexplained Ḥ M T ḥmūt poison Ḥ M Š mhemšūt confused, muddled, < Ar Ḥ M SH “to stir up, to incite (a war) [attiser la guerre]” (Landberg, 1920–42 494) Ḥ M Ṭ emaḥmūt piercing, sharp iron, shrapnel, < Mahri ḥmūt poison < Yem Ar Ḥ M Ṭ “taḥammaṭa to harbor hatred for so [nourrir une haine contre qn ]…ḥāmiṭ hot [chaud]…ḥamāṭ heat of the fight (ḥamāṭ li-‘l-ḥarb) [l’ardeur du combat]…ḥumāṭ a stinging jellyfish [méduse]” (Landberg, 1920–42 1 495), and possibly < Ar Ḥ M T “ḥamt ferociously hot [shadīd al-harr]” (Ibn Manẓūr, 2005 2 215) Ḥ N N yeḥnīn < Ḥ N N “hən to make a sound like an engine running, whir, purr” (Johnstone, 1987 183) Ḥ N T ḥantūt desire for a fight, battle lust, Ar lahfat al-ḥamās Ḥ N Ṯ yeḥḥənūt < Ḥ N Ṯ “ḥnūt/yəḥnūt/yəháḥnət to make so break an oath, a promise” (Johnstone, 1987 184) This definition of yeḥḥənūt is precisely the opposite of the sense of this line I suspect that a negative particle is missing from the autograph Ḥ R F leḥtərīf < Ḥ R F Ar iḥtarafa Ḥ R F ḥerfərūf women wearing bangles, “ḥarf/ḥərawf gold coin; gold amulet” (Johnstone, 1987​ 185) Ḥ R F meḥḥərīf (hēh ḥrūf, yḥawref) Ḥ R F to move something to the side (e g , a rock in the road) Ḥ R M eḥḥōrem < Ḥ R M “ḥōrem/yəḥōrem to repent; to swear not to do st ” (Johnstone, 1987​ 186) Ḥ R R teḥrīren (seh ḥrīret, heh ḥrīr) to increase (o ’s speed) suddently and strongly, to go quickly, Ar tasraʿ Ḥ R Ṣ mḥerṣayn < Ḥ R Ṣ to avidly desire, “ḥayrəṣ to come to want sth because so else wants it” (Johnstone, 1987 187) Ḥ S B yeḥsēb < Ḥ S B “ḥəsūb/yəḥawsəb/yəḥsēb to count, reckon” (Johnstone, 1987 188) Ḥ S B ḥsōbī (“The Purloined Slaves”), ḥsōbī (“The Battle of Aḳəbbōt”) < Ḥ S B “my intention/my wish” = Ar ʾana mutarajjī, rijāʾī, ʾāmālī Ḥ S R yeḥsīr < Ḥ S R to withhold, to hold back Ḥ S S tehsēs < Ḥ S S “ḥəs/yəḥsūs/yəḥsēs to have feeling, be conscious of (b-)” (Johnstone, 1987 188) Ḥ S [V] mhaḥsūt excavated anew, Ar maḥfūra mujaddada, < Mhr heh yḥeys, ḥsō to dig a well Ḥ Ś M ḥośem (heh ḥōśem, yḥaśmen, hoh ḥaśmek) < Ḥ Ś M to honor, to show loyalty to so ; Ar sharrafa, waffā Ḥ Ś Ś ḥatteś, maḥśēś (ḥatśek, pres aḥśōś) < Ḥ Ś Ś to be tense, angry, < “ḥeśyōś having all the bones smashed” (Johnstone, 1987 191) Ḥ W F ḥaft < Ḥ W F “(Jahn) ḥaft/ḥawēf Stadt, Dorf [town, village]” (Johnstone, 1987 193) Ḥ W F mhawfī edges of a wādī < Ar Ḥ F F ḥāffa Ḥ W L ḥwelk, teḥwūl < Ḥ W L “ḥwūl/yəḥwūl/yəhaḥwəl to understand (a language)” (Johnstone, 1987 193) Ḥ W L hāḥwōl conditions, circumstances, Ar al-aḥwāl Ḥ W M yḥaymeh < Ḥ W M “yəḥōm to want, like, wish” (Johnstone, 1987 194) + obj suffix –eh (“it”) Yḥōm is a dialectal variation of yḥōm and is characteristic of Mahri speakers from Ḥawf Ḥ W R ḥawrōt < Ḥ W R “ḥōwər/ḥəwrūt/ḥāwər black” (Johnstone, 1987 195) Ḥ W S S ḥwēs to mix together, to become small, < Ḥ W S S “ənḥəwsūs (rare) to become weaker and weaker…to shrink” (Johnstone, 1987 195) Ḥ W Y šeḥyeth < Ḥ W Y (caus -refl stem + obj suffix) to pass a greeting, to say hello, < ḥayyā w-sehla! Ḥ W Y ḥaywōn box, bank account, < H W Y Yem Ar “ḥawiyya (pl ) ḥiwāya powder horn…ḥaniyya packsaddle” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 532) Ḥ W Y ḥwūt (< Ḥ W Y ) enclosure, net, Ar shabka, ḥilbat al-mawt the enclosure of death Ḥ W Ǧ ḥwōyeǧ matters, affairs, Ar ḥājāt Ḥ Y B ḫeybet a few, a little Ḥ Y Ḳ ḥyēḳ < Ḥ Y Ḳ “ḥayḳ/ḥyēḳət shore, beach” (Johnstone, 1987 197) Ḥ Y Ḳ mḥeyḳ < Ḥ Y Ḳ Ar taʿīb Ḥ Y R teḥyīr (hoh ḥyerk, heh ḥyūr) to become lost, confused, distracted, Ar ḥāʾir Ḥ Y R ḥyīr < Ḥ Y R (< Ḥ Ǧ R ) Yem Ar “ḥayyara retenir, empêcher [to prevent, to stop]…= mehri ḥayîr verweigern, zurückhalten [to refuse, to suppress]…ḥawwara mettre aux arrêts [to put an end to sth ]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 534) Ḥ Y S ḥēs < Ḥ Y S “ḥays violence us in the phrase, bə-ḥays, violently; with difficulty” (Johnstone, 1987 198) ḥyēs < Ḥ Y S violent (wave) Ḥ Y Y hāḥyōt < Ḥ Y Y Ar ʾaḥyāʾ tribal communities or Yemeni Arabic districts, explained to me as the equivalent of Ar hiḍābha its hills Ḥ Y Ṭ ḥayṭ, hītayn < Ḥ Y Ṭ mountain, “ḥayṭ part of a mt road you cannot see” (Johnstone, 1987 198) Ḥ Z B ḥzūb to gird for battle < Ḥ Z B “ḥzūb to be alert, ready for action” (Johnstone, 1987​ 198) Ḥ Z Ḳ teḥzēḳ < Ḥ Z Ḳ “ḥáyzəḳ to joke” (Johnstone, 1987​ 198) Ḥ Z M maḥzēm < Ḥ Z M “məḥzəmūt/məḥōzəm waist…maḥzēm cartridge-belt” (Johnstone, 1987 198) Ḥ Z R ḥzūrem (heh yḥawzer, ḥzūr) to be proficient in the use of sth , to know the way to do sth , Ar ḍabaṭū, ʿarafū ṭarīqat (istikhdām al-bunduq) meḥḥəzūr known people, Ar nās maʿrūfīn, heh yḥawzer, ḥzūr to know sth , = Mhr zhūd, Ar ʿarifa Ḥ Z Y ḥzey (hēh hzō, yḥeyz) to seek the protection of so else, Ar inḥāza maʿ ḥzō to move circuitously to avoid danger, to travel in a roundabout way to keep safe, Ar tasallala, Mhr ḥōzek hnōfī I know how to keep from making mistakes Ḥ Ź B yḥawźeb (ḥźabk, ḥźawb) < Ḥ Ź B to long for, to feel tenderness toward, to yearn, to hanker, Ar yaḥinn Ḥ Ź F tḥawźef < Ḥ Ź F “ḥəźźáwf/yəḥəźźáwf to sit cross legged” (Johnstone, 1987 199) Ḥ Ź F meḥźayn in o ’s mother’s lap < Ḥ Ź F “lap ḥaṣ̂f” (Nakano, 2013 14) Ḥ Ź R emḥəźeyr (< ḥźawr) < Ḥ Ź R verdant pasturage Ḥ Ź R mḥawźer mediation, intervention, Ar wisāṭa, < Ḥ Ź R “həzáwr/yəḥáwzər/yəḥzār to persuade; to attend; to be a peacemaker” (Johnstone, 1987 199) Ḥ Ź Ź yeḥźāź (ḥaźź) < Ḥ Ź Ź to pick up the traces of or find the tracks of so or sth Ḥ [V] L aḥalyen to make so understand (ḥwelk I understand) Ḥ [V] L ḥwōl (sing ḥawl) layer over layer Ḥ Š [V] līḥašyen < Ḥ Š [V] to forbid (under threat of shame), to deny so , Yem Ar “heyśa ʿalīʾ = ʿayb ʿalayya…Mehri ḥaśê” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 421), Ar ḥāshāk allāh, ḥayshak, “ḥāshāhu minhum…he exluded him from them” (Lane, 1955 578) Ḥ Ǧ F ḥǧīf < Ḥ Ǧ F to encircle Ḥ Ǧ F ḥǧōfem (heh yḥawǧef, ḥǧōf) to protect, defend, to come to the aid of so , Ar dafaʿa ʿanhu, ḥajafa, ḥamū Ḥ Ǧ R ḥǧēr, ḥǧūr (sing ḥaǧrēt) an assembly of seated men, “ḥəgrēt/ḥəgēr company of males sitting in a circle, public gathering” (Johnstone, 1987​ 172), Ar nās jālisīn, yḥawǧer, ḥǧūr to sit together Ḥ Ǧ R ḥǧīr < Ḥ Ǧ R steady rain without wind, Yem Ar “ʾaḥjara siffler, vent et nuage, car on croit que ce sont les nuages et non le vent qui sifflent” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 358) Landberg cites a hemistich of tribal poetry by the headman (ʿaqīl) of al-Ḥawra, ʾAḥmad b ʿAlī al-Ḥimyarī khayyal makhīla miḥjara yā ʾahl al-salab This hemistich is translated by Landberg as “Il (le śeyḫ des Diyêb) aperçut un nuage de pluie sifflant, ô gens d’armes” (ibid ) Ḥ Ǧ W ḥǧūt < Ḥ Ǧ W “ḥəgū/yəḥáyg/yəḥgē to amass; to collect, round up (animals)…hátgi to stay at home; to be fairly wise…to come home all together; (people) to come together; (older men) to gather to decide st ” (Johnstone, 1987 173) Ḥ Ǧ ʿ ḥǧennōt (dim ) < Ḥ Ǧ ʿ < ḥǧēt a (big) problem, < Ar ḥujja argument, plea, or < Ar ḥāja thing, issue, or < “ḥəg/yəḥgūg/yəḥgēg to refuse (us a female cousin) permission to marry so other than himself” (Johnstone, 1987 171) Ḥ Ṣ N ḥāṣen < Ḥ Ṣ N “ḥāṣən/ḥəṣātən large house…castle” (Johnstone, 1987 190) Ḥ Ṭ Ṭ ḥāṭṭī = Ar ḥaẓẓī Ḥ Ṯ̣ F ḥīṯ̣ōf misers, Ar al-buḫalāʾ Ḫ B B eḫtəbūb < Ḫ B B shoot forth sparks and flame, Yem Ar “yukhibb al-sayf to rattle the sword [faire vibrer le sabre], to brandish it [le brandir]…Mehri ḫabīb to shake [trembler]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 546) Ḫ D D ḫaddūt < Ḫ D D (dancing) area, Yem Ar “ʾašʿaruhā murḫā ʿalā ‘l-ṯarā li-ḫaddi ʾaqdām her unbound hair [fell] onto the ground in the space before her feet’…floor, earth, ground [sol, terre, terroir]” (Landberg, 1920–42 1 566) Ḫ D M ḫdūme < Ḫ D M “xədūm/yəxawdəm/yəxdēm to work” (Johnstone, 1987 437) Ḫ D R ḫeydīr fabric pitched like a tent, often with rubble forming the walls Ḫ F F ḫaf < Ḫ F F “xaf/xəfawf hoof; sole of the foot” (Johnstone, 1987 438) Ḫ L Ḳ ḫlēḳ < Ḫ L Ḳ “xəlēḳ/xəlōwəḳ cloth, Mehri dress” (Johnstone, 1987 441) Ḫ L L yeḫlīlen < Ḫ L L “xlūl/yəxlōl (roof), to be penetrated by rain, let in rain; (rain) to come through…abáyt xəllūt the house is letting in water” (Johnstone, 1987 439) Ḫ L L eḫḫəlēt < Ḫ L L imperfections, cracks, bumps, Ar khalal Ḫ L S yḫawles < Ḫ L S “xəlūs/yəxáwləs to stray, get lost; to lose, lose in court; to guess wrong; to miss” (Johnstone, 1987​ 441) Ḫ L W ḫlet < Ḫ L [W] “xáyli, xəlyūt to be empty” (Johnstone, 1987 442) ḫlā < Ḫ L W “xəláy, xəláyyət unmarried, bereaved” (ibid 443) ḫlē, ḫlēʾ < Ḫ L W “xəlēʾ desert…empty place; loneliness” (ibid 443), Ar al-khalāʾ; ḫlūt = Mhr ḫle Ḫ L [V] ḫlā (pl ) small date palms Ḫ L ʿ ḫālā < Ḫ L ʿ a grove of trees, perhaps of the hrūź tree, a thorny tree that camels are particularly fond of Ḫ L Ṭ ḫelṭayn, ḫlūṭem < Ḫ L Ṭ “xəlūṭ/yəxáwlət to stay with, go and stay with people; to mix” (Johnstone, 1987 442) Ḫ M L L ḫmīlūl to go weak, melt, also a term for rainfall, “ḫəmēlūl (tears) to run silently, well up” (Johnstone, 1987 444) Ḫ R B ḫarbeyn < Ḫ R B (Saʿd’s) murderers < “xōrəb/yəxárbən/yəxōrəb to spoil, damage…xərōb damage; ruin” (Johnstone, 1987 446) Ḫ R Ḳ mharḳōn from a long time ago, Ar ʿatīqīn, mundhu qadīm, also mharḳeyn (sing , mharḳōn pl ) sth tied or associated with sth else, Ar maqrūn, maqrīn, referring to pain, as in the Arabic idiom al-jurḥ qarīn fiyya Ḫ R Ǧ ḫarǧūten, ḫarǧēt (sing ) < Ḫ R Ǧ dancing women who are only recently married and considered to be at the apogee of their beauty Ḫ R Ǧ yeḫterīǧen < Ḫ R Ǧ to come to the service of, prepare, organize, offer (help), “əxtərūg to be served (in a shop)” (Johnstone, 1987 447) Ḫ S F ḫsīf < Ḫ S F Ar khasf al-maṭar Ḫ S S ḫsēs < Ḫ S S “xsīs to give so the least or worst” (Johnstone, 1987 449), also Yem Ar “khassa to be damaged, spoiled [se gâter]…to be of poor quality [mauvaise qualité]” (Landberg, 1920–42 1 591) Ḫ Ś R ḫāśer foreign substance, Ar al-makhlūṭ, ḫśūr (heh yḫawśer) to mix, Ar khalaṭa Ḫ Ś Ś ḫeśś < Ḫ Ś Ś “xəś/yəzśōś to penetrate, enter, go through st difficult (such as a thicket)” (Johnstone, 1987​ 450) Ḫ T F ḫatfūt (heh ḫṭawf, yḫawṭef) to pass by quickly, to whiz by Ḫ T [V] ḫītēten < Ḫ T [V] empty Ḫ W R ḫawr < Ḫ W R “xawr a little, a few” (Johnstone, 1987​ 456) Ḫ Y H ḫīh imperative, indeclinable, “leave off! leave [it] alone!” (poetic idiom) Ḫ Y Ṣ ḏ-īḫayṣ < Ḫ Y Ṣ to refuse Ḫ Z N ḫzeynī a certain type of rifle known for shooting straight, nicknamed ḫzeynī, < Ḫ Z N “xəzūn to put in a safe place…xəzōnət magazine (of a gun)” (Johnstone, 1987 458) Ḫ Z Y ḫzoh, ḫzūt, yḫeyz, ḫezyū < Ḫ Z W “xəzū,-zuh/yəzáyz to refuse…to humiliate” (Johnstone, 1987 459) Ḫ Z Y ḫezyīyeh < Ḫ Z Y xəzū yəxáyz to refuse (Johnstone, 1987 459) Ḫ Ź R ḫźeyr, eḫźeyr a poetic term for the ocean, Mhr rōrem, Ar al-baḥr Ḫ [V] B mḫawbeṭ (sing maḫbōṭ) bullets, Ar raṣāṣ, ṭalaqāt Ḫ [V] F ḫāf possibly, maybe, perhaps, Ar tawaqquʿ, yumkin Ḫ [V] Z ḫōzem (heh ḫzō, yḫeyz) to refuse, Ar rafaḍa Ḫ Ǧ F ḫǧīf (hēh ḫǧōf, yḫawǧef) < Ḫ Ǧ F pleasant chatter, nothing serious, maḫǧīf an uncontrollable person, Ar insān fawḍī Ḫ Ṣ B ḫṣōb < Ḫ Ṣ B to enjoin, direct, advise, make incumbent, Ar waṣṣā, also “xṣawb/yəxṣáwb/yəháxṣəb to send, to send for” (Johnstone, 1987 450) Ḫ Ṣ Ṣ ḫeṣṣāt, ḫesseyn < Ḫ Ṣ Ṣ “special, especially” (Johnstone, 1987 450)? Ḫ Ṭ F ḫṭāf (hoh ḫṭafk) < Ḫ Ṭ F to greet someone in passing as you hurry by Ḫ Ṭ F ḫaṭf (masc sing and pl , ḫaṭfēt fem sing ) emaciated from hunger Ḫ Ṭ F tḫeyṭef (fem impv , tḫawṭef masc impv ) < Ḫ Ṭ F to cross a narrow wādī (see line 3 in the previous poem) Ḫ Ṭ R ḫāṭer, pl ḫṭūr guest (Johnstone, 1987​ 453) Ḫ Ṭ R l-enḫōṭer < Ḫ Ṭ R “xōṭər/yəxōṭər to endanger (b-) so… šəxāṭər/yəšxāṭər to bet with, dare” (Johnstone, 1987​ 453) Ḫ Ṭ R ḫṭār (hoh ḫṭark, heh ḫṭawr) to go on a trip in order to clear o ’s head Ḫ Ṭ R ḫaṭrēye < Ḫ Ṭ R “En mehri ḫaṭôr, se promener par ci, par là, flâner, rôder… l’arabe ḫaṭara, avancer, est apparenté au mehri ḫôṭer, dessous, en bas, et que véritablement ḫaṭar veut dire hinuntergehen, descendre” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 1 612) This word, ḫaṭrēye, appears to have the function of a modal auxillary in Mahri, “[they] might, it is possible that,” synonymous with Ar yumkin and iḥtimāl Ḫ Ṭ T ḫṭāt similar to a wādī but with green pasturage and oases, opposite of Mhr rāmel Ḫ Ṭ Ṭ ḫṭawṭ (sing ḫaṭṭ) < Ḫ Ṭ Ṭ road ḪĀ HEH ḫā heh as though he is…, Ar kaʾannahu Ḳ Ṭ R eḳḳiṭawr < Ḳ Ṭ R a group (of similar folk), like, similar to, Ar jamaʿa, min mithl Ṣ B R meṣbīr < Ṣ B R Yem Ar “ṣabbara entasser, faire un tas [to pile up, to accumulate]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3, 2114) Ṣ B R ṣbēr < Ṣ B R Ar ḥayd al-jabal Ṣ B Y teṣyīb < Ṣ B Y Yem Ar “concerning the different meanings that pertain to this root, they are all linked to the idea of tranquility and silence…ṣabayt ‘I floated’…iṣṭabā (amongst the northern bedouin) ‘to look down from on high’ (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2117) Ṣ B ʿ eṣṣəbīt < Ṣ B ʿ the best, most vigorous, daring of the young men, also a group of kin, Ar ʾafḍaluhum, al-nakhwa, ʾashjaʿ al-shabāb Ṣ B Ḥ heṣbaḥ (yeṣbaḥ, hoh heṣbaḥk) to become yehṣawbeḥ (causative stem) < Ṣ B Ḥ “həṣbāḥ/yəhəṣáwbəḥ…to be in the morning, to become” (Johnstone, 1987 357) Ṣ B Ḫ mṣaybeḫ a poisonous, stinging insect Ṣ D D ṣendūd (or ṣendīd, pl ṣendōd) courageous, Ar shujāʿ Ṣ D R ṣdūr < Ṣ D R to return from a watering hole, Ar rāha min mawrid al-māʾ Ṣ D [V] teṣyidh (hōh ṣyidk, heh ṣyūd) < Ṣ D [V] to help, aid, benefit Ṣ D ʿ ṣawdeh < Ṣ D ʿ Ar ṣadaʿa Ṣ D Ḥ ṣedḥeyt < Ṣ D Ḥ the shimmering of a cleft in the mountains due to the bleached, white rocks of the wādī that lay in its bed Ṣ F F ṣfāf (sing ṣeffēt) generation, century, Ar jīl, Mhr ṣeff = Ar jadd Ṣ F R theṣfer < Ṣ F R “həṣfūr/yəhəṣfūr/yháṣfər to whistle…əṣféroh bird” (Johnstone, 1987​ 359) Ṣ F W ṣfūt < Ṣ F W the end (of a fight), < Ḥaḍramī Ar “ṣafā to be clean, to finish” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2136) The semantic shift of ṣafā from “to clean” to “to finish (a fight)” in Ḥaḍramī Arabic and Mahri mirrors the evolution of another South Arabian term, naqā, which has undergone a similar shift from “to clean (one’s face)” to “to exact vengeance ” Ṣ K K ṣikk, neṣkēk < Ṣ K K “ṣək to close (a door), shut, shut in” (Johnstone, 1987​ 361) Ṣ L B ṣlīb rigid, solid (a belly from lack of water) Ṣ L B ṣalb < Ṣ L B ancestral, familiar origin, Ar ikhwānuhu Ṣ L L eṣawl < Ṣ L L “ṣəlwīl/ṣəlwōl ravine” (Johnstone, 1987 363) Ṣ L [V] ḥeṣlūt Ar al-ʿāfiya waṣalat Ṣ M D ṣmūt < Ṣ M D Yem Ar “ṣamada to tie together, to bind [attacher, lier…ramasser]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2145), also Ar ṣamada to stand firm, withstand Ṣ M M ṣam < Ṣ M M bitter Ṣ M T ṣamt force, violence Ṣ M T ṣmūt consanguinity, equivalent to Ar liḥām; Mhr yeṣtəmūt, equivalent to Ar yaltaḥim; Mhr heh yṣawmet, ṣmūt, equivalent to Ar yulaḥḥim Ṣ N Ḳ ṣwēnēḳ place name, also dim of a narrow, deep canyon Ṣ N N ṣānīn < Ṣ N N partridge, Yem Ar ʿuqabah, ḥibārī Ṣ N ʿ meṣnāt < Ṣ N ʿ Yem Ar “maṣnaʿa large structure [grand édifice], castle [château]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2149-50) Ṣ R B ṣerbeyt a hardwood tree that burns very hot for a long time Ṣ R B ṣrūb < Ṣ R B to harvest, Yem Ar “ṣarb reaping [fauchage]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2124) ṣāreb (heh yṣawreb, ṣrūb [to harvest wheat]) loss or harvest, Ar khasāra, ḥaṣad Ṣ W B ṣōyeb the straight or correct path, < Ṣ W B “ṣawb to go straight, be straight” (Johnstone, 1987 367) šeṣwəbūt < Ṣ W B “šəṣwūb to be wounded deliberately” (ibid ) Ṣ W L ṣawl (heh ṣeywel, hōh ṣawlek) clarity (water and feelings), Ar ṣafāʾ Ṣ W R yṣawr < Ṣ W R “ṣōr/yəṣáwr to stand; to begin” (Johnstone, 1987​ 368) Ṣ W Ġ ṣeyġət < Ṣ W Ġ “ornament (gold, silver), jewellery” (Johnstone, 1987 367) Ṣ Y D ṣeydūt (heh yeṣyūd, ṣyūd) to help, to benefit, Ar fādat, nafaʿat Ṣ Y Ḳ ṣeyḳ a narrow part of a wādī, Ar ḍayq al-wādī, ḥanjarat al-wādī Ṣ [V] D ṣeydet a female gazelle, oft-hunted, Ar ṣayd al-baḥr Ṣ [V] R ṣār (heh yṣawr) Ar qāma Ṣ [V] R (seh) ṣrōt (heh ṣār, yṣawr) to stop, Ar waqafat fīhi Ṣ [V] T yešṣawten (heh šṣāwet) Ar tanaṣṣata Ṣ [Y] B ṣeybēn < Ṣ [Y] B courageous men Ṣ Ḥ R elṣəḥeyr to brand? The consultants were unfamiliar with the meaning of this word Ṣ Ḥ [V] ṣeḥyīn < Ṣ Ḥ [V] tribal negotiators, those who are careful and conscientious < Ar ṣāḥin, equivalent to Ar muntabihīn Ṭ B L ṭbūl < Ṭ B L “ṭābəl/təbōwəl drum” (Johnstone, 1987 406) Ṭ B N ṭbīn field owner, propertied man, Yem Ar “ṭabīn boss, manager [patron]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2193) Ṭ F W yṭeyf < Ṭ F W “həṭfū/yəhəṭáyf to extinguish, put out (a light, a fire)” (Johnstone, 1987 407) Ṭ F Ṭ F ṭafṭayf (heh yṭafṭūf, hoh ṭafṭafk) to withhold (goods, favors) Ṭ L B eṭṭəlēb “ṭəlēb request” (Johnstone, 1987 409) Ṭ L Ḳ hāṭlōḳ (yhaṭlūḳ) < Ṭ L Ḳ to set loose (animals) Ṭ L Ḳ šṭalḳōt < Ṭ L Ḳ to burst forth, to shoot out Ṭ L Ḳ ṭlēḳ < Ṭ L Ḳ to bend, to sway, Ar tamayyala Ṭ L ʿ haṭṭeleyn < Ṭ L ʿ “həṭlē/yəhəṭáwlaʾ to put up, take up” (Johnstone, 1987 409) Ṭ L ʿ ṭalʿāt < Ṭ L ʿ Ar ṭalaʿat, Mhr ṭalōt Ṭ L ʿ men emṭəlā < Ṭ L ʿ lit from where it arises, i e , the South Ṭ L ʿ ṭlāt < Ṭ L ʿ Ar ṭalīʿa Ṭ M M yeṭmūm < Ṭ M M “ṭəm to flow all over, to irrigate…ṭəmmūt aḳā kálləh, it flooded the whole land” (Johnstone, 1987 410), Ar ṭamma Ṭ M M yšeṭṭem < Ṭ M M “šəṭmūm to struggle with so for a long time…to suffer with st for a long time” (Johnstone, 1987​ 411) Ṭ M [V] ṭmūten (fem pl , ṭmīt fem sing ) thirsty (referring to their mounts, Mhr ewōber and Ar al-maṭāyā), heh ṭōma, yṭōma to be thirsty Ṭ M ʿ eṭma, ṭmāt < Ṭ M ʿ valuables, “ṭəmāʾ treasure” (Johnstone, 1987 411) Ṭ M Ḥ ṭamḥeyt < Ṭ M Ḥ to spread over sth , uncertain etymology Ṭ N Ḳ ṭnēḳ < Ṭ N Ḳ “ṭənēḳ style, character” (Johnstone, 1987​ 411) Ṭ N Ḥ ṭnōḥ (also pronounced by some as ṭawneḥ), yṭawneḥ < Ṭ N Ḥ to follow so Ṭ N Ḥ ṭnūḥ (heh yṭawneḥ) when a she-camel bellows in agitation, can be used metaphorically for a person feeling a strong emotion, Ar yahīj, hayjāna (a rampant she-camel), Ar (Yem dialect?) ṭanḥ Ṭ R B eṭarb < Ṭ R B “ḍarb/ḍērōb, dim ḍəwērēb/ḍərbērōb small piece of wood (poet )” (Johnstone, 1987​ 85) Ṭ R B ṭrūb to desire, Ar raghaba < Yem Ar Ṭ R B “to be excited, to rejoice, to wish for sth [être émotionné, se réjouir, avoir envie]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2199) In al-Mahra, a taṭrūb is a proclamation of a temporary cease-fire between two warring tribes, typically as the first step towards a more lasting truce (Bākrīt, 1999 43) Ṭ R D šeṭrūd < Ṭ R D to seek safety, to take refuge, Ar iḥtamā Ṭ R F ṭarfeyn < Ṭ R F “ṭərēf/ṭərōwəf side (of so , st )” (Johnstone, 1987 412) ṭrīf (sing ṭreyf) < Ṭ R F issue, burden, Ar ṭarf, ʾaṭrāf The second hemistich of this line stumped Ḥājj, and he wasn’t certain of its meaning Ṭ R F heṭrōf < Ṭ R F + def art group, section (of kin), Ar ṭarf Ṭ R N ṯārōna a group of predatory animals, Ar al-muftarisāt Ṭ R Ḥ ṭerḥayn, ṭarḥay < Ṭ R Ḥ “ṭawrəḥ/yəṭawrəḥ/yəṭrāḥ to leave, allow, let” (Johnstone, 1987 412)? Ṭ W B ṭwīb (yeṭwīb, hoh ṭwibk) to relax, Ar ʾistirāḥa Ṭ W F ṭwīf (ṭōf, yṭawf) Ar ṭāfa Ṭ W F ṭāf < Ṭ W F “ṭōf/yəṭawf/yəṭāf to scout, reconnoitre” (Johnstone, 1987 412) Ṭ W L ṭawl extent, scope < Ar ṭūl Ṭ W R tawr < Ṭ W R “time, turn; once men ṭawr sometimes” (Johnstone, 1987 413) ṭawr < Ṭ W R sometimes, Ar ʾaḥyānan, marra wāḥida men ṭawr (in this case, apparently) all at once Ṭ W R mṭōyer divisions of a field, each having a specified crop, < Ṭ W R “ṭawr/ṭəwōr time, turn” (Johnstone, 1987 413)? Ṭ W Y maṭwūt < Ṭ W Y “ṭəwū/yəṭáyw/yəṭwē to wrap, wrap up” (Johnstone, 1987 413) Ṭ W Y yṭayn, yetwīwen, yeṭwīyen to set out for, Ar ittajaha, < Ṭ W Y “ṭəwū/yəṭáyw/yəṭwē to come, visit at night” (Johnstone, 1987 413), also Yem Ar “ṭawā to travel across quickly [parcourir avec vitesse]” (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 3 2236) Ṭ Y B yetyūb < Ṭ Y B “ṭəyūb to have had enough of s th ” (Johnstone, 1987 413) Ṭ Y F ṭayf < Ṭ Y F “ṭayf aloes, myrrh; bitterness this word is often used in curses” (Johnstone, 1987 414) Ṭ Y Ṭ ṭīṭ one Ṭ Ġ M yeṭġōm (ṭġōm) < Ṭ Ġ M to cause pain, bite, ṭġīm hurtful (ġrōy ṭġīm hurtful speech), Ar wajjaʿa Ṭ ʿ N yeṭʾayn < Ṭ ʿ N “ṭān yəṭōn to thrust at so (us with a dagger); to butt” (Johnstone, 1987 405) Ṭ Ḥ B ṭḥōb < Ṭ Ḥ B “ṭəḥōb herd (of about 100 camels)” (Johnstone, 1987 408) Ṭ Ḥ M tḥēm (yetḥōm, hōh ṭhemk, yheṭhōm [transitive]) < Ṭ Ḥ M to be lost, to not be there, Ar intahā min al-wujūd, ikhtafā nihāʾīyan Ṭ Ḥ N meṭḥayn < Ṭ Ḥ N “ṭəḥān yəṭḥōn/yəṭḥaynən, pass ṭəḥān yəṭḥōn/yəṭḥaynən, to grind, mill” (Johnstone, 1987 408) Ṯ Ḳ Ṯ Ḳ ṯeḳṯīḳ riches (tangible and intangible), Ar al-khayr, al-jāh, al-māl, al-nufūdh Ṯ M N meṯṯəmayn < Ṯ M N “ṯəmayn, ṯəmaynət/ṯīmōn, ṯimantən fine, expensive” (Johnstone, 1987 417) Ṯ N Y mṯōnī < Ṯ N Y “mətənyēt/mətōni incisor tooth” (Johnstone, 1987 418) GUNFIGHT IN NIŚṬAWN This poem was composed by Sālim Muṭīʿ al-Sulaymī in 1997 in response to a gun fight in the port town of Niśṭawn (Ar Nishṭūn) between local Mahra and a group of North Yemeni troops stationed there An argument between a political security officer and a fish seller became heated, and the officer discharged his pistol in the air The Mahra nearby heard the shots and ran to the scene, loading and cocking their own weapons as they did so Feeling threatened, the North Yemeni troops who had responded to the commotion began to shoot at the armed Mahra The fighting escalated to the point that heavy machine guns were brought to bear, and a number of local shops and residences near the port were severely damaged By the time the confrontation ended, four Mahra had been killed and two more had been wounded This event is described by al-ʾAhdal in his book as “Ḥadithat Nishṭūn al-dāmiyya” (“Nishṭūn’s Bloody Incident” [al-ʾAhdal, 111]) This poem follows the general outlines of a traditional ʾōdī we-krēm krēm tribal poem in an abbreviated fashion It breaks from the conventions of tribal odes in one significant way The traditional actors of a tribal ode (the poet’s tribe, their tribal allies, and their tribal enemies) are transferred in this poem to non-tribal entities the collective Mahra versus an obliquely referenced national army This poem contains a rare reference to the Mahra as a unified community ḏe-mhərēh (“the Mahra”) [10] This is an unintended consequence of political campaigns against tribalism in al-Mahra since the onset of the republican period in the late 1960s As demonstrated in this poem, tribal identity has been sublimated into a pan-Mahri regional identity (in alliance with al-Mahra’s erstwhile foes, the Āl Kathīr) that stands in opposition to the Yemeni military In light of its sensitive political content, this poem cloaks its subject through references that only its intended audience (Mahri speakers from western al-Mahra) would comprehend The subject of the first line is ʾāśer (“comrade, friend, spouse,” Ar ʿashīr), a term that can be used to refer to people without revealing their names (including that of the speaker if he is uncomfortable about revealing his identity) Secondly, the poet never mentions the site of the incident (Niśṭawn) by name; instead, he refers to the surrounding areas such as Arḳas, Mźōbī, and Maklayt A kenning listener is expected to triangulate the location of the incident through these hints and others that are laced throughout the poem For instance, the poet speaks from a vantage point in the outlying districts of “western” Masḳōt [1] (not to be confused with the Omani Muscat) and must therefore be facing the approaching thunderclouds (ḥaklīl [4]), which typically come from an easterly direction Based on these indications, a Mahri listener familiar with current events and geography will understand that the poet is looking down on Niśṭawn from a vantage point on the east-facing flanks of Jabal Fartak Despite the fact that this poem avoids explicit mention of the “bloody incident,” the final line [14] is meant to echo the partisan tone of a traditional Mahri ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poem Rather than beginning with the signature formula of the ʾōdī we-krēm krēm genre, the poem ends with a variant of it we-ṣrōma we-krēm (“And now, O Generous One” [14]) The rest of the line, šī mǧawnī men eḫawf b-karmaym ḥawrōt (“I have a refuge from fear in the Black Mountain” [14], amplifies the partisan sentiment because it echoes the famous dāndān exchange between a poet of Ḥbēs and a poet of Raʿfīt, the latter claiming to “have a refuge from fear…in Leǧlīǧ and the domains of Ḥawf” (šī mǧawnī men eḫawf b-leǧlīg w-bātī ḥawf) Sung by Muḥammad Mushaʿjil under the title al-Mahriyya and released on his third cassette album, Dumūʿ al-ʿayn (2004) The melody to which Muḥammad Mushaʿjil sings ʾĀśer šeh drīyet lɛ̄ is based on the traditional melody of ʾōdī we-krēm krēm tribal poems The melody of this performance renders the poem recognizable to a Mahri audience as a partisan tribal-historical poem, despite the deliberate cloaking of its content Recitation by young Mahri speaker, name unknown, and recorded on the road to Ḥawf, October 2003 incomplete recitation ʾāśer šeh drīyet lā be-rḥōyeb ḏ-ġarbēt we-ttəḥawdī ḏ-mesḳōt I have a friend who doesn’t know living in the western towns at the edges of Masḳōt we-mḥabbī hayya beh has yqōbel we-śhēr zmī waḳb ḏe-ṣfōt My friend, I say “welcome” when he draws near and shows up “Give me a summary of the news!” ʾāmūr wezmenk men eṣidḳ hel ḏ-ber ǧrōh ḥlōk ān tźōṭ mnī ḥlōt He says I’ll give you the truth of everything that happened there if you’ll take the story from me neǧm ertəbūb w-hen men ḥōmer ḏ-ḥeklī nēweh ʾādeh ān ťbūt The rain-star about to burst and thunder at the edge of the eastern clouds the downpour is about to come ḥemlet arḳās men eremš ḏe-kṣē yeḫlīlen ebyūt They fall upon Arḳās from mouths of the black thunderheads they come through the roofs of the houses 6) ār ḫlūṭem šeh nǧūm men ʾāṣef ḏe-ryiḥ we-tḳawleb ḏ-bīlōt Other rain-stars have arrived with them on the storms of winds that become like those of desert we-mḫōyel l-arḳās we-mźōbī w-mekleyt we-hzōyem ḏ-meṣlōt It rains on Arḳās and Mźōbī and Maklayt and Hzōyam and Maṣlōf ṣeyyet yʾaǧībem bīs w-yeślūles bād eǧed we-k-ǧēma ḏe-ǧḥōt They enjoy their reputation they carry it from their ancestors and from every direction ṣaḥfəyīn nśōrem tēs hel eǧēma ḏe-dwēl we-b-sets weṣlōt Journalists broadcast it in every country when the news comes on at its hour w-ǧrāyed b-sūḳeyn ke-ḏ-nūka ḏ-īśtōm śōref ḏe-mhərēh drōt The newspapers in the markets everyone who comes buys them about the fame of Mahra that keeps on coming around we-ḳbōyel ḏe-mhərēh ġrōysen ʾākīd mīwet mōh w-law ḥyōt The tribes of al-Mahra their word is certain whether dead or alive w-el-kťīr ber šeh ḫbēr men ʾāṣer ḥawlī ǧōhez be-ssəyeryōt The Kathīrī also have the news from the very moment it happened and are ready with their cars we-ḏ-berh mhektīb men hel bālī meḫḫəṭeyṭ we-mḳeyyed b-eyyōt That which is, is written written in ink by our God and bound by His āyāt we-ṣrōma we-krēm šī mǧawnī men eḫawf b-kermeym ḥawrōt And now, O Generous One, I have a refuge from fear in the Black Mountain [of Karmeym Ḥawrōt] HAYS AND THE SAUDI PRINCE Composed, recited, and sung by Muḥammad bir Marṭayf, and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the home of ʿAbd al-Saʿīd bir ʿAfrār in Qishn, January 2004 The poem is sung to the dānidān melody Topically speaking, this poem is nearly identical to the poem “Jamīla and the Sulṭān” by Raġbōn birt Saʿīd a young woman’s beauty is praised, and word of her virtues travels beyond al-Mahra, where it captures the attention of a wealthy foreigner In this case, the non-Mahri is a Saudi from Riyadh The Saudi resolves to marry her and initiates a massive PR campaign telephones ring, information is gathered from all points, an airport is built, and gardens are planted where there was once only blank, white desert Everything is set for his success except that the young men of al-Mahra refuse foreign encroachment on a natural resource as precious as Hays, a “lady of good blood” [2] Departing from the expected sentimental tone, the poem pivots to the issue of national sovereignty and territorial integrity Thus, word of the Saudi prince’s marriage proposal arrives at the foot of Jabal Shamsān, the extinct volcano that looms over Aden, capital of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen Jabal Shamsān, the iconic symbol of southern Yemeni fortitude, will not be moved and “doesn’t allow her home to be violated” [18] Because the marriage proposed by the Saudi from Riyadh infringes on the PDRY’s territory, the crisis is referred to the realm of international law, where “all the nations have made pacts [to preserve] what is under each” [17] The refusal of the Mahra to accept Saudi interference and the nationalistic rhetoric of their opposition are likely tied to the border disputes between Saudi Arabia and the PDRY over the oil reserves that both nations hoped were located under their borders Moreover, opposition to the marriage comes from “the masses” (Ar al-jumhūr), a term redolent with nationalist-Marxist rhetoric of the PDRY, and their response takes the form of armed resistence “Their vigor burst forth and their weapons were brought out from storage heading upwards to get ready for the enemy” [16-17] Confronting the threat of a “resource grab” by a wealthy neighbor, Muḥammad Marṭayf relies on the nationalist-Marxist rhetoric of the day to defend communal honor as symbolized by Hays, a Mahri maiden of unblemished virtue Recitation by Muḥammad Bir Marṭayf Danidan melody sīn l-hays sīn l-hays mōṭī ṭayṭ men ḫšōn Yā Sīn for Hays, Yā Sīn for Hays, a single branch from a sturdy tree bālīt addem eǧīd we-māǧōbes ār mkōn A lady of good blood whose good qualities have no equal naṭḳ we-ġrōy ḏ-mens ḫā eḫawber ḏe-mzōn Her conversation and voice are like the report of a weighing scale lā tkūs sreh ḫṭaʾ w-temyēzeh men mkōn You find no fault behind her, though you should mark the measure anywhere tē sʿūdī men eryāḍ hel ysūken w-yeḏḫōn Even to a Saudi from Riyadh, in the place where he lives and dwells, śīḥem hēh blōġ w-amūr le-bōh nkōn They brought her description and he announced “Let’s go there!” ber awelmem heh mṭār we-mʾawden haydōn They made an airport for him and gifts just prepared, berḳīye ber aġyīṭ we-ḫbēr men kel mkōn He confirmed it by walkie-talkie and received information from all points w-ātūm ḏī-ṣrayf he-mzēre w-bestōn In the irrigated fields [around the airport], they readied farms and gardens we-ǧwōbī entwūr hel khēn leḳā lbōn Pools of water blossomed where once it was only white 11) mēken ḏ-ǧemhūr enūf we-šbāb l-hamtōn But the masses refused, young men with strong backs, bōlī yeshīl w-ġayb we-srīyet mhedfōn A people [for whom] discretion is easy and who keep secrets buried hes eweźḥ ettenīn aṭṭebōbe yemḥōn Like a groan that arises and disturbs the doctors retted be-mḥawmel kel šaʾb kelleh hēh w-ḳōm It echoed in every load (?), through all of the people and the nation hwēt šṭelḳōt we-slāḥ meḫzōn Their vigor burst forth and their weapons were brought out from storage, 16) ḫaṭrēye heṭṭeleyn metʿaddī lūtlōm They might take them up and get ready for the enemy ber ʾāṣṣeb le-dwēl we-yḳā nḫālī mōn All the nations are bound [to preserve] what is under each, ḏ-šemsēn mhaġrayb le tdūrem eťḫōn And Jabal Shamsān is well known, she doesn’t allow her home to be violated w-lekēn twōṭī lā mīrēḥ wlū mlōn She will never submit to another, even if the platter is filled (with enticements), fōḳet be-ḥrō yrēs we-nḥāt hendwōn Her position is fixed and can even turn away iron HEMISTICH The bulk of poetry composed in the Mahri language has poetic lines composed of two stichs (two isometric sense units) of verse Formally speaking, Mahri poems in hemistichs are virtually identical to most forms of premodern literate and vernacular Arabic poetry (Ar ʿamūdī, or “columnar” poetry, including the Arabic qaṣīḍa and most forms of colloquial nabaṭī poetry) when written on a page There are fewer genre marked categories under the formal heading of hemistich poetry because poems composed of hemistich lines are the workhorse of Mahri poetics available to all Mahra who dabble in poetry Composing hemistich poetry requires less poetic talent or inclination on the part of the composer; this means that the examples of hemistich poetry in this archive run the gamut from the highest calibre of Mahri poetics to middling or even mediocre poems (as judged by my consultants) Whereas tristich poetry is restricted to occasional topics, hemistich poems cover every potential topic of Mahri poetics The fact that hemistich poems are open to a broad spectrum of poetic topics, performances, and talents means that they are generally viewed as more quotidian than poems composed of tristich lines This disparity is expressed in different terms by Muḥsin Āl Ḥafīẓ who writes “Rīwī [i e , hemistich qaṣīda] poetry is considered by the Mahra to be more appropriate for the expression of intimate conversations, burning passions and the grief of cruel days, different from rajaz [i e , tristich reǧzīt] poetry which is dedicated to praise [madḥ] and calumny [qadḥ] and is restricted to men and is not for women” (Āl Ḥafīẓ, 1987 71-72) While Āl Ḥafīẓ specifies rīwī, an eastern Mahri term for a sung lyric poem, the basic point still applies tristich poetry (specifically reǧzīt) occupies the highest rung in the hierarchy of social and aesthetic prestige compared to other forms of hemistich poetry, particularly multiline, lyric qaṣīdas There are a few genre marked categories within the domain of hemistich poetry; most of the clearly marked genres utilize more formal, tristich lines However, one of the hemistich genres (nuṣṣ ḳṣīdet) is a modern poetic category that is not recognized outside of a circle of Mahri poetic literati based in al-Ghaydha HER LOOKS AND FIGURE ARE BEAUTIFUL Poem #11 from the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at home, al-Ghaydha, January 27, 2004 śēnī we-ḳders ǧīd men eḫaf atē ǧbīn Her looks and stature are beautiful from foot to forehead, w-reḥmōn ḏ-śemrīs [ṯibtīs] ʾāḳel we-ttəḳā w-dīn God the Merciful completed her with reason, reverence and religion [naḳš we-msīres ġeyr we-tʾawmer ḏ-ferhīn] Her form and stride are unlike the others you’d say it’s that of a mare šettemmūt rḥōmet tem źōher we-ḫfē yḳīn Beauty brought to perfection, the obvious and the hidden made true bēl ewaṣf yeḥyūr be-ḥwōǧeb w-śefrīn The master of description is at a loss when describing her eyebrows and eyelashes ʾān ʾamerk enḫəlīt ḏe-dġawt brek eṭīn If I say “date palm” then she is a date palm sapling [planted] in rich soil, w-ān ʾamerk seh āsēl be-fnōǧən men eṣṣīn If I say “honey” she is honey in a teacup from China ǧēma ḏe-šfōlet kel men aǧēbes ḏ-īwənīn All of the unmarried men sigh from love for her w-ġarhūten ser ewaṣf yerbūbem w-yeḥnīn And others, after a description of her moan like a camel for its young and murmur lēken yeźhīrem lɛ̄ we-śśəwēḳhem dfīn But they never declare it and keep their desire buried sōber hem ḥṯ̣ār ḫaṭ dōyem waḳt we-snīn They are always on the path [to her] all the time throughout the year ber ḫlōṭem hāyerēm kam men ḫaf w-heh lġīn Their tracks are all mixed together so many footprints are soft and tender! ḥeyser bīhem eźźəmōr men ḳwōm ḏ-heh ṯmīn [Their] innermost hearts are aggrieved from the cost of this dear prize we-ḫḫəbēr men bēl eweǧd meyten addeh lebyīn The love-stricken ask “When will he appear, leḳfēd brek essūḳ hel wzūnet yawzīn One who will come down to the market and weigh out the price?” HISTORY Due to the fact that the Mahri language is essentially an unwritten language, historical documentation for the Mahri tribes is less than it is for their Arabic-speaking neighbors in Ḥaḍrawmawt and Dhofār And yet, despite a paucity of historical documentation and the fact of their relatively small population, the Mahra have played unexpectedly significant roles at a few important moments in the regional politics of South Arabia and in the broader arena of the Arab–Islamic world What follows is meant not to provide a comprehensive chronology for al-Mahra but rather to draw attention to those moments in time when the Mahra emerged into the historical record by playing a role in shaping the broader geopolitics of the the region Until recent years, the historical record of al-Mahra was compiled by Arabic monolinguals from southern Arabia and Ḥaḍramawt, and as a result, the Mahra appear in the historical record only insofar as their actions impinge on their Arabic monolingual neighbors to the east and west, and the core territory of al-Mahra—roughly equivalent to the modern Yemeni Governorate of al-Mahra—remains largely unaccounted for As a result, the history of the Mahra can be perceived only at incidental angles historical accounts are never focused directly on al-Mahra but typically reflect it at an oblique angle This characteristic of Mahri historiography has changed in recent years, thanks to excellent work by Mahri historians such as ʾAḥmad Saʿīd ʿAlī Muqaddam (2005), Saʿd b Sālim al-Jidḥī al-Mahrī (2013), and others who have undertaken to provide an indigenous account of al-Mahra’s history, culture, and language It is worth mentioning that individual Mahri speakers or those tracing their descent to Mahri forebears have risen to preeminence in the Arab and Islamic world (One example is Sulaymān al-Mahrī [d 1550 CE], navigator and author of ʿUmda al-mahriyya fī ḍabṭ al-ʿulūm al-baḥriyya ) Biographies of prominent individuals bearing the patronymic “al-Mahrī” is a popular topic of research among Mahri scholars who advocate for the recognition of individual Mahra from among the Prophet Muḥammad’s peers (ṣaḥāba), transmitters of ḥadīth, and Islamic jurists However, I have elected to focus on those occasions in which the Mahra as a community have entered into the historical record rather than on individuals whose sole point of affiliation with al-Mahra may be their genealogical lineage Outside of southern Arabia, I have related only instances where the Mahra are mentioned in sufficient numbers that their language might have been maintained in the face of a general tendency to adopt Arabic A final caveat is necessary usage of the labels “the Mahra” as a collective tribal or linguistic identity or “al-Mahra” as a distinct and cohesive geographical entity is a fairly recent phenomenon In premodern medieval texts in particular, individual Mahri tribes—Mḥōmed, ʿAfrār, Zwēdī, etc —are the general unit of reference because “the Mahra,” as they are collectively understood today, did not constitute a cohesive political or social entity until the dissolution of the ʿAfrārī Sultanate of Qishn and Soqōṭra in the late 1960s and the establishment of an administrative regional state muḥāfaẓat al-Mahra (“Governorate of al-Mahra”) Thus, a medieval chronicler may mention a Mahri tribe without any presumptive affiliation to the totality of Mahri speakers Further, Mahri tribe names are frequently Arabicized by Arabic chroniclers, making their unique linguistic identity a matter of insider knowledge For instance, the Arabic-sounding “Ziyād” tribe referenced in medieval Arabic sources is the Mahri-speaking Zwēdī tribe, a name which is phonetically impossible to represent in the Arabic script Alternately, when the labels “the Mahra” (the people) and “al-Mahra” (the land) are used in premodern texts, we should not understand this to include every Mahri-language speaker from al-Shiḥr to Dhofār or the territorial extent of the modern Governorate of al-Mahra; rather, it includes only that portion of either entity that directly impinges on the specific interests of the chronicler For instance, when Ḥaḍramī chroniclers use the phrase “the Mahra,” it should be understood that only Mahri speakers and Mahri tribes bordering on Ḥaḍramawt (such as the aforementioned Ziyād/Zwēdī) are intended In a similar vein, the political entity popularly remembered as the “Sultanate of al-Mahra” was in fact practically limited to Qishn and Soqōṭra as indicated by its official title, the ʿAfrārī Sultanate of Qishn and Soqōṭra Although popular imagination may conflate this sovereign state with the contemporary Governorate of al-Mahra, the extent of its actual political dominion was much less HOMESICK IN HYDERABAD Composed by ʿAwaź bir ʿAlī Awaź al-Jidḥī’s uncle, who lived and worked in Hyderabad Recited by ʿAwaź bir ʿAlī Awaź and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at ʿAwaź bir ʿAli ʿAwaź’s home in Qishn, January 2004 Recitation by ʿAwaź bir ʿAlī ʿAwaź hǧisk b-śer ḫā hōh meṭḥayn I felt an illness as though I were being crushed we-ḥyōm ḏīmōh b-res we-rźayn On this very day inside of me are fatigue and aching muscles mhāfreḳ lā wḳōne b-šayn I’m not getting better perhaps that is not even possible men eśśerḳawt te ber tǧayn From the east and as far as where the sun has set w-ḫezyū ḳlōb menśē we-ṯḳayn My heart, mind, and body refuse to be cheerful and stay glad led ribḫem lā wet hēm fṭayn They won’t quiet down should they ever recall them… we-ḥfaṭk ḥmōd we-ḏ-heh meḥźayn God Preserve Ḥmūd and the others still in their mother’s lap, kenḥōn er šeh lehnēh memḥayn I wish I were with him but I am busy heh senh dfēʾ wet śī leḥḳayn He’s the windward ridge that keeps [us] warm if anything should come upon us, we-wḳayt le-ǧrīw we-ṣfēʾ we-rźayn In times that have passed days calm and content hes wīke ḫrir w-berš ḫelṭayn When he was with us and we were all mixed together, w-birt ālī eśśett we-zzayn [Including] the daughter of ʿAlī with her necklace and her beauty hīš hēt ḫeṣṣāt w-ṣōyeb tśeyn To you, Birt ʿAlī, are distinctions you see things correctly w-ṣōye ǧyēd tǧēr meḫṣayn Your inborn traits are good and rise above [the rest] teḏhōben wlē menkel ǧenbeyn They merge all together flowing from both sides [her mother and father] tzehyen nawt w-bōlī erġayn They beautify her, a blank slate [traits inherited] from a noble people w-ʾeġlē men emesk we-rhīt we-ġṣayn More precious than musk [from] a thicket of slender trees and branches, ḥbōr šōfū w-śitt be-ʾayn When it grows to completion it attracts the eye ḫā heh le-meyyōn we-ʾātōm yseyn Just like a spring with water flowing forth in a channel en heh be-śrēt we-ḥrīh ḏ-ḥīṭayn If it is in the highlands on the very top of mountain gardens w-ḫeṭ meśśənī w-keḏ yeśheyn A line (of irrigation) seen from afar by all who can appreciate it w-bāl hwē leh ḳalb yṭayn The one who desires [to be there] his heart takes him away w-sēr śreġ hwēʾeh ybeyn And behind the want his desire [for it] builds up, wle le-meǧrē yeḥlūl we-yfeyn Or [he goes] to the irrigated garden and sits there, [often] returning yḥazreh lā wel heh mettəḳeyn He neglects his own land and is no longer certain of it tē beź yehmūm we-mnōw yeṯġayn Even some people are able [to reach it] since the route is inscribed in their minds; we-zmīhem enśē we-wōbel ybeyn [God] gave them strong vision to see exactly where the downpour falls we-rṣayd leh ḳam ḏ-kef ʾayneyn But [this garden] has high walls it is merely for the eyes to see, w-šettī l-ḥayd ṭerḥayn mḥerṣayn A property in the hand [of an owner who] keeps it held tightly tē meyt ḏ-šeḳfūl menśē ḏ-berḳayn Until the time that the rain falls abundantly and the lightning storms arrive we-msōḳ-ḏe-nǧūm men hel yeṯḫayn And stars have journeyed hither from wherever they had settled we-lḥaymer yǧeyn dēk bāl ġaṭnayn Then the star Lḥaymar gathers [the clouds] Lord of the Heavy Rain w-alḥūt w-alnəḳā w-bīt lebṭayn And the stars of Ḥūt and Nḳā at the time of the barley crop w-śōreb āśōm w-sāt yṭayn Sometimes the clustered rain-stars come around again, w-ḥaymed ānēš w-ǧīdh yehmayn Ḥaymad [Ḥmūd/Muḥammad] is like the rain-stars his goodness exceeds the expectation wet śitt we-rḥāḳ wle bġawt ʾayn Even when he travels far away and disappears from sight bźāt ḏ-mešmūm ġōlī meṯṯəmayn Bundles of amber expensive and valuable [Ḥmūd’s beloved] seh līs ṭmāt tekhōb ḫeṣṣeyn Everyone is greedy for it and it fetches a high price [the dowry] yāmīles ṭbōb led śī ṭerḥayn They use it for medicine and use every bit of it ʾamūr dwēl led śī ṭarḥay [Ḥmūd] said ‘The governments’ [the older kin of his beloved] have bestowed nothing on us śī ḏ-hemmeh nbeʾ w-waṣf enkayn A bit of news and a descriptions [of events] has reached us we-lbōdem shīb w-kel erźeyn Becoming a wave that spreads through every land [Other families are against the marriage as well] ḳfōlū frēr we-bnūd sūḳayn They have blocked the double wings of the doors and closed the markets hes hēm yenwīl w-šīhem āwayn Because they can reach it and have the means to do so [Wealthier families prepare to compete for Ḥmūd’s beloved] we-mrākeb nḳawf w-tēsen heśḥayn They have moved their ships and filled them with cargo, w-ġōlī fnōd brek awźayn They have kept what is precious for themselves from among all the things that people covet [They refuse all suitors from outside of the tribe] yʾōlem ḥmīm be-lyēd ḏ-yetġayn They aim their rifles on those who can break through obstacles w-śī be-ryūl b-bar yeṭʾayn Or they come on foot overland and strike them by hand, w-śī be-smeʾ ṭyār yeśayn Sometimes from the sky bombing them with airplanes yhayl meǧrē brek ġīṭayn Steering their course high in the cirrus clouds amōrem ḳdēm w-ṭāf ḫeṭrayn They tell him Go forward and look around the boundaries between the tribes dīḫawṣ we-brīt w-ǧbēl ferṭayn At Wadi Dīḫawṣ and Brīt and the two mountains of Farṭayn we-mḥawmel erśī elbūd ḥeźnayn The beasts of burden, all loaded are halted there and have been settled in tight rows w-heḳfīd eǧzē be-ṭbūl we-fḳayn Their owners unload them to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals w-ṣawt ġlē wet hēm rṭayn Each one lifted up his voice in beauty so as to be trading words we-ḫdūme ġyūǧ yʾāmīl źabhayn The men worked to make an echo in the hearts of the others w-āfūr ārūź menbād ḥźayn ‘To plough the land,’ after she has left her mother’s lap heṣbāḥem enḫayl wa-k-ǧēre ġźayn In the morning [the land] grows with date palms and ripened crops, we-bnīw meṣnāt b-ġamź ḏ-āyn They’ve built a large house there all in the wink of an eye mǧawles ybeyt men ġeyr derfeyn With seven stories not to mention a top floor open to the sky w-dūfe eylēf we-ḫlūṣ werḳayn He pays out thousands and finishes off the paperwork l-yeśtərūf l-hɛ̄s yeśśeyn To raise his esteem in the eyes of others just as he wishes to be seen w-ḏēd rebyeh yeshōr we-yḳayn The one who raised her staying up at night and holding her in her lap tźōṭ mardawf we-ǧbēʾ ḏ-yehġayn Takes twice the gifts more than what suffices, w-ġayw rebźā we-lyēh ḏ-yelḥayn As do the brothers of her mother and father and her near relations ḥmūd we-syēd w-bīt yesreyn Ḥmūd and Saʿīd and the family of Yāsir ʾamūr azyēm ʾemēr heṭmeyn They said that they’ll think [about the proposed marriage] if he has enticed them beyn bāź mīḥōn we-ḏ-ġadlem deyn Since amongst them are ones who are needy and those bearing debts, w-ettōlī amūr led hād tbeyn Saying “Afterwards no one will come after us [looking for payment of their debts] w-zēy er ġatlūb we-ksūb erźeyn Her people were convinced and he earned their satisfaction, w-bīt emdēd ḏēk er yemḥayn But Bīt Amdēd are ones who like to put people through trouble wet ber ḏe-ḥzōb we-wkawb śōṭeyn When they band together they enter into the flames together ʾamōr ġreyb be-mdōyem nkayn They said “A stranger has come to us in our open squares, mšerḳe lā ʾamēr ġalṭayn He’ll benefit by nothing if he should commit any errors against us hes heh w-heḳṣōh w-ṭōr be-lḥayn Unless he relents and changes his tune w-ettōlī erdūd w-red ewṭayn And afterwards withdraws his suit and returns to his native land men lektəlūf w-leġdōl šayn Instead of burdening himself and bearing the disgrace on his shoulders w-hebṣōr meksēr w-ṣikk ṭarfeyn He can see that the narrows are closed on either side sūd ār ḏ-ġalḳet men elḥayn w-elḥayn And that the dark, black sea is shut now and forever; yʾalyen mens w-hād yehǧeyn One should haul [his ship] up from the sea and take it to shelter HOMESICK IN NAJRĀN Dāndān composed by Muṣabbiḥ bir Ḥamtōt bir Ḳamṣayt, who took up residence in the province of Najrān in Saudi Arabia This poem expresses Muṣabbiḥ’s longing for home after his sons, Nashūr and Muḥammad, returned to al-Mahra The poem traces the route from Najrān to al-Ghaydha that he hopes to take back home In the final lines of the poem, Muṣabbiḥ switches topics to address a recent crime the kidnapping and murder of a member of Kalšāt by number of tribesmen from Maʾrib Muṣabbiḥ hopes that Kalšāt will rally together to take their vengeance When Yemeni unification occurred in 1990, there was an uptick in violence in al-Mahra as northern Yemeni tribesmen came to al-Mahra to steal and create trouble for the locals A number of unsolved murders are attributed to bands of young men from Maʾrib, and many of its tribes are still viewed with deep suspicion and hostility in al-Mahra This sound file was initially played for me as an MP3 file on a cell phone in the possession of a Mahri from Shiḥn who was visiting al-Ghaydha (July 2008) Recited by Musabbih Qamsayt nḥā b-neǧrān bālīt ekṯīf We are in Najrān she of the sands seh meǧrī lā w-ḳā mahzīf It is not on our path and is a land of narrow mountain passes w-mens yeǧhōm ke-ḏ-bēr eźyīf He has departed from it the one who has completed his duties as host l-ād ār emdīt hēkā w-zefzīf Only the cold, southwest wind remains blowing back and forth mezrūt b-ǧawf w-źeyḳī erīf It blows into my chest and makes the countryside constricting men hād l-āmēr men śī mhaksīf [Let not] one say that [this feeling] comes from something actually constricting me k-bīt eslōm semrēt we-hdīf [Or that this feeling is due to] Bīt Slōm staying up all night and chatting śī ḳāṭer w-ṣawb w-mēken ḫǧīf There is straight talk and correct talk and a good amount of chit chat ḏ-ār ḥeyb le-ḥbūn ḳlūb yerhīf Indeed the father for his sons his heart is forgiving yeshōr we-yśeyḳ hēm yeškīf [The father] stays up all night and tires himself while [his sons] sleep lkēn ennəšūr we-mḥammed wlīf But Nashūr and Muḥammad, his friend hēs śīnem awaḳt mḥeyḳ we-kšīf When they saw that the time had grown difficult and had left them exposed ʾāzmōh le-nbīt w-le-ḥtərīf They resolved to do the right thing and apply themselves to work lōb sād heḳrawr men bād sǧīf O happy is he who leaves in the afternoon after weakness and fatigue lāḳā ke-ġyūǧ le-sāf yeḫfīf He would then be with the men who make things easy for the travelling companion eśśawrəhem ṭāṭ w-yōtlīf They are of one opinion and are of one nature w-ṭawr yerkīb ḫīlēten ndīf Sometimes riding cars that are empty and ready to go we-krawser ydīn men wēt ʾāfīf And a new Landcruiser when it takes off w-zimm ḫṭawṭ fenwēn syīf Lifting the road as it goes stirring up the dust in front of us le-mśēr ʾārūź w-beh leṭwīf Cutting across the expanse and circling around it we-ḳfōd b-ṣeyḳ men śī men hyīf It descends to the wādī narrows from the steep mountain passes hēl bīt ǧsōs ġnēf yerdīf To Bīt Ǧsōs where groups of people keep coming, one after the other ḏe-lḳawfem ekerr w-yeškəfīf They guard the crossroads and block it [if attacked] we-śrā ṭwēl wel heh meksīf Their law is long and is not constrained we-ḏ-šīhem ḥzey ykūn be-tśərīf Whoever seeks their protection is given the place of honor ysenḥem leh w-ǧōneh ḥǧīf They protect him and a wind break encircles him moh ḥell men ḥōl w-lē meḫwīf Whether a place to stay [due to] a difficult situation or from fear we-štēba ṭḥawn śīseh we-ǧśīf And continues travelling to Wādī Ṭḥawn and its irrigated gardens and wādīs ḏā ṣalb ykūs we-yśōlī ṭrīf There he meets his kin who bear all sides [to the problem] wēt śī ṯbūt lā w-ǧeyš enwīf If there is anything unstable (an emergency) and [a situation calling for] a big army ykīn b-hāwēl w-yūtfīf They are in the forefront and form a single line yeġtebyen lā w-lū ketlīf They do not tarry and they bear the burden we-nṣā w-ṣeybēn yeḥmīl ʾānīf Hail the brave warriors who endure the violence! dfē w-meknīn men ǧawd we-ḫsīf They are a defense and a shelter against the downpour and hail we-ṣbēr mehyēb wāt teh šeḫlīf The mighty mountainside when the enemy attempts it yaḥlūl be-mreyt we-ykūn ḏ-weddīf They live in Mreyt and they live right up next to each other men beyn fźey we-ǧwōrī dkīf Between the palm groves and channels that meet each other flōl yeślōl w-bāź yeḫlīf Groups of people depart and some stay behind bēr ǧōrem wḳeyt w-bīhem śwīf Times have passed when they had nothing to give w-bāl menśut wāt teh šeḳfīf People of moveable homes [who are hospitable] even to the one who wears out the welcome yhaḳyem teh men emhəǧrīf They give him water from that which was freshly drawn w-ǧēza feǧǧ bhīt we-klīf The giant wādī of Ǧēza broad and difficult [to those who cross it unbidden] ḏhōbet śyīḫ we-ykīn ḏ-herdīf [That of] great floods they are those that follow one upon the other w-meks ḳway wāt hāl eġlīf Bothersome [words] are powerful when one as had enough [of them] w-ṭeyres mḳīm w-mōtkīf And over it (Wādī Ǧēza) is [its] chief who shoulders the burden wāt śōret nwūt men śī men nkīf When the rain storms arise and anything in the way of the stationary clouds eźhūr ḳeywōy we-yšāzīf The backs [of the people] are strong and are steadfast [against them] w-ḥāmel ṯḳeyl wīka meḥḥərīf The heavy burden becomes something that was placed somewhere else ḳdūm heh bāź w-teh šeǧfīf Some others came to it [the weight] and lifted it to their chests ḏ-ār kād ḫdōm ezey lekfīf All those who work should protect his flock men bād emwēǧ w-ḳeźź we-ldīf After the waves and [their] roaring and crashing tlōbed śwōr we-shīb yeḫfīf [Until] it becomes calm again and the waves diminish HUMOROUS COUPLET SDŌN THE FOOL This humorous couplet was composed by Muḥammad Rwēḥ al-Jidḥī and is about a feckless Mahri, Sdōn, who discovered a lump of tar on the beach, thought that it was ambergris, and figured that he could sell it for a fortune This couplet was recited by Ḥājj Dākōn in al-Ghaydha, July 2008 essədōn ksōh ǧdaḥt we-ykōbī ḏā ʾanbīr we-tǧōret weṣleth Sdōn found something valuable washed up on shore and thought that it was ambergris and that his ship had come in śefh ār sendrōs nefl bād berḳleyš eḫźeyr eǧīwəleth But soon after [discovered it was] tar the cast-off leavings of the British something the sea rolled onto the shore HUMOROUS COUPLETS BIR LAʿṬAYṬ In addition to his famous tribal ode, “Atop the Peak of Ṭarbūt,” and his gnomic poetry (Ar ḥikma), Saʿīd bir Laʿṭayṭ composed a number of poetic zingers meant to poke fun at the foolishness and immorality that he saw around him The following couplets were recited to me by Ḥājj Dākōn in al-Ghaydha, July 2008 Once there was a man from Hōmīt Ḳebrəbōr He was married to a woman who refused to sleep with him, so everyone told him to divorce her He refused She became pregnant (!), and they agreed that if the child was a boy, he would divorce her and keep the child His wife delivered a boy, so he took custody of the child and divorced his wife, per their agreement However, it became evident that he was unable to take care of the baby by himself One day, Bir Laʿṭayṭ saw the man in the market carrying his baby son to his parents’ house Bir Laʿṭayṭ told the man to take the baby back to its mother; still, the father refused The baby cried all night and day until the father relented and took the baby back to its mother Bir Laʿṭayṭ composed this couplet to commemorate the man’s stubbornness COUPLET 1 ǧēma ḏe-śkōyā kell be-bdēn ḏ-maḫḫəlīḳ faḳh hīsen we-ṭbūb All of the complaints in the body of a mortal there is wisdom and medicine for them hād eǧiśm we-ṭbāt edwēsen ṭhēm le šrāyeb w-le ktōb Except for stupidity and human nature their cure does not exist neither folk medicine nor reading the Qurʾān Another example Many years ago, a Mahri man left home to work abroad After a three-year absence, his wife had a child, and people began to gossip Bir Laʿṭayṭ states the obvious fact of her infidelity by saying that no female camel (Ar nāqa) ever stayed pregnant for three years; typical gestation is twelve months If a nāqa stayed pregnant for three years, it would bear a fully grown foal able to stand and walk COUPLET 2 mōn yʾawmer hāyəbīt teślūl snēt ṯrēt w-b-śelṯet tehḳawṭ Who says a camel bears [a fetus] for three years and gives birth in the third? ḥebrē ḏ-berkīs bēr šeḳnōh ʾātē fḏōm hēs enaṭb ertəḳawṭ The child that is in her has already matured until it can walk when it is born, it can already stand Another couplet about women who have extramarital affairs COUPLET 3 kell ḏ-ber zmōt hnefs ʾālḳōt men essəbēḫ ḳalb ṭawneḥ ke-hhəwē Every [woman] who gives herself she bears the child of the trackless desert [ie boundless potential paternity] [her] heart follows its desire emḳalles tendōm yektūlī men ešūš tālōḳ b-hebrē At the end of it, she regrets she is hurt by the people’s blame and finds herself in trouble because of the child I HAVE A LITTLE LADY ʿAskarī Ḥuǧayrān recited the following refrain from a strophic sung-poem by Bakhīt bir Ḳuṭrān and pointed out the double entendres between “cold water” and “lady friend” and “water basin” and “ladies ” ʿAskarī could only recall the refrain and none of the strophic couplets that went along with it CHORUS (AR KURS/KŪRĀL) šī ǧehlēt brēk ǧīhāl I have some cold, fresh water (or “lady friend”) inside a water catchment basin (or “among all the little ladies”) ḥōm l-tiḳḳ ġrabkes lā I want to take a drink, but I don’t know how [to do it] I THINK THEY ATE MY COW Poem by Jumʿān ʿAlī bir Ḳerḥayf from Ḥawf, recited by Sālim bir Slēm bir Ṣmōdā and recorded by Sam Liebhaber in Sālim bir Slēm’s house in Jāḏeb, March 2004 Bir Ḳerḥeyf lived in Ḥayr above Jāḏeb, whose inhabitants pasture their cows between the mountains (śḥeyr) and the inland steppe (al-bādiya) The poem is about a cow, Bir Enēḳa, that got sick and mooed all night long Instead of treating her, the people of the mountains slaughtered and ate her Jumʿān wishes that the cow had wandered back home to Ḥayr from the watering hole and had thus been under the care of ʾĀmer and Ḥmēd of the Śrōweḥ, who would have guarded her until Jumʿān could fetch her Instead, the cow wandered into the wrong hands Jumʿān suspects that the mountain people found her, slaughtered her and ate her, and later made up the story of the cow being sick Juʿmān has his suspicions, but he cannot say it outright without proof Translated with the help of Muḥammad bir Nǧēma (muqaddam of Bīt Āmr Ǧīd) at Funduq Ṣalālah, February 1, 2012, and reviewed by his cousin, Saʿīd Musallim Āmr Ǧīd, nephew of Sālim bir Slēm, on 2/2/2012 bir enēḳa šeh ḥḳabk men amawref ḏe-śḥeyr Bir Enēḳa, I’m sorry for your situation [that] of the customs of the mountains [i e , it grieves me that you fell victim to the customs of the mountain people, who ate you rather than returned you to me] heh w-lū ṣdūr l-boh śnekt we-ḫbūb lawb yḳāʾen menṣeyr If she had returned to here from the watering hole to Śnekt and Ḫbūb [two places located in the mountains above Ḥayr] absolutely, she would have been the victor [still alive] le-śrōweḥ le-ǧreh hel āmer we-ḥmēd eḫḫəbēr yḳāʾen ġeyr To the Śrōweḥ, to pass by them [to arrive] at ʾĀmer and Ḥmēd [two people of Beyt Bir Šālem whom Bir Ḳerheyf trusts and who are known amongst the Śrōweḥ for their honor] then the “news” would have turned out differently reyt mhēḏen ber ǧroh ṭ̌ar hōmet ḏe-ryēm le-šḳābel enśəġeyr I wish that the alert had reached [them] atop the peak of Ryēm to order to face Enśəġeyr lawb ḏ-yeṭwīyen toh [sic teh] eḳḳəlūten ṭāṭ k-ṭāṭ eṣṣəbīt ḏ-bōlī ḥeyr Absolutely, they would set forth at night for him brothers, one by one, the bravest youth of the people of Ḥayr ʾadhem ḫezyīyeh leh eḳḳiṭawr ḏ-bir dwil w-śenyōna teh b-ḫeyr Indeed, they would have prevented it [the slaughter of the cow] [steadfast] like Bir Dwil and they would see [to] it [the cow] that it is safe ke-ṣwōder hem ǧroh b-ʿiley ḏ-bōtī ǧēt meštēba emḥəźeyr With the animals returning from their watering, they pass by in the heights of the districts of Ǧēt they will follow [after them] to their green pasturage [ʾār moh] hem w-lū frawt śawr we-ṭwībem ḥanwey śyōḳī [sic śīwōṭ?] elṣəḥeyr [recitor’s interjection and indeed!] If they had slightly shifted their plan and kept their intentions good and branded her with fire yḳā men alḳeyt we-mṣaybeḫ essəmōt ʾaw yḳā rīḥ w-ṭayr [Perhaps] it [the cow] is in [from?] a cave poisoned by [the bite] of a mṣeybeḫ-insect Or perhaps from a sickness of “wind” [i e , gas] or the birds ḏīma lad tḥawsel lā we-k-śēher ḏ-hayyərīt ettəlīk w-hābeyr None of this is happening by the light of the moon they tied her up and took away at night I USED TO THINK THAT MAN COULD ENDURE Poem #6 in the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, October 7, 2003 kōbī maḫḫəlīḳ yṣawber we-śśəǧwē ḏ-beh yḫeyfeh I used to think that man could endure and hide the distress that is in him śefh maḫḫəlīḳ bhīmet ʾōker ḏe-ryēḥ yneyfeh But it turns out that man is pitiful a dusty whirl of wind will banish him w-ekkdeyt men emḥabbeh tesdidh we-tkeyfeh Or a biting word from a lover is enough for him and suffices mōna yeḥmōl ereddet men essehb ḏēd yźeyfeh Who can stand against the force of a wave that surges around him, sehb ḏe-rwōrem ṯ̣ōlem ʾām ber ḳeyṣef beh yǧeyfeh A wave from the overpowering seas that, if it bears down on him, will flip him over? we-ylūbed beh śrōyer ʾamḳ ḏe-mkəsēr yseyfeh It turns [his boat] to splinters, rolling it into the deeps of a dangerous channel ʾār w-reḥmōn eḫḫōreǧ / heh yḳawder we-yheyfeh And then only The Merciful may pull him out and is able to revive him I WANT TO ASK AT THE WEDDING PARTY Poem #3 in the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, October 7, 2003 ḥōm lešaḫber bōlī ʾārs ḏīmeh mōn ḏ-ġabrūt I want to ask the people at the wedding party “Who is this who has shown up?” ḏīmeh līs mśōbeh lɛ̄ hɛ̄l ʾaynī ber śnūt There are no equals to this one from what my eye has seen zeynes we-ḳdēres ġeyr we-rḥōmet šettemmūt Her beauty and stature are without compare her virtue is complete ǧɛ̄ma ḏe-ḫḫəlā hnīs kel ḏ-bīleh we-skūt The whole group of young date palms around her are distracted and silent seh msīres hɛ̄s eḫeyl wēt berkīsen seyrūt Her gait is like a mare’s when she goes among them tē ʾafōr ḏ-ġīrī mens we-ḥyōm ḏ-šāḏrūt Even the clouds envy her and the sun holds itself back we-mṣawbeḥ yeġmīs wēt fnīhem ḫaṭrūt Lamps grow dim when she passes before them hōh men hɛ̄s ġleḳk tēs ʾaynī l-ɛ̄d l-ṣabrūt From the time I saw her my eye cannot endure to wait kīnen dōyem leśśənēs ʾān ḫeyret ḥaṣlūt My hope is to see her always if good things ever come to pass rawḥī we-fwōdī šīs we-mhawǧəsī śǧūt My heart and soul are with her my feelings are in turmoil ʾān l-seh ḏrīyet lɛ̄ wel men rɛ̄ḥaḳ ḏe-nšūt [sic nśūt] If she herself is not a stranger and hasn’t travelled from afar ʾamrōna men ḳrīb we-b-ḥaft ḏ–ḥallūt I’d say she’s from nearby from a village in this district ḏekrōna hammes lɛ̄ ʾɛ̄r ehamm ḏ–šāmrūt I won’t mention her name except by her childhood nickname ġōlī tešhūma bēh we-hnēn mhūṣfūt She’s called “Precious” when she is described by us kellen neməṯṯīlen bīs hɛ̄l nḫawṭer w-neštūt [sic neśtūt] All of us idealize her wherever we journey and travel w-nūṣafs k-rīḥōm be-ššərōweḥ we-byūt We praise her with the other beauties whether at parties or at home I WANT TO WRITE A LINE Poem #8 in the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at home, al-Ghaydha, January 27, 2003 Recited by Hājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, October 7, 2003 ḥōm lekteb ḫaṭ we-l-ʾōnī rsūl I want to write a line and hire a messenger, kelyēd yeǧhīm w-šīhem dḫūl [To go] with those who travel and have an entry visa w-hoh dfōn heh meṣrūfeh w-nawl I’ll pay him for his expenses and the cost of shipping w-zōyed hnī hel źaybeṭ ḳbūl And even more from me since whatever he takes is acceptable ʾār hoh meśśəġeyb l-ādēd ḏe-ḥlūl I’ve been in turmoil day after day, w-aġarbes lā šnēt we-ḏhūl I haven’t known sleep or a moment of peace w-hessī ʾār bīs men hēl teḥlūl Since my feelings are with her wherever she has settled ʾān ḳalb w-hēd w-sāten ġfūl Even if my heart quiets down and forgets for a moment, ʾayenten ḳhēd we-dmā hmīlūl My eyes burn with insomnia and tears pour down I’M NOT TO BLAME Poem #17 from the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, October 14, 2003 Sung by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, October 14, 2003 hōh lī lawm lā…ʾān ḥetwelk lūk I’m not to blame…if I’ve gone mad for you hōh meġtīri ṣidḳ we-kelṯōna hūk I will speak the truth And tell you hēt mḏehk tī w-ḳalbī berh šūk You’ve bewitched me My heart has fallen for you hōh lī lawm lā…ʾān ḥetwelk lūk I’m not to blame…if I’ve gone mad for you bōlek tī b-zeyn b-źeḥkēt w-ʾayn You’ve afflicted me with beauty With your smile and your eyes we-b lebnīn w-leṭfīn ḏ-būk With the whiteness of your skin And the grace that lies in you hōh lī lawm lā…ʾān ḥetwelk lūk I’m not to blame…if I’ve gone mad for you rōdek be-ḫḫədmēt leǧrē ḏ-hēt I’ve tossed away my work On account of you meḏh w-sebbēt sōber hōh srūk Enchantment and affliction I’m always right behind you hōh lī lawm lā…ʾān ḥetwelk lūk I’m not to blame…if I’ve gone mad for you ʾān ġleḳkek lā bī yeźyūḳ eḳā If I can’t see you The world tightens around me w-ārtyīźen lā ġeyr w-hōh hnūk I can’t be content Unless I’m with you hōh lī lawm lā…ʾān ḥetwelk lūkt I’m not to blame…if I’ve gone mad for you eḫalḳ āḏūrem tī w-hēt hāḏerk hī Everyone forgives me Even you have forgiven me w-kēḏ menhem lmī reyteh heh śenyūk Anyone who would blame me If only he could see you! INDEX OF POEMS By Region The regional divisions listed below follow the official administrative districts (mudīriyyāt) of al-Mahra The administrative districts of al-Mahra reflect general geographical and socioeconomic blocs; their boundaries occasionally track along tribal and linguistic distinctions as well al-Ghaydha (central coast and inland districts) Ḥawf (eastern coast and coastal mountains) Ḥaṣweyn (Jabal Fartak and surrounding foothills, coasts, and coastal plains) Qishn (southwest-central coast and inland districts) Dhofār (Ṣalālah and surrounding mountains) Sayḥūt and Wādī Masīla (far western al-Mahra) Shiḥn/Ḥāt/Manʿar (northern and eastern inland steppe) By Title Advice for Ǧwāher Asking A Mother’s Permission Atop the Peak of Ṭarbūt The Battle of ʾĀḳəbbōt The Charm of Old Age Conventional Invocation The Dog Days of Summer The Desire of the Four Poets The Epic of ʿAnzī, ʿĪsā Kedḥayt’s Pickup Truck Fed Up With Mahri Fuṣḥā Mahri A Short Lyric Poem The Girls Have Abandoned Their Honor Gunfight in Niśṭawn Hays and the Saudi Prince Homesick in Hyderabad Homesick in Najrān Humorous Couplets Bir Laʿṭayṭ Humorous Couplet Sdōn the Fool I Have a Little Lady I Think They Ate My Cow Jamīla and the Sulṭān Legal Proceeding in Poetry Divorce and Remarriage Little Jewel Said A Message from Sinǧēr The Occupation of Iraq Poem in Hobyot? Prophetic Poetry A Prayer for a Favor The Purloined Slaves Race Relations in al-Mahra The Rebellious Son The Rescue of Śībī She’s a Work of Art A Slippery Father Snakebite Chant Tea With Milk A Three-Way Conflict The Times We Live In The Trials and Rewards of Fieldwork Wahība Raiders The Waning Years of the ʿAfrārī Sulṭānate Wedding in Mḥayfīf Wedding in Ṣaḳr Wedding Night Song Work Song for Stitching and Repairing Fabric Yearning for Baḳlīt Poems from The Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn (Liebhaber, 2011a) Šī meyken w-ḳeyt (“For A Long Time”) Kel yawm w-hōh ḏ-aśeyk (“Everyday I Come Complaining” Ḥōm lešaḫber bōlī ʾārs (“I Want to Ask the Wedding Party”) Wā mḥab w-lū tdā (“O My Love, If Only You Knew”) Ġwē ḏe-lṭōf (“A Passion For Beauty”) Kōbī maḫḫəlīḳ yṣawber (“I Used To Think That Man Could Endure”) Hēt wkōh brēk ezēḫī (“Why Are You Working In A Dust Cloud?”) Ḥōm lektēb ḫaṭ (“I Want To Write A Line”) Śawḳ (“Desire”) Wrīt w-Fāten (“Fāten and the Moon”) Śēnī we-ḳders ǧīd (“Her Looks and Figure Are Beautiful”) Mawtī we-ḥyōtī hēt (“You Are The Death Of Me and My Life”) Ḫīh ḳalbī ḫīh (“Enough, My Heart, Enough!”) Ġābem ġōlī leʾeśśōḳ (“Leave My Darling To Her Heart’s Desire”) Zeyn w-kellek zeyn (“Beautiful, Everything About You Is Beautiful”) Heḏḥ w-ḥeḏḏūr (“Watch Out And Be Warned”) Hōh lī lawm lā (“I’m Not To Blame”) ʾĀynī hōh hībōh tšekf (“O My Eyes, How Can They Sleep?”) By Poet, Transmitter (Ar rāwī), or Singer ʿAbd al-Saʿīd bir ʿAfrār (“Shaykh Hamza”) (rāwī) ʾAḥmad ʿAlī Mbārek (poet) ʿAlī bir Erabḫ bir Zaʿbenōt (poet) ʿAlī Sālim al-Jidḥī (rāwī) ʿAmr Sālim Šalmōten al-Jidḥī (rāwī) ʿAskarī Ḥuǧayrān (singer) ʿAwaź bir ʿAlī Awaź (rāwī) Bakhīt bir Ḳuṭrān (singer and poet) Bir Frēǧ Kalšāt (poet) Ḥājj Dākōn (poet and rāwī) ʿĪsā bir ʾAḥmad bir ʿĪsā al-Qumayrī (“ʿĪsā Kedḥayt”), (poet) ʿĪsā bir ʿAlī bir Raʿfīt (rāwī) Jumʿān ʿAlī bir Ḳerḥayf (poet) Ḳrāṭās Maʿwīḏ (poet) Muḥammad ʿAlī bir ʿAfrār (poet) Muḥammad bir Marṭayf (poet, rāwī, and singer) Muḥammad Mushaʿjil (singer) Muḥammad Sālim al-Jidḥī (poet) Muḥammad Rwēḥ al-Jidḥī (poet) Muṣabbiḥ bir Ḥamtōt bir Ḳamṣayt (poet) Musallim bir Rāmes (poet, rāwī, and singer) Naṣīb Saʿdallāh (poet) Raġbōn birt Saʿīd (poet and rāwī) Sād Sheyl (poet and rāwī) Saʿīd bir Laʿṭayṭ al-Jidḥī (poet) Sālim Mutīʿ al-Sulaymī (poet) Sālim bir Salēm bir Ṣmōdā (rāwī) Suhayl Zaʿbenōt (rāwī) Tannāf bir Saʿd Ḥamtōt (poet) Unknown Poets Yaḥyā al-Ḍāwī Belḥāf (poet) COLLECTIVE REǦZĪT All poems belonging to the collective reǧzīt marked category have the following parameters Line Structure Tristich Topic Occasional Length Multiline Polythematic Performance Chanted Collective reǧzīt (reǧzīt maydānī) is the group performance genre par excellence of al-Mahra This is the defining cultural activity of al-Mahra because it reaffirms the social and familial bonds of the Mahri-speaking community through the exchange of ritual greetings and reciprocal acknowledgement At any gathering of social significance, squads of ten to fifteen men form a line flanking a poet who stands in their midst Once the line has coalesced, the men let out a whoop that signals their approach and preparedness for an exchange of extemporized reǧzīt The line marches toward a similarly composed line of men, all of whom may already be chanting a “welcoming” (Ar tarḥībī) reǧzīt If other groups join them, they form a rough square and take turns chanting responses to each other’s reǧzīt Prior to the establishment of a central authority in al-Ghaydha, reǧzīt maydānī were also performed at the bargaining table whenever grievances were aired and negotiations carried out The Mahri poet ʿAlī Nāṣir Belḥāf described the role of reǧzīt in performance as courtroom proceedings (Ar al-maḥkama) Accordingly, when bilateral diplomacy failed to resolve a conflict between two tribes, both would seek recourse to a third disinterested party (Ar marjaʿ) On the day of the judgement, both tribes would proceed to the marjaʿ and establish their claims by chanting reǧzīt maydānī Since the government has assumed the role of intertribal arbitrator, the practical value of reǧzīt has diminished because very few civil servants are familiar with the Mahri language (not to mention its poetic traditions) In the current political environment, reǧzīt are used mainly for celebratory expressions of welcome and mutual compliment to be exchanged at celebrations (Ar sharīḥāt) such as weddings, the arrival of an important delegation, or state-sponsored festivals INDIVIDUAL REǦZĪT All poems belonging to the genre marked individual reǧzīt category have the following parameters Line Structure Tristich Topic Occasional Length Multiline Polythematic Performance Recited Reǧzīt couplets may be exchanged by individuals, either face to face or via intermediary, in a non-choreographed and non-collective setting Exchanged reǧzīt couplets can be antagonistic or complimentary; the topic depends on the event that inspired them Most importantly, the topic of individual exchanged reǧzīt couplets needs to be suitable for public reception (i e , non-lyric sentimental) because broad circulation is presumed Skilled practitioners of exchanged reǧzīt are highly revered in al-Mahra; engaging in this practice is a virtual requirement for important political figures If the poetic talent and social prestige of the two poets was high enough and the event particularly noteworthy, a reǧzīt engagement could spawn a generation of transmitters who would relate the exchange, blow for blow, in individual performance Once the workhorse for public political dialogue in pre-republican al-Mahra, its use is in decline as younger Mahris opt for Arabic or non-versified responses to socially or politically significant events Finally, individual reǧzīt couplets can be composed outside of poetic conversations if an individual wishes to make a memorable utterance Often, such lines can be used for invective or insult Because such couplets are composed of tristich lines, they attest to the poet’s skill and craft and are thus expected to carry greater social weight and be transmitted more broadly However, such couplets may not be referred to as reǧzīt in al-Mahra because they lack a collective social dimension, even though they are indistinguishable from “conversation” reǧzīt (maraddāt) on formal grounds JAMĪLA AND THE SULṬĀN Poem composed and recited by Raġbōn birt Saʿīd Ḥawr from Kzayt (“near the schoolhouse”) in the mountains overlooking Jāḏeb Recorded by Sam Liebhaber at Raġbōn’s home, March 2004 Raġbōn begins this evening dāndān (Ar dāndān laylī) by praising the qualities of her niece, Jamīla (Ǧmīla) birt Makdōh and describes the contest for her affection between Jamīla’s cousin (Raġbōn’s son?) and her pet calf on the one hand, and her father and Sulṭān Qābūs of Oman on the other Jamīla’s cousin and her pet calf would like her to stay with them (it is unclear in what capacity), while Jamīla’s father would like her to marry Sulṭān Qābūs “Sulṭān Qābūs” should not be taken literally here; Raġbōn has likely chosen the sulṭān as an idealized suitor to reflect the high expectations that Raġbōn has for her niece However, there is a kernel of realism in this poem The story of young Mahri women who have been married by wealthy Arabs from the Gulf is a recurrent trope in Mahri poetry and points to the social and economic disparity between Yemen and its wealthier neighbors Mahri women are believed to make good wives since they preserve the ʾaṣāla (“authentic virtue”) of rural bedouin women They are highly sought after as wives in the Gulf states; indeed, Sulṭān Qābūs’s own mother was from Dhofār, a region heavily settled by the Mahra This poem should be compared to Muḥammad bir Marṭayf’s poem on the same topic, although the narrative of wounded national pride evident in Muḥammad bir Marṭayf’s poem is absent in Raġbōn’s poem For Raġbōn, Jamīla comes out the winner whether she is married to her cousin or to the sulṭān ǧmīle śōleš hummeš wel rōdeš beh yeźyā Jamīla, you have raised aloft your name you have not given it up for lost w-tēš reḥmōne ezyīn w-ṭerḥayš meśśōref tḳā The Merciful made you attractive and allowed you to be distinguished hūǧēśeš bātī śḥayr we-lyēḏ reḥbēt šūrɛ̄ You’ve out-competed the girls of the mountains and those of the villages stand back [from the dancing floor] eḥḥōrem w-ber ǧzōm l-enḫōṭer men hal tenkā They made an oath and gave it up [saying] “we’ll not compete with her whenever she comes [to dance] ” hes seh ḫaddes erḥīm we-ḳdēr ḫa ṭāṭḏe-rwā Her cheeks are lovely and her stature is as though someone had drawn it by luck w-ād el tāmōr mekyeǧ wel bōder etē teźyā No one does make up or powders [as good as she] so that [Jamīla] loses w-ān hedlūt we-ǧrūt šīs ʿād tḳaṣyen lā If she gets up and goes sauntering none can go with her to the end [of her promenade] ṣānīn etē k-ḥerḳet teltūwī thaṣfer lā [They are] like the partridges in the heat of the day that curl up and do not sing we-mġōren hayb w-ḫōl bīs līḥešyen lā Further, her father and uncles forbid her nothing telbōs ār ṭarz ǧdīd we-yšaklen hīs ʿanwā She always is dressed in the newest fashion and puts together outfits of different types [of clothes] w-ḥōkem līs šūṣōf w-qābūs ār tēs yenkā The Sulṭān received a description of her and Qābūs decided to approach her ār bir beḳrēt šākūb w-bir raġbōn ehhelā But the cow’s calf was distressed and the son of Raġbōn [Jamīla’s cousin] swore “Never!” ʾāmūrem ǧmīle ǧnēh tselmeh ṣawten lā They said “Jamīla is like guineas tell him our answer is ‘no’ tawlā ḏ-wūzem lkūk ḏhēb mīzōnes yḳā Even if they give her weight in lakhs of gold ” ār haybes ber šēmūn w-āzūm yeḳtīleb ṭmā But her father went along with [the Sulṭān] resolved on it and turned greedy teḳhērem teh b-ḳawwēt w-l-ād ḥasbem lā So they conquered him by force and didn’t take anything into account we-ḥźawrem bāź šbāb w-kel ḏe-ḳhēb essəbā A number of young men showed up and everyone who came, became allies ʾāmūr ġībem ġrōy ḏōme śī ḏ-el ʾādeh yḳā Saying “No more talking there are some things not meant to be ār sēlem ṣōdeḳ eḥassek we-mġōren erdēd we-hmā Sālim [Jamīla’s father] trust your instincts and then come back and listen, ḏe-nḥā neślūl eṯṯəḳayl we-sḫōm yehwarʾen lā We’ll bear the weight and the expense will not cripple us ” ār sālem ār ḏ-īḫayṣ wel tōhem mšemne lē But Sālim still refuses and doesn’t follow their counsel, ʾāmūr ḥōm ḥōkem eḫayr ḥōm lešizd menh nḳā Saying “I think the Sulṭān is a better idea and want to get recompense from him ” ḤĀJJ DĀKŌN Ḥājj Dākōn is a semiprofessional poet, an enthusiastic collector of Mahri poetry and ardent advocate for the preservation and continuance of Mahri culture and language Approximately forty-five years old, Ḥājj Dākōn is one the youngest poets I met who actively continues to compose poetry in the Mahri language In addition to hewing to traditional forms of lyric poetry, Ḥājj Dākōn has embarked on a campaign to create new modes of Mahri poetry that reflect current trends in poetic composition and performance across southern Arabia and the Gulf More details on Ḥājj Dākōn’s life and poetic works can be found in The Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn (American Institute for Yemeni Studies, 2011) Jumʿān ʿAlī bir Ḳerḥayf is from a region in Ḥawf known as Ḥayr, which lies in the mountains inland from Jāḏeb I have no further information regarding Jumʿān, and “I Think They Ate My Cow” is the sole poem by him that I recorded LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTICS Al-Aghbari, Khalsa 2012 Noun plurality in Jebbāli PhD diss , University of Florida Al-Aidaroos, Mustafa Zein 1996 An introduction to the Mehri tongues Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities 1 (1) 27–46 — 1999 Arabic alphabet for Mehri phonemes Al-Yaman Journal 4 (10) 5-35 — 2001 Modern South Arabian languages and Classical Arabic A comparative study Symposium Languages and Dialects of Yaman, Aden 2–3 April 2000 Aden Aden University Printing & Publishing House 47–63 Al-ʾAzharī, Abū Manṣūr 1967 Tahdhīb al-lugha Edited by ʿAbd al-Sallām Muḥammad Hārūn 15 vols Cairo 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Attribution and Genitives in Mahriyyōt Relative Clauses and Genitive Constructions in Semitic Edited by Janet C E Watson & Jan Retsö Journal of Semitic Studies Supplement Series 25 Oxford Oxford University Press 229–44 — 2011 South Arabian and Yemeni dialects Salford Working Papers in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics Edited by Gerry Howley Online publication Accessed 5/25/2018 Vol 1 27–40 — 2012 The Structure of Mehri Harrassowitz Wiesbaden — 2014 Southern Semitic and Arabic dialects of the South-Western Arabian peninsula Languages of Southern Arabia Edited by Orhan Elmaz & Janet C E Watson Supplement to the Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 44 Oxford Archaeopress Publishing Ltd 147–53 Watson, Janet C E & Abdullah al-Mahri (forthcoming) Language and nature in Dhofar RiCOGNIZIONI Rivisti di Lingue e Letterature straniere e ‘Culture moderne Edited by S Bettega & F Gasparini University of Turin — (forthcoming) A Stratal OT account of word stress in Central Omani Mehri 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Languages Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics 9 (1-2) 49-72 Watson, Janet C E & Paul Rowlett 2012 Jespersen’s cycle and negation in Mehri Grammaticalization in Semitic Edited by Domenyk Eades Oxford Oxford University Press 205–25 Watson, Janet C E & Samia Naïm 2012 La corrélation occlusive laryngovélaire dans des variétés néo-arabes et sud-arabiques Base articulatoire arrière / Backing and Backness Edited by Jean-Léo Léonard & Samia Naïm Munich Lincom Academic Publishers 133-155 Watson, Janet C E & Yahya Asiri 2007 Pre-pausal devoicing and glottalisation in varieties of the south-western Arabian Peninsula International Conference on Phonetic Sciences XIV, August 2007, Saarbrücken, Germany Edited by J Trouvain and WJ Barry Symplectic Publications 135-140 Wehr, Hans 1979 Arabic-English Dictionary The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic Edited by J M Cowan Wiesbaden Harrassowitz Zaborski, Andrzej 1994 Arcaismi ed innovazioni nei pronomi personali del sudarabico modern Sem cam Iafet Atti della 7a Giornata di Studi Camito-Semitici e Indodeuropei (Milano, 1o giugno 1993) Edited by Vermondo Brugnatelli Milano Centro Studi Camito- Semitici 251–62 LEAVE MY DARLING TO HER HEART S DESIRE Poem #14 from the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at home, al-Ghaydha, January 27, 2004 Sung and recorded by Ḥājj Dākōn at his home, Mḥayfīf, May 2004 ġābem ġōlī leʾeśśōḳ w-leġtīr men eḳemmeth Leave my darling to her heart’s desire and let her speak from her mind tekdērem bōleh lā wel temḫayḳem enḫəweth Don’t sully her thoughts and disturb her bliss ḏ-denyē tlōbed źīk ʾān ḏekeskem enfəseth The whole world becomes tense if you oppose [one of] her moods, kellen nertəyīźen lā wel nḥawmel enġəmeth None of us can be at ease since we can’t endure her anger hoh meḥṣawl aḥamh lā kēṯer moh wlē ḳelleth I don’t want personal gain neither a little nor a lot, aḥōm leġtīwī šeh w-lettōma l-herǧeth I just want to flirt with her and listen to her talk, [we-bṣārī lehḳā men ezeyneh w-źeḥketh] To quench my eyes with her beauty and smile, leʾamlī meddəwīr ḏ-tertūbeh w-ʾableth To make me her servant who arranges [everything] and takes care of her, w-lehōmer w-leṭlēb hoh fdē ḏ-ferḥeth To order and demand I’ll sacrifice myself for her pleasure LEGAL PROCEEDING IN POETRY DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE A poetic exchange between ʿAbdallāh Raʿfīt and ʿĪsā Kedḥayt, recited by ʿĪsā Kedḥayt and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at ʿĪsā’s home in Jāḏeb, January 2004 ʿAbdallāh Raʿfīt complains to ʿĪsā Kedḥayt, the district judge for Ḥawf, about the ruling of another judge (Muḥammad “the Cobra”) that ʿAbdallāh must wait for three months after divorcing his first wife before remarrying This practice, known in Islamic sharīʿa law as ʿidda, is normally applied only to women in order to guarantee the paternity of any offspring born after the divorce Due to the continuance of matrilineal affiliation in al-Mahra until recent decades, establishing paternity was not as critical for the Mahra as it was among other social groups on the Arabian Peninsula, and the ʿidda was not traditionally practiced in al-Mahra As tribal law (Ar ʿurf), Islamic law, and a socially progressive civil code that guaranteed equal rights for men and women converged on al-Mahra under the PDRY, Muḥammad “the Cobra” decided to require both parties to a divorce to wait before remarrying as a means of compromising among the three legal codes Expecting a quick remarriage as permitted to men under sharīʿa, ʿAbdallāh complains to ʿĪsā Kedḥayt about being forced to wait ʿĪsā Kedḥayt does not address the legality of ʿAbdallāh’s case but simply chides him for being impatient ʿĪsā Kedḥayt reminds ʿAbdallāh that he had earlier advised him against getting divorced and counsels him against reckless behavior that will leave him even more miserable ʿĪsā Kedḥayt suggests that three months isn’t a long period of time and that ʿAbdallāh could use the time to cool off Recitation by ʿĪsā Kedḥayt ʿABDALLAH RAʿFĪT haḳweyyen eḳalb we-lbūden ḥdīd We fortified our heart and became like iron tē ġayw w-rebźā ġlē ybeddīd Even brothers of the same mother and father dear to each other, have their differences ʾār hōh ḥǧennōt mens waḳt myīd But I have a small issue that [our] Age itself opposes snēt ḏ-kedḥayt we-ġyūǧ yʿēdīd “The Year of Kedḥayt” during which the men observe al-ʿidda, b-rišm ḏ–ḥayd w-źawdeh yeśhīd (Acknowledged) by the stamp of their hand and with witnesses testifying to it ʿĪSĀ KEDḤAYT lawb ǧawneš ḥyōm w-hōlā ḳfōd we-ġśōh b-rehdīd O Sun, you have set the shadow of evening has descended and encircled the expanse of the land l-ʿabdalleh erid ebir leddēḥ ḏ-ʾāṣfeh ǧīd I’ll respond to ʿAbdallāh the son of Laddēḥ of good repute ʿāmōrem rwōh w-rōkeb ġrōy we-bhēl habdīd They said “Make a speech arrange your utterance with meter and rhyme for a number of words ” we-l-twōl kedḥayt yhōkel eṭerb we-l-hān eǧdīd And so to Kedḥayt he bends the branch with any little thing that comes up ḫalfōt le ṣfūt ʾān ār teḥwūl w-āḳel zhīd No news has since arrived if only you realized this and your mind were discerning mōnā ḫṣōb lūk nhōr ḏe-ḳfedk w-mōn essədīd Who has already counselled you on the day you came you came down to us and brought you and your estranged wife back together? hīs nekʾak tōn w-ʿāmerk ḫlāṣ mḥawźer ǧdīd When you came to us you said “enough!” to any new intermediaries śī ḥatmel lā essemḥem lēn ʾām-ār tezhīd This affair doesn’t deserve (our attention), pardon us for saying so, if you’ll be reasonable we-mḥammed āṭōf šēh škī men ḥayṭ w-heh mhebrīd Muḥammad “the Cobra” with a sword from the mountains and razor sharp wezmūk destūr ḳānūn ḏ–ḥellēt kel śī meffənīd He gave you a constitution a law for the land everything has been detailed lūk ār śāṯeyt we-mġōren ṭlēḳ l-ād ṭeyrek rśīd You only have (to wait) three months and afterwards you’re free and there’s no one supervising you ʾār hēt eṭwilk ḫayr men snēt teḥfōl we-rdīd But you’ve drawn out (the issue) (as though) it were more than a year it has already ripened and then you bring back again ḏēk ār ṭebʿath eḏ-bēr effəlūs yeʿmōl ekdīd It is the nature of a man who has gone completely broke to stir up complaints ykeys be-hnefh w-yewsewūs b-fōl ḏ–ǧīd He finds something within himself that whispers to him with fancies of the good thing (he lost) we-tḏelhen leh dmā men ʿayn hṭēr ḫdīd They pour out of him the tears of his eye upon his cheeks l-ād heh ḏ-hōṯūḳ ḥāṭḥawlī wel nūkā ǧdīd He didn’t hold tight onto his first good fortune and nothing new has come LENGTH There is no required number of lines that a Mahri poem, marked by genre or not, must adhere to Poems last as long as the poet wishes them to or has the creative stamina to sustain, or as long as an audience is willing to listen Unlike line structure, the parameter of poem length cannot be neatly divided into mutually exclusive categories However, certain tendencies are discernible The first is that the poems in this collection that represent a complete expression of an idea or feeling (as opposed to a partially documented poem) run for twelve to twenty lines This is most readily evident in the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn, in which virtually all poems fall within this range The other poems in this collection that consist of twelve to twenty lines typically cohere around a single idea or theme, which, when successfully articulated, come to a close Such poems are labelled “multiline monothematic” and form the bulk of poetry composed in the Mahri language Other poets—particularly those better trained in the traditional formulas and who possess a share of talent in deploying them—may wax poetic, yielding poems that shift from event to event or sentiment or sentiment At times the shift in focus may appear disjointed and the topics unrelated; however, an underlying aesthetic and thematic logic may be discerned through symbolic and metaphoric resonances For example, the motif of a rainy deluge preceded by an account of conflict may evoke the trope of vengeance in Arabian poetry the rain suggests a violent cleansing of personal and collective honor Indeed, the ritualized progression of apparently unrelated motifs in the literary Arabic qaṣīda has been amply document by Suzanne Stetkevych (Stetkevych, 1993); indeed, Mahri poetry, contemporary Arabic vernacular poetry (nabaṭī), and the pre-Islamic qaṣīda bear a number of intriguing structural and thematic similarities (Liebhaber, 2015) Despite their potential for conceptual unity, poems that traverse different motifs and topics are labelled in this collection “multiline polythematic ” Finally, the shortest expression of poetry is the couplet two lines of verse All poems in the Mahri language may be thought of as an accumulation of couplets; a minimum of two lines is apparently needed to express a complete thought Such couplets may fall outside of the realm of Euro-American poetry and would be labelled “aphorisms” instead This distinction is not always made in Mahri (and Arabic) orature in which proverbial utterances are often embedded in poetry as stand-alone lines that clarify or emphasize the poetic expression at hand The Mahri poetic landscape is ripe with rhymed and metered couplets—some earnest and some in jest—that are composed, transmitted, and enjoyed in the same way as longer forms of verse LINE 1, SNAKEBITE CHANT meaning “What I know will treat it ” LINE 1, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT Hrīt is south of Ramāh, near Wādī Mahrūt; Wādī Mahrūt empties into Wādī Ǧeyza LINE 10, I THINK THEY ATE MY COW The poet reveals his suspicions in this final line the cow wasn’t sick, no one looked after her, and she was led away to be slaughtered LINE 10, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT Describing Slōm and his men; they are “pure” Smōdā and are single minded in vengeance LINE 10, WAHĪBA RAIDERS The “son” kills two Waḥība raiders from his hidden position and then lets them carry away their corpses LINE 12, WAHĪBA RAIDERS Meaning wishing for something doesn’t help, but an action or deed leads to a tangible result In the context of this poem, the poet wishes that other men of Thawʿar had been present to defend the two men of Bīt Ṣabḥ LINE 13, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT They are beginning the encounter (or attack) anew because this will be the first fight since the cease-fire has ended “Yheyt” is shouted out as a greeting and to encourage movement and work LINE 14, HOMESICK IN NAJRĀN The poet is referring to himself since he has remained in Najrān after Nashūr, Muḥammad and the others have left LINE 14, SHE S A WORK OF ART This idiom was explained to me as “he wins the world and everything in it ” LINE 14, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT The “enemy” may be pretending to be someone other than himself when Sōlem and his gang call out to him, so they engage him in joking around to get him to reveal the truth They may even be teasing, poking, and tickling him until he admits the truth LINE 14, WAHĪBA RAIDERS The sound of the rifles shooting and bullets falling would be similar to the sound of a monsoonal downpour in the season of Luḥaymar (Mhr lḥaymer) LINE 15, SHE S A WORK OF ART Fann is apparently married, and the poet vows not to disrupt her marriage LINE 15, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT Sēlim of Ḥrēzī is the ġrīm (Ar gharīm) To “cut off the heart” is an idiom meaning “to not reveal your thoughts and to suppress your feelings” (Ar qaṭṭaʿa ʿalā ‘l-qalb/qaṭṭafia ʿahdahu) and “to keep a secret hidden” (lam yabuḥ al-sirr) In this context, it also means that Sēlim conquered his fear LINE 16C, ASKING A MOTHER S PERMISSION This question is directed to Mḫeyleh and means “Will you look for better options (i e , a different lover) somewhere else or are you content to stay with me?” LINE 18, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT This line, as well as the previous line, seems out of place and switches subject In all, lines 17-18 seem not to fit within the narrative Ḥājj noticed this and said that it happens from time to time in the longer poems Is Sēlim glancing around like a worried camel? Is this an extended metaphor for the fear of Sēlim, who fled from his attackers like the camels only to be nabbed by predators? LINE 19, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT The metaphor switches from fearful, anxious camels to a roiling, turbulent sea Is this a metaphor for Sēlim’s fear, for the fray in general, or for the social turmoil that will result from this attack? LINE 2, A SLIPPERY FATHER The second stich was understood to mean that love can be both comfortable and uncomfortable LINE 2, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT “the field” (lit “what has been worked”), i e , the time has come to pass, the time has ripened, the conditions are ready LINE 2, WAHĪBA RAIDERS “The door” refers to the imaginative capacity of the poet, as well as his emotional inclinations to speak about the raid LINE 20, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT I assumed that this line is a metaphorical reference to Sēlim, bound, struggling against his captors Ḥājj understood it in the following sense “How many heroes are prevented from doing what they want to do, but are restrained from doing so by tribal custom and tribal law ” LINE 22, HOMESICK IN NAJRĀN Bīt Ǧsōs is a subdivision of (or perhaps parallel to) Bīt Yashōl The confederation or alliance of Bīt Ǧsōs is comprised of the following tribes Ḳamṣayt, Maġfīḳ, and Yashōl The point of this line is that Bīt Ǧsōs is very hospitable to all comers LINE 23, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT The “lions” are Slōm and his gang LINE 24, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT The young men who arrive are not from Slōm’s gang LINE 26, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT Sādīt’s full name is Saʿd bir Azellet, a famous warrior of the Ḥrēzī tribe Sādīt is a childhood moniker (Ar ism tadlīl) “May God forgive” Sādīt’s mother because she has already passed away LINE 28, HOMESICK IN NAJRĀN Wādī Ṭḥawn belongs to Bīt Ḳamseyt LINE 29, A THREE-WAY CONFLICT There are two possibilities for the son of Āmr in the second stich either he is steadfast in difficult times or he is patient when consultation is in order LINE 30, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT “When the bullets whiz by” rather than hit their marks; that is, they are purposefully missing their targets in order to scare them LINE 31, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT “The jewels of the wedding” the goals that Slōm had in mind and was intent on achieving before Sādīt and his gang showed up LINE 31, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT “Until the scales tilted to the ground” the two sides were evenly matched before, but one side now has the upper hand LINE 31, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT “Their hand” the hand of Slōm and his gang LINE 36, HOMESICK IN NAJRĀN Mreyt (Marʿayt) where Bayt ʾŌbṯeyn (of Ḥaḍramī descent) lives, and where the British build an airstrip from which processed flour (Ar daqīq) was delivered for the first time to al-Mahra LINE 38, HOMESICK IN NAJRĀN Ḥājj understood this line to be a reflection on human mortality LINE 38, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT When the season/star of Rbē leaves at the end of the rainy season, the wells and springs of al-Mahra are usually full of water The mdīt is the humid monsoonal wind that comes from the southwest LINE 39, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT All those who listen to the poet’s verses (i e , the thirsty she-camels), depart from the performance “quenched ” LINE 4, FĀTEN AND THE MOON The autograph of this line begins teślūl (“she carries [away]”) LINE 40, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT The “muse” in Arabian poetic lore is known as hleylī (in Mahri), personified as a supernatural being who inspires poetic composition Ḥājj referred to hleylī as (Ar ) ʿafrīt shiʿr Hleylī can also be understood more prosaically as “inspiration ” LINE 42, HOMESICK IN NAJRĀN Wādī Ǧēza belongs to Bayt Kelšāt LINE 42, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT This line continues the description of Wādī Ǧeyza which is empty of human habitation but populated by gazelles LINE 44, HOMESICK IN NAJRĀN This is a warning to those who would anger Bayt Kelšāt and the denizens of Wādī Ǧēza (and al-Ghaydha in particular) This is also general wisdom (Ar ḥikma ʿāmma) LINE 44, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT “Her head has disappeared,” including her trail of dust LINE 46, HOMESICK IN NAJRĀN The rainstorms and clouds refer to threats to Bayt Kelšāt LINE 48, HOMESICK IN NAJRĀN The poem addressed an incident (“the heavy burden”) in which tribesmen from Maʾrib kidnapped and then killed a member of the tribe of Kelšāt The person who was ultimately killed had nothing to do with the cause of the conflict and is described as “the somewhere else” where the “burden” is placed LINE 5, A SLIPPERY FATHER That is, he gave the poet no chance to pursue his courtship of his daughter LINE 5, I THINK THEY ATE MY COW The poet imagines that had the news of his sick or lost cow been announced properly, the young men of the Śrōweḥ would have immediately set out to bring it back LINE 5C, ASKING A MOTHER S PERMISSION My consultant, Muḥammad Nǧēma, had difficulty making sense of this line See line 3 in “She’s a Work of Art” by Sād Sheyl for a potential interpretation of this phrase as a reference to the mountain, Ḥdīd LINE 6, I THINK THEY ATE MY COW Bir Dwil is from the Qumayrī tribe and is apparently known to be a brave and honest man LINE 6, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT “My hopes are with Slōm” “I am seeking after Slōm,” i e , the poet is encouraging Slōm to take revenge Ḥājj insists that the mention of Slōm’s mother has nothing to do with the preservation of matriarchal lineages in al-Mahra, saying yastamī wa-lā yantamī LINE 6, WAHĪBA RAIDERS The “children of the clan of Ṣabḥ” are a fakhīdha of Bīt ʿAmūš Thawʿar “Ṣabḥ” is a female ancestor LINE 7, I THINK THEY ATE MY COW The final stich of this line presented some difficulty to my consultants LINE 7, WAHĪBA RAIDERS The “two” were a father and son from Bīt Ṣabḥ who were killed by the Wahība raiders, but not before they exacted their price LINE 8, I THINK THEY ATE MY COW This presented some difficulties for my consultants It was clear to both consultants, however, that the poet is taking subtle jabs at the people responsible for killing and eating his cow LINE 8, WAHĪBA RAIDERS Of the two Mahra of Bīt Ṣabḥ (a father and son) ambushed by the Wahība, the son survives longer than his father before being killed LINE 9, HOMESICK IN NAJRĀN The poet is asking pardon from his comrades in case he offended them during their all-night conversations LINE 9, I THINK THEY ATE MY COW According to traditional veterinary practice, cows get sick from internal gasses (“the wind”) or from illnesses that they contract from birds In this line, the poet is trying to find justification for the supposed illness that afflicted his cow and justified its slaughter He’s not entirely convinced, though LINE 9, I THINK THEY ATE MY COW The poet reveals his suspicions in this final line his cow wasn’t sick, no one looked after her, and she was led away to be slaughtered LINE 9, SHE S A WORK OF ART There is a double entendre in this second hemistich fann is both “artistry” and the daughter of Fʾāmōn’s name LINE 9, THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT Slōm is the war leader, not the muqaddam The muqaddam never fights, and his person is sacrosanct; however, the muqaddam chooses the war leader LINE 9, WAHĪBA RAIDERS The “son” (whose father has already been killed) escapes the initial attack, circles around his attackers, and takes up a position at their rear LINE STRUCTURE There are three line types in Mahri poetry that may be differentiated according to the number of stichs per line and whether the lines have an invariable pattern or are strophic poems in which the refrain and interposed verses have different line lengths In other words, all Mahri poems are either composed of tristich lines or hemistich lines, or are strophic songs Poems composed of hemistich lines are by far the most common in Mahri poetics and are formally similar to Arabic literate and vernacular ʿamūdī (“columnar”) poems (i e , the hemistich qaṣīda) Poems composed of tristich lines are the most esteemed format for Mahri poetry and tend to be associated with traditional poetics Just about any Mahri poem can be turned into a strophic song; however, lyric poems consciously composed with a sense-bearing refrain and multiple verses are a relatively recent phenomenon in al-Mahra and are based on Arabic-language models Traditional work songs (ʾahāzīj) likewise fall under the category of strophic songs The number of syllables per stich varies from poem to poem, and this variable determines the melodies to which a poem may be sung My consultants generally referred to the differences in the syllable count per line as buḥūr (the different meters based on syllable length and count), using a term adopted from literate Arabic scansion The prosody of Mahri oral poetry, like its Arabic vernacular counterpart, is related to the patterns of alternating long and short syllables established for literary Arabic poetic prosody, although it is not exactly identical to it LINGUISTIC FEATURES Thanks to its isolation on the southern margin of the Semitic world, the Mahri language has preserved some conservative features that have been lost in the more centrally located Semitic languages of the Levant, the Syrian plateau, and the northern reaches of the Arabian Peninsula For instance, Mahri distinguishes verbal mood by means of an opposition between monosyllabic and bisyllabic verbal stems (e g , subjunctive yektēb [“he should write”] vs indicative ykūteb [“he writes”]), which corresponds to aspectual or tense distinctions reconstructed for Proto-Semitic This retained archaism has been lost in all Semitic languages except for two other languages of the Semitic periphery Akkadian and Ethiosemitic The conservatism of Mahri is most evident in its phonology Mahri and the other Modern South Arabian languages are unique among the living Semitic languages in that they preserve reflexes of nearly all the consonants that have been reconstructed for Proto-Semitic For instance, the Modern South Arabian languages are the only living Semitic languages to maintain a three-way distinction between the lateral sibilant /ś/, the alveolar sibilant /s/ and palato-alveolar sibilant /š/ In addition to the Modern South Arabian languages, the phonetic distinction between these three sibilants {s, š, ś} is indicated in the Ancient South Arabian monumental and cursive scripts Complementing the lateral sibilant /ś/, the Modern South Arabian languages have retained an emphatic lateral phoneme /ź/ that corresponds to the Arabic phoneme /ḍ/ (Ar ḍād) In fact, it is the original lateralized articulation of ḍād that earned for Arabic the moniker of “The Language of Ḍād” (lughat ḍād), rather than its contemporary articulation as a pharyngealized counterpart to /d/ (Ar dāl) The Modern South Arabian languages have also preserved a glottalized articulation for the emphatic consonants (unlike their pharyngealized articulation in Classical Arabic), another retained archaism shared by the Akkadian and the Ethiosemitic languages The staccato pop of the glottalized emphatic consonants and hiss of the lateralized sibilant give the Modern South Arabian languages their distinctive sound, for which local Arab monolinguals likened them to “the language of birds” (Thomas, 1932 105) Not all of Mahri’s unique South Semitic features are retained archaisms For instance, Mahri has generalized a /-k/ suffix in the perfective verbal conjugation rather than the /-t/ suffix found in Arabic and the Northwest Semitic languages of the Levant In this regard, Mahri and the other Modern South Arabian languages have evolved along the path of the Ethiosemitic languages and a number of Yemeni Arabic colloquial dialects that were likely influenced by pre-Arabic, South Semitic substrate languages LIST OF TRIBES Any attempt to offer a comprehensive genealogy of Mahri tribes will almost inevitably face criticism by local consultants For one, new tribes and lineages emerge and elide with each other, some disappear, and others migrate across the conceptual family tree When a powerful lineage buds off from its parent tribe, members of that lineage may be keen to stress their independence A tribe on the wane may be swallowed by another tribe, first as a dependent lineage (mawālī) and then as full members of that tribe All of this occurs in an organic and continuous fashion This means that no tribal classification is valid longer than a generation or two despite being described by local consultants as following the unalterable pattern of linear descent Access to resources, social prestige, or territory is frequently based on family histories and the claims that come with them Therefore, the arrangement of tribes in the Mahri family tree can have social and economic consequences for individual Mahra (although non-family related factors likely play a greater role in determining personal success or failure in republican-era al-Mahra) With this caveat in mind, the classification of tribes presented below reflects the political reality of al-Mahra from 1990–2010 The written works I consulted and the interviews I conducted were all carried out during this period of time The genealogy of tribes presented in Dostal’s Die Beduinen in Südarabien (1962) reflects an earlier era of al-Mahra’s history, and, although the general outlines remain the same, there have clearly been shifts in the hierarchical arrangement of lineages and tribes (a number of typographical errors in Dostal’s chart also add to the confusion) The following classification collates information from Qumayrī, 2003 (plus interviews with the author); Bākrīt, 1999; al-ʾAhdal, 2000; and consultations with numerous Mahra in formal and informal settings Tribe Lineages (fakhāʾidh) Shaykhly Lineage Territory Āl Kalšāt (Śrōyeḥ) Bir Kalšāt Lḫayw Bir Ḥmād Bir ʿAṣūd Bir Delfān Bir Maḥmūsh Bir Kalšāt ʿAlyū Bir Ḥamdūn Bir Šebdīt Bir Šeydōh Bir ʿAlyēn Bir Berkōn al-Ghaydha, Ḥaṣwayn, Ṣaqr (Lḥayw), inland wādīs east and west of Raʾs Fartak (ʿAlyū) Āl Ṣmōdā (Śrōyeḥ) Bir Sʿīd Bir Nzūh Bir ʿAzēb Bir Šaʿjūl Bir ʿAlī Bir ʿĀmer Bir Nāǧī Ramāh, Mahrēt Ǧēdeḥ (Śrōyeḥ) Bayt Ḥāzem Bayt Ġnī Bayt Ḳēraʿ Bir ʿAmrōten (from Bayt Ġnī) Qishn (coastal and inland regions) Bayt Maġfēḳ (Śrōyeḥ) Mharḳeš Šēǧōh Mšaʿǧil Ṯmōh ? Źbūt/Ẓbūt (coastal and inland regions) Ḳamṣeyt (Śrōyeḥ) Bir ʿAfeyn Bir ʿAmrīt Saʿd b Šāra Bir Saʿdeyn Bir Mehyōn Bir Fōmeh Bir Ḥamtōt Bir Šāreb Bir Ḥamtōt Źḥawn, Wādī Masīla, al-Farṭ Bayt Yeshōl (Śrōyeḥ) Bir Dībān Bir Mašʿal Bir Kešbān Bir Dlōk Bir Kādān al-Farṭ, Mḥayfīf, Mōbāh, Wādī Saʿf Bayt Ṯawʿar (Śrōyeḥ) Bir Ḳḥōr Bir ʿAmūš Bir Ḥāfer Bir ʾAnīśer Dhofār, (originally Ramāh, Mahrēt) Āl Zyād (Šayḥaḥ) Bir Ǧerhīm Bir Šaʿfān Bir ʿAkšōt Bir Ḥaǧzī Bayt Seydīn Sayḥūt and its outlying districts as far as ʿItāb and inland districts of Qishn Āl Ḥrōyez (Šayḥaḥ) Bir ʿAmr ʿAndīt Bir Remḥōn Bir Meǧrād Bir ʿAšōbeh Bir ʾEǧhīz Zōmeh Bir ʿAmr Šeyʿīt, Šiḥn, Wādī Šfīṣ, Źerbūt, inland districts of Qishn Āl Zaʿbenōt (Šayḥaḥ) Bayt Erebḫ Bayt Šemmeh Bayt Maʿkōf Bayt Ṣwāneḫ Bayt ʿAmrān Bayt Erebḫ Ḥebrōt and surrounding districts, Šiḥn, Fūǧēt Bayt ʿAḳīd (Šayḥaḥ) Barakāt Bir ʿĪsā Bir ʿAwaź ʿItāb Bayt Mḥāmed (Šayḥaḥ) Bir ʿItbāb Bir ʿArʿīr Bir ʿAlī ʿAbūd Bir Ḥasan Bir ʿItbāb ʿItāb Bayt ʿAršī (Šayḥaḥ) Bir Ḥayyēt Bir Ṣfāʿ Bir ʿAbūd ? Rḫūt, inland district between Sayḥūt and ʿItāb Āl Mismār (Šayḥaḥ) Bir Sālim Bir ʿInāq Bir Msallim Bir ʿAmr Bir Salīm ? Darfāt, Qishn Bayt Kuddah (Ṣāʿir/Ṣār/Sār) Bayt Ḥanbeźōt Bayt Ḫamīs Bayt ʿAlawī Bayt ʿAyšeḳ Bayt Šeytem Bayt ʿAlanāt Bayt ʿAwn Bir Šamlān al-Ghaydha, al-Fatk Bayt al-Mǧāḏeb (Ṣāʿir/Ṣār/Sār) Bayt ʿAli Muqaddam Bayt Ṭōleʿ Bayt Sakrūn Bir ʿAlī Muqaddam District of Ḥawf, al-Ghaydha, Hrūt, inland of Jabal Fatk Bayt Rāfīt/Raʿfīt (Ṣāʿir Ṣār/Sār) Bir al-Ṣaff Bir Ǧamḥī Bir ʿAmer Bir Mabrūk Bir Barakāt Bir Yāsir Bir Salmān Bir Yāsir Źbūt, Ḥawf Bayt al-Sulaymī (Ṣāʿir/Ṣār/Sār) Bayt Šōbī Bayt Mušaʿǧil Bayt Martawī Bayt Ġazī Bir Mušāʿǧil Niśṭōn, east of Jabal Fartak Bayt Mhōmed (Ṣāʿir/Ṣār/Sār) Bayt Maḥṣōn Bayt Ḳašʿōt Bayt Kzēh Bayt Ǧeblīt ? Jabal Fatk, Wādī Šafwāt, Damḳawt, Ḥabrūt Bayt Ḥaydereh (Ṣāʿir/Ṣār/Sār) Bir ʾEṭfēl Bir ʾEznūd Bir Ḥasan Bir Brīk Bir Šedōleh Bir Belšūḫ Bir ʾEṭfēl Āl ʿAfrār (“sulṭanly” lineage) al-Ṭawʿarā al Ṭawʿarā Soqōṭrā, Qishn Āl Belḥāf (sacerdotal lineage) Bir Ḫwayṭer Bir Šamīlōh Bir ʿAbdallāh Bir Ṣweyfer Bir Hemīš Bir Ḫwayṭer Bir Šamīlōh Bir Ṣweyfer Yarūb, al-Feydamī, Damḳawt, Ḥāt Bir Sāteyn Bayt Baʿṯer Bayt ʿAwaź Bayt Dāneyn Bir Makrēdōh Marʿayt Bayt Neymer Hrōt Bayt Ḳarḥeyf Ḥawf, Damḳawt Bayt Mṣaddaʿ Ǧāḏeb Al-Qumayrī (Mahri speaking but not indigenous to al-Mahra) Bayt ʿAlī Bayt ʿAmrān Bayt Ǧerʿāt Bayt Kamšūš Damḳawt, Ǧāḏeb, Ḥawf, Jibāl al-Qamar Āl Bā Kathīr (Arabic monolingual, from Ḥaḍramawt) Bayt Ḍarār/Khawār Bayt Dūnīt Bayt Ṣandal Bayt Mahrajūn Bayt ʿAydūn Bayt Yamānī Bayt Kabkabī Ḥabarūt Karyūt LITTLE JEWEL SAID This playful lyric poem was the first poem written in Mahri by Ḥājj Dākōn, who previously had written only Arabic-language poetry The poem describes a young girl, Ǧwēher (“Little Jewel”), who sets forth exorbitant wedding stipulations for her suitors In essence, this poem is a piece of advice to her she should not settle for anything less than a suitor of the highest calibre This poem was the first Mahri-language poem ever broadcast for the non-Mahri audience In 2001, Muḥammad Mushaʿjil performed it for the Yemeni TV program, ʿAbr al-qanāh al-faḍāʾiyya al-yamaniyya Performed by Muhammad Musha jil Refrain eḥōm l-sōmā we-l-āmēr hbātī ḳōmet w-faḫrēt Refrain I want to make listen and say [to] those (fem pl ) of stature and pride Ǧwēher ‘āmrūt wet ewaḳt ḏ-ketbēt Ǧwēher said at the time of the writing [of the engagement contract] źabṭeytā tēhem lā hēḫer we–ḏ-šeh ḥarmēt I will not take them [who are] elderly and who [already] have a wife ġeyr ḏ-nūka mentəhīǧ šēh merseds ʾābrēt [I will not marry] except for he who comes really meaning it [and] who has a Mercedes for a vehicle (mount) ʾāymel hīs mrākeb hēt we-bnō menḳəlēt [Who] makes six boats for her and builds [her] a castle we-frūś mṭōreḳ zell we–ḥrīr l-māmdēt The upholstery for the hallways [not just the rooms!] are carpets and silk for the pillows we-nōbī šība yōm dāndān w-semrēt And wedding parties for seven days [with] dāndān and late night fun we-mhəreh leġbērem kel men bwōdī w-reḥbēt And [for] all the Mahra to attend from the countryside and the villages wē–ḏ-heh śnēǧ lźōt / ehdōyā w-beġwēt And [for] the one who is kin to take [away] gifts and his heart’s desire ebōlī be-mḫawser lā/ ālf ʾamleh myēt He doesn’t mind the losses a thousand he treats as a hundred MAHRI LANGUAGE The Mahri language is one of the few living remnants of the pre-Arabic language substrate that once stretched across the southern quarter of the Arabian Peninsula This substrate included a number of the Ancient South Arabian (ASA) languages familiar to us from epigraphic sources as well as the ancestral language(s) that gave rise to the Ethiosemitic languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea With the spread of Arabic speakers into southern Arabia at the cusp of the first millennium CE and the subsequent confirmation of Arabic as the prestige language of the Arabian Peninsula in the first centuries of the Islamic era, the indigenous South Semitic languages of the Arabian Peninsula began to withdraw to pockets in the mountains, deserts, and islands of Yemen, Dhofar, and the Arabian Sea The precise affiliation of the Mahri language within the Semitic language family remains a topic for debate Until recently, scholarly consensus had assigned the Mahri language to the South Semitic subgroup (Faber, 1997 & Rodgers, 1991) Within the South Semitic subgroup, Mahri and its closest living relatives—communally labeled the Modern South Arabian (MSA) languages—were believed to constitute its eastern lobe, while the Ethiosemitic and ASA languages were believed to constitute its western and central lobes, respectively More recent scholarship has reclassified the MSA languages as an independent branch of a West Semitic subgroup that is parallel to the Ethiosemitic and Central Semitic (Arabic, ASA, Hebrew, et al ) branches (Rubin, 2008) Mahri is the most widely spoken MSA language with a nearly contiguous territory of speakers that stretches from al-Mahra in eastern Yemen to Jiddat al-Ḥarāsīs in central Oman (including diaspora communities in the Gulf states) The other MSA languages are Baṭḥāri, Śḥēri/Jibbāli, Ḥarsūsi, Hobyot, and Soqōṭri, all of which are native to either Yemen or Oman Baṭḥāri and Hobyot are virtually undocumented (with the exception of Morris, 1983) and are likely on the verge of extinction Although separated geographically from the core Mahri speaking territory, Ḥarsūsi is mutually intelligible with Mahri and should probably be reclassified as a dialect of Mahri (Rubin, 2010 6) Although spoken in smaller numbers than Mahri, Śḥēri/Jibbāli and Soqōṭri speakers are consolidated in regions bounded by discrete geographical features (the mountains of Dhofar for the former and the Arabian Sea for the latter); this fact may vouchsafe their security in the near future MAHRI OR MEHRI? Despite the fact that “Mehri” is used in virtually all scholarly writings dedicated to this language (including the online Ethnologue where it is indexed as “Mehri” [ISO 639-3 gdq]), I have chosen to depart from convention by referring to the language as “Mahri” and not “Mehri ” Although “Mehri” hews more closely to a theoretical pronunciation by a native speaker, I never heard this term used by native speakers as a label for their own language Instead, native speakers use the region-specific terms for the three basic dialects of Mahri mehrīyet (western Mahri), mehriyōt (eastern Yemeni Mahri), and mehráyyet (Omani Mahri) The concept of a single “Mahri” language only exists from a non-native perspective, and, in Arabic at least, this language is referred to as mahrī (or more grammatically as al-mahriyya) When speaking about their language in a general sense, native Mahri speakers will typically use the Arabic term Secondly, the demographic heartland of the Mahri tribes, roughly coterminous with the current Yemeni Governorate of al-Mahra, is exclusively referred to as “al-Mahra” in historical sources The Mahra may refer to specific locations or topographical features within their territory in the Mahri language, but they reserve the Arabic label al-Mahra for the region of eastern Yemen in which their language is (or was, until the last decade or so) the primary language This was true for the politically sovereign ʿAfrārī Sultanate of Qishn and Soqōṭrā, which even among the local population bore the shorthand title in Arabic “the Sultanate of al-Mahra” (sulṭānat al-Mahra) Indeed, one rarely hears the collective term for Mahri speakers in the Mahri language; traditionally, lineage, family, or regional origin were more relevant for personal or tribal identification than belonging to the internally segmented population of Mahri speakers I have therefore chosen to rely on the Arabic nomenclature for the Mahri language (mahrī) and its speakers (the collective denominal adjective al-Mahra) due to the fact that these terms possess historical validity and official status and are used widely by the Mahra themselves MERḌĀT merḍāt My consultant, Muḥammad bir Nǧēma, was certain that /ḍ/ was the correct phoneme here and that the word meant a letter or testament (Ar risāla or waṣiyya) Muḥammad argued that merźāt would mean a sick woman and contrasted mreyḍ (“something sent”) with mreyź (“someone sick”) However, see merźōne in the sung poem by Musallim Rāmis, where it clearly means “I will entrust you with advice/a testament ” MUṢABBIḤ BIR ḤAMTŌT BIR ḲAMṢAYT Muṣabbiḥ bir Ḥamtōt bir Ḳamṣayt is the son of the muqaddam of Ḳamṣayt and a highly regarded poet in his own right As of 2008, he was roughly fifty years old Muṣabbiḥ is originally from the watershed of Wādī Mehrūt in the central inland region of al-Mahra As indicated by his poem “Homesick in Najrān,” Muṣabbiḥ lived and worked in Saudi Arabia with his sons, Nashūr and Muḥammad Many Mahra, particularly those from the inland bedouin districts, carry Saudi Arabian or Omani identification papers in addition to their Yemeni ones Among an older generation of transhumant Mahra, it is not always clear where they were born and under which country’s jurisdiction Unlike the majority of Yemenis who work in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, many Mahra actually bear citizenship in their host countries This could have been the case for Muṣabbiḥ, although not necessarily so MUḤAMMAD ʿALĪ BIR ʿAFRĀR Muḥammad ʿAlī bir ʿAfrār was the representative (Ar nāʾib) of the ʿAfrārī sulṭān in Qishn, to whom he also served in an advisory role as wazīr Muḥammad ʿAlī was also either the brother or close relative of the last ʿAfrārī sulṭān, ʿĪsā, who fled to exile in Saudi Arabia after the 1967 revolution Muḥammad ʿAlī is remembered as a prolific poet in Arabic and Mahri, an important criterion for holding political office on the Arabian Peninsula where poetry goes hand in hand with political discourse MUḤAMMAD BIR MARṬAYF Muḥammad bir Marṭayf is a judge (Ar qāḍī) living in Qishn and a close friend of ʿAbd al-Saʿīd bir ʿAfrār Muḥammad knew a significant number of Arabic and Mahri poems by heart (both occasional and sentimental) and was a well-regarded poet in his own right In addition, Muḥammad was willing to sing Mahri poetry MUḤAMMAD MUSHAʿJIL Muḥammad Mushaʿjil (b 1976 in Ṭbūt/Źbūt) is a singer and ʿūd player and one of the few Mahri singers to have built a following outside of al-Mahra and among Arabic-monolingual audiences in Oman, Yemen, and the Gulf Due to the paucity of musical instruments and musical training in al-Mahra, Muḥammad Mushaʿjil only began to study the ʿūd in 1996 and began to perform for friends at informal gatherings shortly thereafter The classical Arabic ʿūd was first introduced to al-Mahra in the 1970s at the hands of two Mahra, Masʿūd al-ʾAḫḍal and Ḥafīẓ ʿAmrān, who had learned to play it while working in Kuwait and a third Mahri, Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jaylānī, a local autodidact As of 2004, the only other local Mahri who matched (or even exceeded) Muḥammad’s skill with the ʿūd was ʿAbdallāh Ḥabraysh, a young man from Feydamī who is roughly the same age as Muḥammad Subsequent to an appearance on the Yemeni TV program, ʿAbr al-qanāh al-faḍāʾiyya al-yamaniyya, in 2001 in which he performed the Mahri language poem, “Little Jewel Said” (Ǧwēher ʾamrūt), Muḥammad was invited to record a tape cassette album in the United Arab Emirates Muḥammad has since released at least three albums, one of which (Dumūʿ al-ʿayn, 2003) includes the Mahri language song, al-Mahriyya, which is based on the poem ʾĀśer šeh drīyet lā (“Gunfight in Niśṭawn”) by Sālim Muṭīʿ al-Sulaymī This is the sole Mahri-language song that Muḥammad Mushaʿjil has recorded Muḥammad also performed ʾĀśer šeh drīyet lā at the Festival of Mahri Culture (Mahrajān al-thaqāfa al-mahriyya) held in Sana’a in March 2004 This was the only song in the Mahri language to be performed during the entire festival It was also a risky choice given the poem’s political content; however, Muḥammad was justified in assuming that no one in the audience (other than the Mahri attendees) knew the Mahri language sufficiently to understand the song’s content Muḥammad performs live only when bidden to do so by the Ministry of Culture; instead, he has followed the career of a studio recording artist Because he cultivates an international, Arabic-monolingual audience outside of al-Mahra, Muḥammad no longer records songs in the Mahri language However, Muḥammad relied on local Mahri poets who compose poetry in Arabic (including Ḥājj Dākōn, Muḥsin ʿAlī Yāsir, and Tammām Kiddah) for his first three albums In Muḥammad’s words, this gave these albums a Mahri “texture” in terms of their inflection, accent, and melody that made them recognizably “Mahri” to local audiences Muḥammad’s sung version of ʾĀśer šeh drīyet lā remains a popular ring tone for cell phones carried by Mahri speakers Muḥammad’s discography as of 2004 Intaẓartak sinīn (2001) Dumūʿ al-ʿayn (2003) Barq al-jazīra (2004) MUḤAMMAD RWĒḤ AL-JIDḤĪ Author of a humorous reǧzīt couplet that pokes fun at “Sdōn,” a fool who confuses a lump of tar with ambergris I have no information about Muḥammad Rwēḥ al-Jidḥī other than the fact that he is from Qishn MUḤAMMAD SĀLIM AL-JIDḤĪ Muḥammad Sālim is an older poet from Qishn who favors the composition of short, funny, and racy poems In addition to his lyrical poetry, Muḥammad Sālim composes mordant political poems that address current affairs Muḥammad Sālim is the grandson of Saʿīd bir Laʿṭayṭ, one of Qishn’s most famous poets of the twentieth century MULTILINE DĀNDĀN Multiline dāndān poems have the following parameters Line Structure Hemistich Topic Occasional and Sentimental Length Multiline Monothematic or Multiline Polythematic Performance Recited and Sung Multiline dāndān poems are generally viewed as the hemistich counterpart to tristich ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems The topical overlap between the multiline dāndān poems in this collection bears out the similarity both deal with historical topics of collective concern (raids, treaties, etc ) The sole difference is that the dāndān genre may be viewed as the lesser in terms of strictly aesthetic criteria since rendering a complete poem in tristich lines of the ʾōdī we-krēm krēm genre requires the ultimate degree of poetic skill and concentration As a result, the dāndān genre may be open to wider pool of composers and may thus show a greater degree of variability in the quality of execution According to some of my Mahri consultants, multiline dāndān poems merit the specific subdesignation of “night-time dāndān” (Ar dāndān laylī) because they are recited in the evening and nighttime after the exchange of invocatory and welcoming reǧzīt or dāndān couplets has finished in the late afternoon and early evening This label concurs with the sentiment that dāndān enables a greater degree of participation than the tristich genres; it is not the sole reserve of the political and poetic elite of al-Mahra It further allows a greater range of potential topics, some verging on the sentimental It is, overall, less formal than anything belonging to the regzīt and ʾōdī we-krēm krēm genres Evidence of the transition from the performance of introductory reǧzīt to nighttime dāndān can be seen in the following poetic excerpt from a poem by Ḥājj Dākōn In the following lines, the late-night wedding festivities are taking place in earshot of the poet, who, desperate to sleep, complains of the noise ḥōm lešikf ṭannek lā w-lā ʾaynī ġamźawt hās ahōma dāndān w-śerḳī ḳlōb eṣawt --- I want to sleep but couldn’t sink into it nor would my eyes close When I heard the dāndān and [how] the Easterner changed the song [from reǧzīt to dāndān] As the lines above indicate, dāndān poems can be identified by their characteristic melody They are also frequently accompanied by dancing, especially the tanwīś dance in which young women flip their tresses from side to side When performed in this fashion, nighttime dāndān and poems labelled as šemrēt can be viewed as overlapping poetic genres The broad formal and thematic (vs melodic) range of the dāndān genre is expressed by ʿAlī Saʿīd Bākrīt who identifies dāndān as a type of Mahri “folkloric dance” (Ar al-raqṣ al-shaʿbī), no doubt having in mind the rhythmic sway of a group of tribesmen collectively chanting dāndān couplets (Bākrīt, 1999 53) Bākrīt goes on to describe the performance of dāndān in greater detail “The dāndān is performed at wedding celebrations or other events amongst the tribes of al-Mahra in which qaṣīdas are recited in the Mahri idiom In the dāndān, two poets compete and their qaṣīdas relate an event or describe something bad or pleasant” (Bākrīt, 1999 53) In this brief description of dāndān poetry, Bākrīt shifts from collective chanting (“folkloric dance”) to exchanged couplets (“two poets compete”) and thence to multiline occasional and sentimental poems (“qaṣīdas [that] relate an event or describe something bad or pleasant”) Due to the fact that dāndān poems cover a broad topical and formal range, I have only given the dāndān label to those poems that were specifically identified as such by my consultants in light of their melody or their format MULTILINE MONOTHEMATIC Monothematic poems address a topic—a specific event or unified lyric idea—through a single motif or transparently connected metaphorical and descriptive passages Unlike polythematic poems, monothematic poems stay on point throughout—at the cost, perhaps, of not compelling the audience into an exploration of the interrelated meanings of the poet’s metaphorical world Monothematic poems are a poetic shorthand whose sole objective is the communication of a single straightforward thought rather than an extended rumination on a complicated, emotionally wrought topic In the traditional practice, the topics of monothematic poems are occasional they are descriptions of and reactions to a single historical incident or event With less working knowledge of the warehouse of the formulaic themes and motifs available to them, lesser-ranked or casual poets have traditionally inclined toward the composition of monothematic poetry Or, such poems might be the work of social figures whose position requires poetic composition for the sake of information dissemination, but who might view the poetic act as secondary to their social responsibilities Conversely, polythematic poetry was the exclusive domain of experienced and talented poets who were familiar with all of the formulaic themes and motifs available to them, and who knew how to string them together in an intriguing way In the hands of such poets, how the topic is communicated might be more important than the topic itself Monothematic poems that are sentimental tend to be more recently composed and imitative of Arabic cosmopolitan lyric poetry The explicitness of its emotional content is less in line with traditional modes of poetic sentiment, which formerly utilized an accumulation of metaphorical, descriptive passages to communicate strength of feeling (For an example of the latter, see Yearning for Baḳlīt ) This trend is most evident in the collected works of Ḥājj Dākōn, whose dīwān almost exclusively contains sentimental, monothematic poems that are explicitly modeled on contemporary, cosmopolitan Arabic lyric poetry Because Ḥājj is widely regarded as one of al-Mahra’s finest poets, a rethinking of poetic value has clearly taken place that gives positive consideration to concision, clarity, and directness of expression In this way, polythematic poems might come across as slightly old fashioned compared to contemporary monothematic lyric poetry MULTILINE POLYTHEMATIC Traditional multiline poems in al-Mahra typically roam across a variety of themes or may even move across the boundary between occasional and sentimental topics Indeed, traditional poems, often composed by dabblers in poetry rather than its finest connoisseurs, may take the form of a paratactic stack of formulaic themes and motifs Indeed, this is very much the case for an oral poet, it is difficult to separate the act of recitation from poetic composition, and the only way to proceed is to rely on the prepackaged motifs available in the warehouse of the poetic tradition At first glance, a multiline, polythematic poem may seem like a cluttered accumulation of unrelated scenes, images, and metaphors, and in the hands of the most casual poets, this may very well be the case However, in the hands of the finer poets, the disparate themes assembling in paratactic fashion in a traditional Mahri poem may in fact address a common topic through the metaphorical language of Mahri poetry For instance, in Yearning for Baḳlīt, the poet ʿAlī ʿAwaź al-Jidḥī evokes Baḳlīt in a number of different guises a fertile field, a rain cloud, and silken fabric ʿAlī ʿAwaź’s strong feelings for Baḳlīt are encumbered by the rejection he faces from members of Baḳlīt’s family, who are disinterested in him as a potential suitor Motifs that evokeʿAlī ʿAwaź’s longing for Baḳlīt are thus braided with motifs that evoke familial and social obstacles to their marriage These latter motifs depict the patience and skill that tradesmen bring to their crafts boat building, piloting a fishing boat, and farming an irrigated plot Through the accumulation of these motifs, ʿAlī ʿAwaź communicates his dogged persistence in the face of their reluctance to allow him to marry their daughter Moreover,ʿAlī ʿAwaź indicates a socioeconomic dimension to their refusal they are “property owners” whereas he is on “the outside” and must rely on other professionals (“ship builders”) to work on his behalf Although this poem appears to be polythematic, the braided pattern of interconnected motifs engenders a thematic unity that can be overlooked As a result, the polythematic nature of a poem can best be seen in comparison with monothematic poems, which do not utilize multiple motifs, themes, and descriptive passages to communicate the driving notion behind the poem Rather, they stay on topic throughout, allowing the motivating idea to remain clearly expressed from start to finish In contrast, polythematic poems engage a meandering approach to expression; at times, the motivating issue behind the poem’s composition may be rendered obscure under a layering of metaphorical passages The decision to chose one mode of expression over the other may be a function or either poetic skill—those most familiar with the tradition will be able draw from the entire repertoire of formulaic themes and motifs—or the simplicity (or complexity) of the motivating idea The greater the degree of conceptual complexity, the more likely it is that the poet will need to rely on multiple metaphorical digressions to communicate his or her own nuanced approach to the subject matter MUSALLIM BIR RĀMES Musallim bir Rāmes Bīt ʿAmūš Thawʿar al-Mahrī is a poet and singer in the Mahri, Śḥērī, and Arabic languages Musallim bir Rāmes currently lives in Ṣalālah, where he is widely known and respected for his singing talent In addition to having mastered the repertoire of traditional melodies, Musallim bir Rāmes experiments with new variations of older melodies and invents entirely new ones For instance, when Musallim bir Rāmes sings an ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poem, he draws out the melodic line and embellishes it, giving it (in his own words) “uplift” (Ar nashwa) and “greater emotional effect” (Ar shajiyya ʾakthar) In addition to melodic innovations, Musallim bir Rāmes performs traditional songs to the accompaniment of modern instruments such as the synthesizer (Ar ʾurj) and Arabic ʿūd Musallim bir Rāmes has recorded between twenty and thirty audio tapes of his own poetry sung by himself, although they are largely for private circulation among his friends A few years prior to our interview in 2012, Musallim bir Rāmes was encouraged by some younger, internet-savvy Mahra to post recordings of himself singing poetry in the Mahri and Śḥērī (Ar Jibbālī) languages on YouTube; according to Musallim bir Rāmes, these were the first recordings of Mahri singing to appear online Musallim bir Rāmes appears to be in his early fifties and is deeply familiar with Mahri poetry, language, and history MUTLILINE POEMS Multiline poems conform to what is generally recognized as a poem among a Euro-American poetic readership, in contrast with rhymed and metered aphorisms and proverbs In contrast, the two categories lie on the same spectrum of versified word art in al-Mahra multiline poems occupying one end of the spectrum and couplets occupying the other The difference between them is a matter of topical scope Multiline poems enable a rumination on a single topic or allow the poet to explore a single sentiment by treating it through a number of traditional, formulaic tropes Couplets, on the other hand, permit a brief and powerful statement of a single concern, whether it be a specific event or a sentimental upwelling Multiline poems are accompanied by a statement of historical and personal contents (or assumed knowledge thereof) Given the space and time constraint of couplets, contingent information may be withheld, thereby enabling a gnomic or proverbial tone NAṢĪB SAʿDALLĀH I have very little personal information regarding Naṣīb other than the fact that he was well known for his gnomic poetry (Ar ḥikma), that he lived in the district of Qishn, and that he was Mahri of African descent I do not know whether or not Naṣīb is still living NON-AFFILIATED MAHRA NON-TRIBAL OR TRIBAL DEPENDENTS Non-tribal Mahri speakers or tribal associates compose a substantial population of al-Mahra This category is quite diverse because there are a number of reasons why individuals or families may not possess a recognized tribal lineage In fact, many who belong to this category possess tribal lineages, but their clans have so few individuals that they have associated with other tribes for convenience and other services (mawālī) Many of the lineages within a tribe were no doubt once independent tribes that were subsumed by a larger tribe through marriage or for protection While mawālī claim all of the rights and responsibilities of tribesmen, they may not participate in the election of the leadership of their adoptive tribes Further, many tribesmen have turned to sharecropping due to economic hardship; this is particularly true along the banks of Wādī Masīla and its debouchment near Sayḥūt Having surrendered their economic autonomy to work for a wage, tribesmen who work in agriculture often surrender some of their social prestige as well Many contemporary Mahri speakers and citizens of al-Mahra are the descendants of East African slaves who were manumitted in 1967 or before Although the Afro-Mahra may lack a tribal lineage, this is not necessarily an obstacle to economic or political advancement Many currently occupy the important managerial and military roles in local government or have distinguished themselves in the cultural sphere Indeed, wealth cannot be correlated to social status in al-Mahra While many Afro-Mahra maintain close proximity with their former owners in the capacity of household retainers and agricultural laborers, others have departed for al-Ghaydha or have left al-Mahra entirely While tribal Mahra may disdain marriage with a Mahri of African descent, the opposite is also true because many Afro-Mahra consider tribal Mahra to be uncouth and poorly educated Afro-Mahra may not be viewed as inherently Mahri by tribal Mahra since they neither claim an indigenous lineage or speak a mixed Mahri-Haḍrami Arabic patois known dismissively as ẓanniyya This latter charge is dismissed by Afro-Mahra who indicate no linguistic differences between themselves and tribal Mahra Indeed, many of the last speakers of the critically endangered Hobyōt language are Afro-Mahra from Hawf who have preserved this language even though it has died out among indigenous Arabian families After the US Embassy bombings in Kenya in 1998, a small number of Mahra who were born and raised in East Africa were involuntarily repatriated to al-Mahra Many spoke Swahili and English more proficiently than either Mahri or Arabic, and they felt marginalized in al-Mahra due to their more cosmopolitan upbringing They were accepted by neither tribal Mahra nor Mahra of African descent, and many chafed at being “exiled” to Yemen Between al-Ghaydha proper and the neighboring village of ʿAbrī, there is a very poor district inhabited by destitute Yemenis who pursue low-caste occupations such trash disposal, musical performance, and butchering While a number were recent refugees from Somalia, many were not and appeared to be descendants of ʾakhdām or Banī Khums” who had settled in al-Mahra many decades, if not centuries, earlier UNSPECIFIED REFERENT Sentimental poems that do not name the object of affection may do so for two reasons The first is decorum in the relatively conservative, yet intimate, social context of Yemen and Oman, naming the object of one’s desire might put both the poet and subject at risk of social opprobrium It would be bad manners to publicly implicate another person in scandal, real or imagined At the same time, one should not imagine Mahri (or Arabian) society as more puritanical than it is desire in al-Mahra is not exclusively restricted to marital relations, and poignant and lighthearted poetic commentary on when this happens to be the case is not unheard of This is particularly true in the premodern era when mingling between men and women in public and private spaces was less sanctioned than it is nowadays (a consequence of the importation of Saudi/Gulf, urban cultural and religious values) For this reason, traditional sentimental poems are often more ribald than their contemporary counterparts Another cause for maintaining a non-specific referent in sentimental poetry is the imitation of modern Arabic cosmopolitan lyric poetry and pop culture Such poetry is divorced from the specificities of small town or village life and addresses love, heartache, longing, and desire from purely conceptual standpoint Love in general is the topic of contemporary lyric poetry, not love for a specific individual According to this mode of lyric poetry, named individuals detract from the universal ambitions of the poetic text The poems in the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn represent the culmination of this tendency only a single poem in the entire collection (“I Want to Ask at the Wedding Party”) hints at desire for an actual person In this way, non-specific referents in sentimental poems may mark the poet as belonging to a lyrical avant-garde, even as the personalized touch and regional specificity of the poem itself is lost in consequence NOTE ON TRANSCRIPTION When transcribing Arabic words and names – except for those that are broadly known in the English language – I have followed the system used in the Journal of Arabic Literature (Brill) since it achieves an appropriate balance between legibility to non-specialists and accuracy for specialists When transcribing Mahri words and names, I have followed the system used by linguists working in the field of comparative Semitics, as exemplified in the Journal of Semitic Linguistics (Oxford) and other recent publications on the Mahri language (Rubin, 2010 and Watson, 2012 for instance) The Arabic and Mahri transcriptions I have used can be compared in the table below, which also includes the International Phonetic Alphabet for reference Even though Arabic and Mahri share many phonetic correspondences due to their common Semitic origin, adopting a different system transcription for each acknowledges their status as distinct and non-mutually comprehensible languages Readers will find occasional discrepancies in the transcription of Mahri words, especially in the glossary portion of the site For one, Mahri speakers will occasionally use Arabic and Mahri words interchangeably, especially in the domain of place names For instance, the port that lies west of al-Ghaydha may be articulated in Arabic as Nishṭūn or in Mahri as Niśṭōn or Niśṭawn As indicated for the latter, dialectal difference plays a role in different realizations of the same word in the Mahri language Since there is no dictionary or citation version of the Mahri lexicon that native Mahri speakers might resort to, I have endeavored to represent words as I heard them without altering specific articulations in order to achieve conformity with a theoretical, historical form For instance, the voiced pharyngeal fricative ʿayin is lost or reduced in the Mahri dialects spoken in western al-Mahra As a result, words that ought to contain an ʿayin may be transcribed with or without one depending on how it was articulated at a specific moment in time However, in the glossary, the root that such a word is linked to may contain an ʿayin to acknowledge its historical presence The same holds true for different articulations of the Mahri phonemes /ḥ/ and /h/ and the occlusion of interdental phonemes in western Mahri individual words are transcribed as they were articulated but the roots listed in the glossary give the historical reconstruction Modern Standard Arabic Mahri Transliteration Transliteration IPA ʾ ʾ ʔ b b b t t t th ṯ θ j ǧ ʤ/g ḥ ḥ ħ kh ḫ χ d d d dh ḏ ð r r r z z z s s s sh š ʃ -- ś ɬ ṣ ṣ s’ ḍ ź ɬ’/ɮ ṭ ṭ t’ ẓ ṭ θ’ ʿ ʿ(rare, usually /ø/) ʕ gh ġ ɣ f f f q ḳ k l m m m n n n h h h w w w y y y ā/a ā/a ā/á ī/i ī/i ī/í ū/u ū/u ū/ú -- ē/e ē/é/e -- ō/o ō/ó -- ɛ̄ ɛ̄ -- ə ə NUṢṢ ḲṢĪDET Line Structure Hemistich Topic Sentimental, Specified and Unspecified Referent Length Multiline Monothematic Performance Recited and Sung Like the qaṣīda ghināʾiyya genre, the genre marked category of nuṣṣ ḳṣīdet is an oddity among the genre marked categories in this collection insofar as it has very little circulation outside of a small minority of Arabic-literate, Mahri cultural authorities based in al-Ghaydha I have included the phrase nuṣṣ ḳṣīdet in my classification system because it serves an important need to acknowledge a new type of Mahri lyric poem Ḥājj Dākōn coined this term in the early 2000s to describe a number of his lyric poems (Mhr ḳṣīdet < Ar qaṣīda) that followed a linear narrative (Ar nuṣṣ) While the term qaṣīda is used in Arabic sources to describe certain forms of Mahri lyric poetry, the borrowed term ḳṣīdet is rarely used by the Mahra themselves Instead, lyric poems are referred to by whatever melody accompanies them (yēd w-yēd, lawlā, dānidān, yā dānī, lōlewēt, etc ) Due to the multiplicity of melodies and their regional variations, referring to lyric poems by a melodic signature does not distinguish poems on topical or formal grounds The core of Ḥājj’s terminological innovation was to recognize that some of his lyric poems follow a linear narrative rather than explore or expand upon a single sentimental theme (desire, blame, description, etc ) In his view, this warranted the development of a new conceptual category for Mahri lyric poetry the nuṣṣ ḳṣīda Ḥājj’s terminology points to a fundamentally different treatment of poetic structure and thematic progression in his own compositions compared to those of an older generation of Mahri poets Since the label of nuṣṣ ḳṣīdet is not circulated outside of Ḥājj’s circle of colleagues, I have refrained from applying it to traditional lyric poems written by other poets Instead, I have identified as nuṣṣ ḳṣīdet only those lyric poems from Ḥājj’s Dīwān that he himself designated as such NUMBER OF SPEAKERS Due to permeable geographical, tribal, and linguistic boundaries, it is difficult to derive a precise figure for the number of Mahri speakers The Yemeni Central Statistical Organization (CSO) sets the population of Governate of al-Mahra at 105,000 individuals in 2010 This figure does not distinguish between Mahri speakers and Arabic monolinguals living in the Governorate of al-Mahra According to the CSO’s data, the number of Mahri speakers in Yemen would be substantially lower than what I have proposed elsewhere (187,000 speakers in Liebhaber, 2011b 252) My estimate is based on population numbers and growth rates provided by al-ʾAhdal (al-ʾAhdal, 1999 12) and al-Qumayrī (al-Qumayrī, 2000 30), although neither al-ʾAhdal nor al-Qumayrī cite the provenance of their data Neither the CSO’s nor my calculations take Omani Mahri speakers or Mahri speakers living in the diaspora into account; both populations would significantly increase the overall number of Mahri speakers (although perhaps not double them) An approximate figure of 100,000 Mahri speakers has been suggested by Anda Hofstede and Marie Claude Simeone-Senelle (Simeone-Senelle, 1997a 378), as well as Aaron Rubin (Rubin, 2010 1) The Ethnologue online entry for ISO 639-3 gdq (“Mehri”) gives a figure of 70,643 Mahri speakers in Yemen and 135,764 Mahri speakers worldwide in 2000 These figures fall within a reasonable range, although the methodologies by which they were calculated are not indicated O MY EYES, HOW CAN THEY SLEEP? Poem #18 from the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at home, al-Ghaydha, May 2004 ʾāynī hōh hībōh tšekf w-tettōna eššənēt O my eyes, how can they sleep and enjoy their slumber we-ḥrōhī leṯḳōl źār [sic ṯ̣ār] essōf w-māmdēt Or my head rest heavily on the wool [cushions] and pillows w-ǧūrē men eǧenbeyn ḏe-ṭwīlem be-ssəmrēt While my neighbours on either side continue their soirée? effəṭeynem tī mḥab bāl ebōl w-nūmsēt They make me think about my beloved the possessor of a good head and artful tastes, ṭēba w-meḏhēbeh ġeyr w-āśḳeth we-fḫərēt Her disposition and style are without compare and so are her passion and her bearing wēt essōṭer w-ettəlīl ḫā ḳrūh men eḫtəmēt When she phrases her speech or recites a verse it is like someone reading from the Final Revelation; yeḥḥəyūwī ḏ-heh mrīź be–hhergeth w-źeḥkēt She brings the sick back to health with her voice and her laugh heǧs yeḳtəlīben beh be-rḥōyeb ḏ-ġarbēt My mind is preoccupied with her living in faraway lands we-ymōh fḳedk teh we-nhōr hnī snēt Today I miss her and each day for me is like a year w-ḏe-ḥawseb kel yawm le-wṣōleh ke-ʾabrēt Since I count every day for her arrival by car, boat or plane reyteh heh leḳā hnī we-mnāʾī w-nāmēt If only she were with me my hope and my grace! ār mnē ḏ-maḫḫəlīḳ tesyīren teh ḳadrēt But the desires of men walk with Fate O MY LOVE, IF ONLY YOU KNEW Poem #4 in the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recitation by Ḥājj Dākōn, recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, October 7, 2003 Recitation by Ḥājj Dākōn, recorded by Sam Liebhaber at the Khalīj Hotel, al-Ghaydha, October 7, 2003 wā mḥab w-lū tdā be-śśəǧwēʾī w-sebbēt O my love, if only you knew my distress and shame! men ʾāǧēbek ḏe-wnūn hēs ebāl emuhsēt I moan from loving you like someone with malaria šī kḏē kḏē ʾāṣūr l-ād dġafk eššənēt I have had so many nights in which I never tasted sleep, ḳōtī hebġaźk tēs we-ṣḳamk enfəsēt I find my food loathsome and I’ve starved my body we-ḥmō eṭamh ṣam wēt ʾeṭafk ʾāṭəfēt And water tastes bitter when I drink a draught of it ʾāddem hī kettūbet kel we-ṭbōbet ḏ-reḥbēt All the amulet-writers have already [treated] me and so too the doctors of the town we-ḏ-nūka yefkūr be-mrēźī w-ʾāllēt But whoever comes ponders my illness and malady ʾān fḥāsem lī ǧhāz ǧeḥdīhem we-bhēt If they check me with a device it fails them and gives no answer w-ān ġlōḳem lī hāyōm šeḳśīr men emənnēt If they observe me for a few days they are stripped of hope ṣawbī tṣyidh lā lā brāh w-lā ḥebbēt Nothing helps my affliction neither shots nor pills wel ynōka beh ktōb ġeyr ereḥmōn w-hēt No amulet comes [to cure it] only the Merciful or you hēt tḥāmī hōh leḥyē ʾaw tḥāmī hōh lemēt Either you want me to live or you want me to die ḪOB ʿEYN ḎE-ḤSŪD The first stich of this line is a common idiom, ḫob ʾeyn ḏe-ḥsūd, meaning (literally) “stick it in the eye of the envious ” OCCASIONAL Poems that take a specific event or celebration as their inspiration are classified as occasional poems Such poems are generally aimed at a public audience and thus assume a degree of self-confidence on the part of the poet as both an artist and a public figure Poems marked as occasional have varying degrees of “occasionally”; some verge on the sentimental in the same way that many sentimental poems verge on the the occasional Poems appertaining to certain marked genres such the tribal historical ode (ōdī we-krēm krēm) and dueling couplets (reǧzīt) are unambiguously occasional, because poems belonging to these genres articulate a collective response to a specific act (a murder, theft, boundary dispute, etc ) Moreover, poems that serve a ceremonial role in public celebrations (such as weddings, religious festivals, tribal assemblies, etc ) are classified as occasional since their relevance and function are tied to a specific set of circumstances even if the poetic lines themselves do not make direct reference to them (such as collective reǧzīt) As a rule, poems that are composed to articulate a collective response to an incident or ceremony will eschew sentimental content; the collective pose adopted by the poet is incompatible with personal reflection Poems in which the poet does not assume the role of spokesperson for broader social unit—that is, poems that deal with a specific incident from an individual standpoint—may take on a sentimental hue This is the case for most of the poems in this collection that were classified by my Mahri consultants as occasional poems Thus, a poem conceived as a response to a specific event will be understood as an occasional poem even if it provokes sentimental reflection further on in the compositional process PERFORMANCE TYPE The type of performance that was recorded for each poem in this archive was often a matter of chance because it depended on where and when I happened to run across a Mahri speaker willing to share poetry with me In a few cases, I was lucky enough to be present at weddings to witness the exchange of chanted reǧzīt couplets (reǧzīt maydānī) At other times, I was able to record a particularly gifted singer performing poems according to their traditional melodies More often than not, poets responded to my requests for a poem with a non-melodized recitation The fact that the recording of a poem in this archive happens to be recited (rather than sung or chanted) does not mean that the poem may only be recited In fact, every Mahri poem can be sung regardless of length or subject matter Chanted verse, on the other hand, tends to be limited to couplets (reǧzīt or dāndān) that can be performed collectively Certain types of poem can only be sung; these are work, celebratory, or ritual songs and are closely associated with repetitive tasks Due to their association with a particular activity (wedding parties, inciting a camel to trot more quickly, or weaving tent fabric), they are rarely performed outside of their specific performance context Because collective chanting requires a great deal of social and aesthetic coordination, this mode of performance tends to evoke the greatest degree of esteem among native audiences It is the most socially charged mode of poetic performance and is linked to the prestigious genres of Mahri poetry reǧzīt maydānī and chanted dāndān The topic of collectively chanted poetry is always occasional and meant for public display because the poems are meant to affirm the political, linguistic, and kinship ties of its participants Because the practice of chanted couplets is tied to the prerevolutionary social order of al-Mahra, collective chants are rarely heard outside of wedding celebrations in present-day al-Mahra For instance, disputes are more likely to be mediated in a court of law than through tribal arbitration, which formerly involved the disputants chanting poetic couplets as a tribal assembly came to order POEM IN HOBYOT? Recited by ʿĪsā ʿAlī Raʿfīt and composed by ʿĪsā’s mother’s father, ʾAḥmad Sālim bir Raʿfīt Recorded by Sam Liebhaber in Damḳawt, March 2004, and translated with the help of Muḥammad bir Nǧēma Āmr Ǧīd and Saʿīd Musallim Āmr Ǧīd, in Ṣalālah, February 2012 These are the first few lines of a longer poem (note the defective rhyme pattern) ʿĪsā ʿAlī Raʿfīt and my two consultants (Muḥammad bir Nǧēma and Saʿīd Musallim) said that this poem is in the Hobyot language, although the features that distinguish this poem as being in Hobyot appear to be linked to the prosodic qualities of the recitation (Ar al-ʾadāh) rather with any particular lexical or grammatical characteristics Except for these lines of poetry, my attempts to solicit poetry in the critically endangered (if not moribund) Hobyot language were typically rejected on the grounds that Hobyot speakers only composed poetry in the Mahri language Recitation by ʿĪsā ʿAlī Raʿfīt ṭalʿāt ġallōt ṭer ḥadb ʾālī The monsoonal fog arises atop the lofty mountain men śont eǧīd ameḳźānot For the sake of the beautiful one [my] darling cutie-pie maḳźayf le-lbīb l-šebdānot Taking control of my heart and my little liver RACE RELATIONS IN AL-MAHRA An exchange of couplets and poetic lines initiated by Naṣīb bir Saʿdallāh, a Mahri of African descent Naṣīb had worked as one of three men on a fishing crew, but when they sold their catch, he received a lesser share as though he was one of “nine men ” He complains about this and engages in a poetic exchange with one of his fellow workers These lines were recited to me by Suhayl Zaʿbenōt, al-Ghaydha, July 2008 No recording is available NAṢĪB wet hēl taḳṣīm baḥretyen seyt At the time of dividing the spoils, [there are] nine fishermen w-rikḥ ykūn ār ṭār śāṯeyt Although the labor was upon the backs of three ONE OF HIS FELLOW LABORERS, A BEDOUIN FROM THE TRIBE OF ZAʿBENŌT TRANSLATION w-sōlem nṣeyb eġeyǧ effəreyt God bless Naṣīb, a clever man nḥamk tetrēk eʾeyd eḳśeyt We want you to leave off [working with] dried sardines ḏel mens medḫōl wel ḥōlet nfeyt There’s no income in it and it doesn’t profit [your] circumstances yā reytek hnēn tešǧeywer wḳeyt Why don’t you settle down with us as our neighbor for awhile le-ḥmō ḏ-ḥebrūt we-mḥallet ḏ-śeyt At the water of Ḥabarūt and the abode of Wādī Śeyt? NAṢĪB RESPONDS TRANSLATION ḏ-ār hōh ḫwefk w-fezʾak ṭeyt But I’m frightened and scared about one [thing] ḏel šī dlīl lew-ḥaydī ḳśeyt Which is that I have no guide and my hand is “dry” [empty] wet eneddeh emāz ṣebbetsen ṭeyt When the shepherdesses take the goat flocks out to pasture, they are all of one type trebten ḏerf we-dḥōr ḫūṭeyt Tightly arranged [against even] a fleabite and they head-butt the [goat] from another flock THE PRE-ISLAMIC PERIOD The Mahra first appear in the historical record thanks to an Ancient South Arabian (specifically, Ḥaḍramitic) inscription composed in the monumental musnad script The text, JA 954/RÉS 4877, is located among a cluster of epigraphs first photographed in al-ʿUqla in the Governorate of Shabwa by Harry St John Philby in 1936 (Jamme, 1963 3) and mentions a Mahri leader “Šahrum, son of Wāʾilum, chief [kbr] of the Mahra [ʾmhrn]” (Müller, 2012) Epigraphic references to the Mahra are rare because the practice of composing monumental epigraphs common to pre-Islamic Yemen did not extend east of Ḥaḍramawt (with the exception of the ancient Ḥaḍramī trading outpost of SMHRM, 40 km east of Ṣalāla) For this reason, the deserts and coasts of al-Mahra lack the epigraphic texts that would otherwise shed light on its pre-Islamic history Al-Mahra and the province of Dhofār are fairly abundant in short graffiti; however, their translation has resisted the efforts of paleographers (al-Shaḥrī, 1994) The fact that JA954/RÉS 4877 references a communal identity—“the Mahra”—is remarkable Even though Mahri-speaking tribes are reckoned as a single unit outside of their local context (as was the case during the Islamic conquest of Egypt and North Africa), a collective Mahri identity in the pre-modern era only exists when projected onto them by outsiders such as Arab monolinguals or non-Arab visitors to al-Mahra In the republican and current post-republican era, a communal Yemeni Mahri identity that embraces all speakers of the Mahri language has been claimed by many Mahra; this, however, is different in scope from the effective boundaries of the ʿAfrārī Sultanate of Qishn and Soqōṭrā in the 19th and first half of the 20th century, which only claimed the fealty of the Mahri speaking population of the western half of the current Governorate of al-Mahra in Yemen and the island of Soqōṭrā Until very recently, reference to a single community of Mahri speakers (“the Mahra”) was not commonly heard within al-Mahra itself; instead, specific tribal or geographical origins were more pertinent descriptors of identity for Mahri-language speakers As a result, usage of the collective label the Mahra may be symptomatic of Arabic monolinguals who are not personally familiar with the territory inhabited by Mahri speakers; this may have been the case for JA 954/RÉS 4877 which preserves an outsider s perspective on the Mahri social and political order One alternative to this possibility is that “Šahrum, son of Wāʾilum” was indeed the leader of a closely affiliated community of Mahri speakers, the Mahra, that would dissolve into distinct and differentiated tribes by the first centuries of the Islamic period One final possibility is that the term “the Mahra” refers to their geographical origin the Wādī Mahrūt, which lies inland of the modern town of al-Ghaydha, or perhaps, as Walter Müller suggests, Burkat al-ʾAmhār, which lies in the neighborhood of al-Ghaydha (Müller, 2012) In this case, we should understand the label the Mahra in a narrow geographical sense, devoid of the ethnic, political, and linguistic communitarian dimensions that would accrue to it later during the Islamic era One final element of intrigue in this inscription involves the name of the leader of the Mahra “Šahrum” (ŠHRM) son of Wāʾilum (W ʾ L M ) ” Leaving aside the word-final mimation (an attribute of the epigraphic South Arabian written tradition, for which see Beeston, 1984 30), the name “Wāʾil” raises no Mahra-specific connotations, being fairly common in other Central Semitic languages “Šahrum,” on the other hand, evokes a constellation of nomenclature related to al-Mahra Šaḫrīt, the leader of the Banī Šaḫrah (an early confederacy within the Mahra referenced by the Arab historian al-Ṭabarī), the town of al-Shiḥr, used historically as a metonym for al-Mahra (see al-Hamdānī, 1974 277), the name of the related Śḥēri language of Dhofār spoken by the inhabitants of its coastal uplands (śḥēr in Mahri and Śḥērī), and finally the Šarāwaḥ (Mhr Śreyḥī) tribal confederacy described in more recent treatments of al-Mahra (Bākrīt, 1999 37; al-Qumayrī, 2003 9-10; al-ʾAhdal, 1999 80-81) The substitution of Arabic /š/ for Modern South Arabian /ś/is typical in speech and writing for Arabic monolinguals since the latter phoneme is absent in Arabic The variation of /h/, /ḥ/, and /ḫ/ may be a function of the non-equivalent articulation of these three phonemes in Arabic and the Modern South Arabian languages; that is, /h/ is articulated closer to a /ḥ/ in Mahri while /ḥ/ is articulated more closely to /ḫ/, leading, in my experience, to overlapping perceptions among the three phonemes when they are acoustically parsed by Arabic monolinguals Other than the metathesis of /r/ and /ḥ/ in the final example, a common phonetic pattern lies at heart of this cluster of nomenclatures—root {Š/Ś} {Ḫ/Ḥ/H} R —suggesting a conflation of territory, tribal names, and preeminent individuals at some point in the prehistory of the Mahra While the label “the Mahra” may have originated as a limited geographical designation, overlapping nomenclatures derived from the root /{Š/Ś} {Ḫ/Ḥ/H} R / hints at an unitarian identity for the non–Arabic speaking inhabitants of the South Arabian interior and coast from Wādī Masīla in the west to the Jibāl al-Qamar in Dhofār to the east QAṢĪDA GHINĀʾIYYA (“SUNG POEM”) The qaṣīda ghināʾiyya is a fairly recent phenomenon and largely imitative of cosmopolitan Yemeni sung poetry Unlike the other genres contained in this collection, the qaṣīda ghināʾiyya would not be recognized as a genre as such by most Mahri speakers Rather, it is only recognized by the cultural elite of al-Mahra, particularly its younger, more outward-looking poets For a detailed analysis of this genre of Mahri poetry, see Liebhaber, 2011b The district of Qishn is named after al-Mahra’s second largest and historically most significant city Qishn The district of Qishn is bounded by the mountainous spine of Raʾs Darja to the east and by Raʾs Sharwīn to the west While these two steep ridges sheltered Qishn from hostile incursions during the premodern era (with the exception of the Kathīrī occupation in the sixteenth century CE), the lack of any paved roads to Qishn until 2005 kept it isolated from economic development during the first three decades of the republican era For this reason, Qishn was one of the last redoubts of the Yemeni Socialist Party after Yemeni unification, and, despite its geographical and economic disadvantages, it enjoyed effective local governance and a strong commitment to education for its young boys and girls alike The district of Qishn extends inland as far as the divide that separates the watershed of Wādī Źḥawn from Qishn’s inland watershed to the north and the divide that separates the watershed of Wādī Masīla from Qishn and the rest of al-Mahra to the east Qishn is the primary residence of the Āl ʿAfrār lineage, even though the actual capital of the ʿAfrārī sulṭānate was relocated to Hadiboh (also called Tamarida) on the island of Soqōṭrā in the late nineteenth century Except for a period of Kathīrī occupation during the sixteenth century CE, Qishn was the economic and political center of al-Mahra and hosted a regular tribal assembly To this day, it shows traces of its former wealth and prestige in its large, well-appointed (if slightly decayed) homes and mosques and the outlines of its ample agricultural plots and date palm groves worked by former slaves Qishn was also the chief transfer point for goods moving to and from Soqōṭrā Echoing its politically significant past, an older generation of Qishnites can recall a significant amount of Arabic and Mahri poetry that related to the political and diplomatic functions of the ʿAfrārī state Composers and transmitters of traditional political and tribal poems that have elsewhere been forgotten exist in high numbers in Qishn For this reason, the native inhabitants of Qishn are commonly regarded across al-Mahra as being particularly eloquent The chief tribal lineages of Qishn are Āl ʿAfrār, Ǧeydeḥ (Ar Jidḥī), Ḥrēzī, Ḳamṣeyt and the mšōyekh lineage Bā ʿAbduh, which supplied the ʿAfrārī sulṭānate with its judges RAĠBŌN BIRT SAʿĪD ḤAWR Approximately sixty-five to seventy years old, Raġbōn birt Saʿīd Ḥawr is an exceptional poet and transmitter of poetry, as well as an excellent raconteur of stories and jokes She lives in the mountains of Ḥawf with a magnificent view of the coast and the sea RECITATION Recited performances of Mahri poems are those that are neither sung nor chanted collectively Recited performances carry none of the social significance that collective chants do, nor are they esteemed as aesthetic acts as sung poems are Mahra will generally respond to a request to deliver a poem with a recitation, since it is the easiest and quickest way to satisfy the curiosity of a foreign researcher A poem that is recited in the absence of melody may be referred to using the Arabic word ​nathr (“scattered” or “disorganized”), also the term for literary prose in Arabic Arabic nathr stands in contrast with Arabic shiʿr (“poetry”) which, thanks to its conventions of monorhyme and isometric lines, is granted a greater share of esteem in premodern estimations of literary significance The implication behind labelling a recited performance of Mahri poetry as nathr is that its social significance and aesthetic power are less than a sung or rhythmically chanted performance of the same poem Despite the fact that recitations do not carry the same degree of prestige that collective and sung performances do, certain Mahri virtuosos are distinguished by their ability to recite incredible amounts of Mahri poetry at high speeds Such performances, however, are meant to display the remarkable memory of the transmitter rather than the aesthetic or historical merit of individual poems Ideally, no poem in Mahri should be recited because all Mahri poems may be sung, and singing is the most aesthetically appreciated mode of performance However, due to the constraints of time and singing ability, most Mahra settle on recitations in informal settings It is how the bulk of Mahri poems are performed and heard by Mahri audiences a quick recital for entertaining or social instruction The regional divisions listed below follow the official administrative districts (Ar mudīriyyāt) of al-Mahra, including Dhofār in the Sultanate of Oman The administrative districts of al-Mahra reflect general geographical and socioeconomic blocs; their boundaries occasionally track along tribal and linguistic distinctions as well REǦZĪT Most Mahra use the term reǧzīt to refer to any couplet of poetry composed of triptych lines; however, this term more accurately refers to the two performative modes of tristich couplets collective (Ar maydānī) performances and individual exchanges (Ar maraddāt) Reǧzīt couplets are highly valued in al-Mahra; moreover, they have a long history of use in al-Mahra To quote the Ḥaḍramī scholar Muḥsin Āl Ḥafīẓ “If the Mahra takes pride in one particular aspect of their heritage, it is the art of the rajaz which they possess and which holds a special place and consideration in their consciousness (fī nafsiyyātihim)” (Āl Ḥafīz, 1987 68) Since reǧzīt couplets are composed of tristich lines, they are unique to al-Mahra in structural terms However, similar genres of exchanged poetic couplet are well known in the vernacular poetic traditions of southern Arabia and many bear a name that is cognate with Mahri reǧzīt For instance, the rajza (alternately known as marjaz, mirjūza, or mirjāza) are attested forms of vernacular poetry from Ḥaḍramawt that are identical to the Mahri reǧzīt in terms of their performance and social function (Landberg, 1920–42, vol 2 1135-36) Mahri reǧzīt and Ḥaḍramī Arabic rajza are clearly cognate with standard/literary Arabic rajaz, a literary poetic form consisting of monostich lines (rather than hemistich lines) and possessing its own characteristic meter There is a remarkable discrepancy in the social and aesthetic status between Mahri reǧzīt, which is viewed as one the most elegant and formal of Mahri poetic modes, and Arabic rajaz, which engenders none of the merit and prestige accorded to the more prestigious literary genre the qaṣīda This discrepancy is almost certainly the result of the intervention of a literary poetic practice and aesthetic valuation in the Arab world after the seventh century CE that favored the more formally complex qaṣīda (composed in hemistichs) In the absence of a literary standard, Mahri poets and audiences continue to hold the reǧzīt in high regard; no literary genres have yet evolved to challenge its primacy ḲRĀṬĀS MAʿWĪḎ Ḳrāṭās Maʿwīḏ is well known in Dhofār and al-Mahra for the efficacy of his therapeutic and medicinal chants (hāmōt for fevers and possession and rābūt/raʿbūt/rābōt for snakebites) Ḳrāṭās Maʿwīḏ is from Dhofār I have no further specific information about him LINE 4, I THINK THEY ATE MY COW According to Muhammad bir Ngēma, Ryēm is the homeland of the Banu Riyām, one of the most important tribes of Oman (Riyām b al-Qamar b al-Āmirī b Mahra b Ḥaydān) Enśəġeyr is the name of a mountainous region that faces the peak of Ryēm The poet wishes that the news of his sick cow had reached someone living in Ryēm who would then climb to Ryēm’s peak and announce it to the poet’s people living in Enśəġeyr ʿĪSĀ BIR ʿALĪ BIR RAʿFĪT I have no personal information regarding ʿĪsā bir ʿAlī bir Raʿfīt except for the fact that he is middle-aged, lives in Damḳawt and was able to recite a few lines of poetry in the Hobyot language (although the degree to which the poem is actually in the Hobyot language may be debated) I recorded two short poems in the Mahri language recited by ʿĪsā bir ʿAlī bir Raʿfīt, plus the lines of alleged Hobyot poetry linked to below ʿĪSĀ BIR ʾAḤMAD BIR ʿĪSĀ AL-QUMAYRĪ (“ʿĪSĀ KEDḤAYT”) ʿĪsā Kedḥayt (b ca 1945, from Jāḏeb) is a highly regarded poet whose works are characterized by a lighthearted tone even when he deals with serious topics Many of the poems that ʿĪsā related (I recorded nine poems composed by him) poked fun at his age and weight or were done in a mock-epic style; his poems always provoked laughter from his audience ʿĪsā Kedḥayt’s comic touch belies the gravity of his social status ʿĪsā Kedḥayt was appointed as a local judge for the district of Ḥawf under the PDRY and was famous for rendering his judgements in verse SACERDOTAL AND TRADE LINEAGES There are a number of indigenous lineages parallel to the primary tribal lineages Individuals who claim such a lineage are not perceived as appertaining to a tribe; however, since many of the lineages are associated with a specific trade or sacerdotal duties, they are accorded varying degrees of respect and honor in al-Mahra For instance, membership to a few indigenous, non-tribal lineages confers on their members the title of mšōyeḫ, an honor accorded to them at birth The mšōyeḫ generally practice endogamy to preserve the unity of their aristocratic lineage and follow their own particular customs in marriage and other socioreligious observances The mšōyeḫ are treated with respect across al-Mahra and have amassed social and economic capital through their work as merchants, ship captains, and navigators The chief lineages of mšōyeḫ in al-Mahra are Āl Bā ʿAbduh, Āl Bākrīt, Āl Bā Ḥamīd, Āl Bā ʿIbād, and Āl Bā Ghashwa The maintenance of shrines and graves dedicated to saints (Ar wālī, pl ʾawliyāʾ) has traditionally fallen on the lineage of Belḥāf, which is variably understood to be both a tribe and a sacerdotal clan Because the guardians of shrines frequently oversaw oath-taking rituals, the Belḥāf lineage carries a degree of veneration among the Mahra Frequently called up to provide objective judgement in disputes between tribes or to provide religious guidance, members of the hereditary caste of ʾashrāf, known elsewhere in the Islamic world as “sayyids” (Ar sāda), maintain their venerable status through their reputation for moral integrity and religious knowledge Unlike the mšōyeḫ, the ʾashrāf express their lineage not from one of the indigenous tribes of al-Mahra but from the Hashimite lineage of ʿAlawī bin ʿAbdallāh bin al-Sayyid ʾAḥmad bin ʿIsā al-Muhājir Like the mšōyeḫ, the ʾashrāf practice endogamy and follow their own rites in marriage The ʾashrāf have historically owned land or been closely involved in trade and commerce in al-Mahra, whence they derive their primary income Many of the ʾashrāf lineages listed below (from al-ʾAhdal, 1999 82) are found across southern Arabia and Oman; many of the ʾashrāf lineages in al-Mahra are found with particular frequency in Haḍramawt Name of Lineage Place of Residence Āl Bayt ʿAlī al-Ghaydha Āl Bayt al-Saqqāf al-Ghaydha Āl Bayt Ḥafīẓ al-Ghaydha Āl Bayt Ḥurūf Bā ʿAbbūd al-Ghaydha Āl Bayt Mazraʿ Bā ʿAbbūd al-Ghaydha Āl ʿAlī bin Muḥammad al-Ghaydha Āl Bā ʿAmr Ḥawf Āl Ibrāhīm Ḥawf Āl al-Bayḍ Ḥawf Āl al-Jīlānī Ḥawf, Qishn Āl al-Miḥḍār Qishn Āl al-Ḥāmid Qishn, Sayḥūt Āl Duwaylah Sayḥūt Āl al-Jifrī Sayḥūt Āl al-Miqdī Sayḥūt Āl al-Sayyid Shaykh Sayḥūt Āl Bā ʿAlawī Sayḥūt Āl al-Shaykh Sayḥūt Less venerable, non-tribal lineages appertain to specific, specialized trades For instance, qarawīyīn lineages are believed to originate from Haḍramawt and are associated with skilled trades such as carpentry, house construction, and fashioning jewelry Karrānī families supplied the literate clerks critical to the business and administrative functions in al-Mahra Although they did not attract the same aura of veneration granted to the sacerdotal lineages, karrānīs were deeply important in the political administration of the ʿAfrārī sulṭānate In fact, some Mahra have speculated that the ʿAfrārīs themselves were originally karrānīs who, thanks to their literacy and education, assumed the chief political function of governance in al-Mahra SAʿĪD BIR LAʿṬAYṬ AL-JIDḤĪ (ǦĒDEḤ) Bir Laʿṭayṭ (deceased) was one of al-Mahra’s most famous poets from the prerevolutionary era I was unable to determine the precise dates of his birth or death, although my consultants generally agreed that he died after the conclusion of the First World War but many years before the 1967 revolution in South Yemen According to my consultants, Bir Laʿṭayṭ emigrated to Kuwait and Bahrain to work, presumably during in the interwar period Therefore, one can assume that he was in his late teens to thirties in the period between 1918 and 1939 This would place his birth at the turn of the century and his death in the 1950s (Liebhaber, 2013 123) SAM LIEBHABER Sam Liebhaber received his MA degree in comparative Semitics (2000) and his PhD in Arabic literature from the University of California, Berkeley (2007) Sam has extensive fieldwork experience in Eastern Yemen and Dhofar where he has documented the oral poetic traditions of the Mahra, a community of bedouin pastoralists who speak an endangered language that predates the arrival of Arabic to southern Arabia In addition to publications on Yemeni poetry and the linguistic anthropology of the Mahri language, Sam has scholarly interests in classical Arabic literature, comparative Semitics, bedouin vernacular poetry, and the language minority communities of the Middle East and North Africa Contact info Curriculum Vitae SAMʿĪ(N) All poems belonging to the samʿīn genre have the following parameters Line Structure Tristich Topic Occasional Length Multiline Polythematic Performance Sung On paper, samʿī poems (also called samʿīn) are virtually indistinguishable from ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems since they are also composed of monorhymed tristich lines and address tribal conflicts and historical events There may be more topical flexibility with regard to the samʿī category one samʿī poem that I recorded (initially commissioned for my fiancée) was moderately lyrical This may have been an exception to the rule Formally speaking, samʿī poems are distinct from ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems with respect to syllable count there are five syllables per stich in samʿī poems, whereas there are seven syllables per stich in ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems This means that both marked genres are distinguished by their signature melodies; the melody characteristic of samʿī poems cannot be applied to an ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poem and vice versa Unlike ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems (which are lexically distinct from other poetic genres thanks to some variation of the phrase ʾōdī we-krēm krēm embedded within it), the samʿī genre is exclusively marked by its signature melody If a samʿī poem is recited, it loses its genre specificity Unlike the other named melodies, however, the samʿī melody is recognized across al-Mahra and does not significantly vary from region to region Like the melody of the ʾōdī we-krēm krēm genre, the samʿī melody is a pan-Mahri cultural practice and exists as a common conceptual category among Mahri speakers from Dhofār to Sayḥūt For this reason, I have listed it among the genre marked categories Sayḥūt and Wādī Masīla are the westernmost provinces of al-Mahra Although these districts were critically important in al-Mahra’s premodern history as a staging ground for Mahri territorial ambitions to the west (which reached as far as al-Shiḥr) and were contested turf between the ʿAfrārī sulṭānate and their Kathīrī rivals from Ḥaḍramawt, the districts of Sayḥūt and Wādī Masīla remained decidedly peripheral to al-Mahra through the early 2000s (until construction on a paved road linking Sayḥūt, Qishn, and al-Ghaydha was completed in 2004) The inhabitants of these two districts orient more toward the Governorate of Ḥaḍramawt and its cities of al-Shiḥr, Dīs, and al-Mukallā than to Qishn or al-Ghaydha in al-Mahra Because the coastal road from Sayḥūt to Qishn was paved in 2004 and tunnels bored through coastal mountains, greater commerce between far western al-Mahra and the central coast of al-Mahra may restore the formerly close ties between the far western districts and the rest of the governorate to which they belong As a result, I met no Mahri speakers from Sayḥūt or Wādī Masīla during my fieldwork in al-Ghaydha, even during trips to the westerly district of Qishn I have no specimens of poetry from the far western districts with the possible exception of “Tea With Milk” (see below) which was composed by Muḥammad Sālim al-Jidḥī when he passed through Sayḥūt on his way back home to Qishn My consultants from Qishn and al-Ghaydha claimed that the Mahri-speaking population of Sayḥūt and Wādī Masīla is composed largely of the descendants of African slaves who do not speak “proper” Mahri but rather a mixed Ḥaḍrami Arabic-Mahri creole they referred to (in Arabic) as ẓanniyya This term was generally used to describe any mixed Arabic-Mahri dialect spoken by non-indigenous residents of al-Mahra and was often associated with low social status Due to the prevalence of agriculture in Sayḥūt and Wādī Masīla, it is possible that Afro-Mahra do comprise a significant percentage of the local population, although linguistic performance judgements by native speakers tend to be clouded by racial and socioeconomic factors However, it is possible that traditional Mahri poetics is simply not as prevalent in the far western districts as it is elsewhere in al-Mahra, and that its inhabitants prefer composing poetry in Ḥaḍrami-dialectal Arabic The chief tribes of Sayḥūt and Wādī Masīla are the Zwēdī (who share a linked history with the Āl ʿAfrār), Āl ʿAḳīd, Āl Mḥāmed, Bayt ʿAršī, and Bayt Ḳamṣeyt The chief mšōyekh lineages of Sayḥūt and Wādī Masīla are Āl Bākrīt and Āl Bā ʿAbūd SĀD SHEYL Sād Sheyl is an older Mahri poet and rāwī living in the mountains above Ḥawf A seasonal pastoralist, I was lucky to find Sād Sheyl at one of his smaller camps late at night, and he was willing to recite and discuss Mahri poetry despite my unexpected visit in the middle of the night Sād Sheyl is a prolific poet and transmitter of Mahri poetry and an excellent raconteur of stories and jokes I recorded approximately forty minutes of Sād Sheyl reciting stories and poems, both composed by himself and by others Sād Sheyl prefers poems in the lighter vein and recalled many poetic exchanges between himself and the other inhabitants of the coastal range of Ḥawf SENTIMENTAL Sentimental poems reflect the interior state of an individual whose ruminations, psychic turmoil, and emotional agitation may have no bearing on the broader circle of the poet’s kin, friends, associates, or tribe Strictly sentimental poems are, for the most part, recent compositions that imitate Arabic lyric poetry Such poems are adverse to political commitment, and their sentimentality may reach such a degree of detachment from exterior reality that the object of the poet’s desire is rendered solely in the abstract Virtually all of the poems in The Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn adhere to this sentimental maximalism Traditional sentimental poetry may not be as circumspect; the object of the poet’s affection or the cause of his or her distress is often explicitly named by older poets or those who maintain a more traditional poetic praxis Traditional lyric poetry in al-Mahra may combine elements of occasionality and sentiment, thereby rendering a strict separation between the two categories difficult to discern For instance, the poem “Homesick in Najrān” expresses a father’s longing for his two sons who left him in Najrān in order to visit relatives in al-Mahra The poet retraces their route from Najrān to Wādī Ǧēza in central al-Mahra, the core territory of the tribe of Kalšāt Toward the end of the poem, the poet alludes to a specific event the kidnapping and murder of a man from Kalšāt by tribesmen from Maʾrib in northern Yemen This crime likely precipitated the sons’ return to al-Mahra in order to defend their kin and avenge the murder The tone of this poem shifts from lyric sentimentality to the cadence of tribal historical odes (the ōdī we-krēm krēm genre in particular) This poem clearly crosses the dividing line between sentiment and occasion This is the case for another poem, “Hays and the Saudi Prince,” which opens as a typical šemrēt poem parental praise for a young girl By virtue of their topic, šemrēt poems are intrinsically sentimental However, at the hands of Mahri poet Muḥammad bir Marṭayf, the topic of Hays’ marriage to a Saudi prince is elevated to the national and political stage and verges into the realm of occasionality (despite the fact that the occasion is treated in a fantastical manner) Finally, tribal historical odes always begin with a description of the poet’s emotional tumult, occasioned by an egregious violation to tribal custom (Ar ʿurf) In this way, the events described in tribal historical odes are almost always bracketed by sentimental thematic formulas In the same manner as poems classified as occasional, the decision to classify poems as sentimental appears to lie with the initial creative inspiration and not necessarily with the final poetic outcome One general tendency for sentimental poems can be noted Whereas most traditional sentimental poems integrate occasional elements, we can discern a recent tendency to compose lyric poems that are strictly sentimental and eschew historical and political content Such poems are, for the most part, modeled after cosmopolitan, Arabic lyric poems and songs In this way, the sentimental category is becoming clearly defined among a younger generation of Mahra as contemporary Arabic popular culture becomes ever more entrenched in listening and viewing habits SHE S A WORK OF ART Composed and recited by Sād Sheyl, recorded by Sam Liebhaber at one of Sād’s seasonal camp sites in the mountains (śḥēr) above Ḥawf, March 2004 Translated with the help of Muḥammad bir Nǧēma ʾĀmr Ǧīd al-Mahri in Ṣalālah, February 2012 The following poem is fairly self-explanatory the poet describes his regard for “the daughter of Fʾāmōn” Fann Fann is an Arabic word meaning “art”; there is abundant wordplay in this poem between her personal name and the meaning of her name in Arabic Words or phrases in boldface presented some difficulty to myself or Muḥammad bir Nǧēma Recitation by Sād Sheyl ǧānī ḥyōm ǧzawt teḳyīd The sun has begun to set it has reached the horizon and is disappearing w-fayʾ ḳīṭōn hēm līn entīṭ The shadows of the highest mountains they come to us, one after the other ṭāt hēm ryēm w-ṯroh ḏe-ḥdīd One of them [the mountains] is Ryēm and the second is of [?] Ḥdīd ḏ-sedhem ṭāṭ ḏel-yebtədīd Their [the mountains’] friendship is one they are never separated hes ġyū rabźā w-bēnī ḥdīd Like brothers of the same mother and cousins w-ḏeh ḏ-ʿeykōm eśhelleh [sic ešhelleh] ʾaḳyīd This mountain, ʿEykōm it deserves [their] leadership fenwīhem ǧroh śwēr w-ʾāḳīd It goes in front of them [their] counselor and leader heh heynī ʾāmūr yeśġābī ʾaǧīd It [the mountain? or “he”?] said to me beauty steals away [my] heart ʾabirt fʾāmōm fann śhīd The daughter of Fʾāmōn her artistry is well attested fann śeḫṭ ḏhīb w-ʾālḳ ʾaǧīd Fann is an array of gold chains the most beautiful necklace etē bə-dābūm ksibk ʿāḏīd Until Dābūm I earned [nothing but] pain and hardship fann ham ʾār ṭāṭ ḥrōf teǧwīd “Fann” is a unique name its letters [in] recitation ṭār ʾelf w-fā w-nūn tešdīd Atop alif and fā and a geminate nūn ʾār ḏ-bers eḏ-šeh ksoh efyīd Indeed her, [he] who is with her “finds profit ” w-emben ṯroh lād hoh mebdīd Between the two of them I will not intrude [i e “separate”] Shiḥn, Ḥāt, and Manʿar are the three land-locked interior districts of al-Mahra The majority of its inhabitants engage in seminomadic camel husbandry, although a substantial percentage of the population descends to the coasts on a seasonal basis to fish The inhabitants of these three districts are generally characterized as bedouin by the Mahra living in the coastal regions There are, however, limited opportunities to grow date palms afforded by springs and wells, particularly around the settlement of Fūǧēt, whose limestone caves hold ample reserves of fresh water Due to the “authenticity” (Ar ʾaṣāla) of their bedouin lifestyle, the Mahra who live in these three districts are commonly viewed as speaking the purest and most eloquent (Ar ʾafṣaḥ) dialect of Mahri Indeed, much of the intrinsically Mahri vocabulary that relates to geographical features and bedouin material culture is retained in the inland Mahri dialects, versus the western Mahri coastal dialects that are more influenced by dialectal Arabic In general, the most frequent examples of Mahri tribal odes that I recorded originated in the inland districts, leading me to suspect that this tradition remained more vital among the bedouin Mahra than among the Mahra living along the coasts It is possible that tribal identity is stronger among the inland bedouin Mahra, leading to a continued relevance of tribal poetics through the end of the twentieth century Poetry stemming from the inland districts, as well as the Mahri dialect in which it is couched, tended to evoke the highest esteem from Mahri listeners Until the opening of a paved road and tunnels linking Niśṭūn, Qishn, and Sayḥūt in 2004 and the onset of regular passenger flights from al-Rayyan airport in Ḥaḍramawt to al-Ghaydha by 2008, the only paved road linking al-Ghaydha to the rest of Yemen ran through Shiḥn, Ḥāt, and Manʿar in the deep interior of al-Mahra Indeed, the road was laid with a defensive purpose in mind and thus skirted the northern border of Yemen and the Empty Quarter as closely as possible Having passed through these districts en route to al-Ghaydha from Sana a and Ḥaḍramawt multiple times, this writer can attest to the fact that the apparent blankness of the landscape is otherworldly, and that the summer time heat feels like a blow to the face when you first step out of an air-conditioned bus at a rest stop The most prominent bedouin tribes of the interior are the Ṣmōda, Ḳamṣeyt, Sāteyn, Zaʿbenōt, and Ḥrēzī tribes SĀLIM BIR SLĒM BIR ṢMŌDĀ Sālim bir Slēm bir Ṣmōdā recited a number of poems by different composers from the mountains and inland plateau of Ḥawf including ʿAlī bir Erabḫ bir Zaʿbenōt, Jumʿān ʿAlī bir Ḳerḥayf, Ḥlōyet birt Saʿīd Kazūzī, and Saʿd Saʿīd ʿĪsā (bir Raʿfīt?) Sālim bir Slēm bir Ṣmōdā lives in Jāḏeb, where I recorded him reciting poetry in March 2004 SĀLIM MUṬĪʿ AL-SULAYMĪ Sālim Muṭīʿ al-Sulaymī appeared to be in his late fifties or early sixties and is from the port town of Niśṭawn Sālim is a frequent visitor to al-Ghaydha, where I initially met him I have no further information about Sālim al-Sulaymī SNAKEBITE CHANT (MHR RĀBŪT/RAʿBŪT) A few lines of a longer rābōt (alternative pronunciations rābūt and raʿbūt), a specific type of improvised chant used to treat dangerous snakebites This particular rābōt is performed by Ḳrāṭās Maʿwīḏ from the province of Dhofār in Oman Ḳrāṭās’s voice in the recording isn’t very clear, so it was difficult to translate or transcribe more than the first three lines The recording was made in Dhofār and circulated via cellphone I transferred this digital file to my digital audio recorder in al-Ghaydha, 2008 Refrain be-ḥmōt In the case of poison śerḫī bhīs The knowledge I have inherited is for it [the snakebite] (refrain) (refrain) šī śnēǧ I have the lineage [to treat it] (refrain) (refrain) ḥāṭṭī bhīs My power/fortune is for it SOCIETY Native Mahri speakers belong to one of three basic, although fungible, groupings 1) those who possess a tribal lineage (Mahri-speaking or otherwise), 2) those who lack a publicly recognized familial or tribal affiliation (primarily the descendants of foreign manual laborers and manumitted slaves), and 3) those who claim a sacerdotal or trade-specific lineage What follows is not meant to be taken as a comprehensive analysis of Mahri society; rather, the following analysis is meant to reflect the quasi-imagined world—the idealized al-Mahra—that the poems in this collection both construct and inhabit The reality of Mahri society is more nuanced than anything the segementary-lineage model might suggest; however, both foreign anthropological shorthand and the vision of Mahri society as shared by the Mahra themselves converge on a notion of a society built from discrete lineages that stem from common ancestors In actuality, historical shifts have occurred—and are still occurring—that alter the way that the Mahra perceive each other, local authorities, and foreign powers Employment, natal site, area of residence, degree of public piety, and access to governmental resources are more relevant to interpersonal interactions in present-day al-Mahra than tribal affiliation or the lack thereof However, since poetry relates a largely idealized world of kinship and responsibility to one’s kin, the following description of Mahri society is framed according to the idealized principles of tribal and familial kinship, even if such accounts reflect a nostalgia for a pre-republican imagined community The data presented on these pages is derived from interviews with individual Mahri consultants as well as Arabic-language sources written by Mahri authors (Bākrīt, 1999; al-Qumayrī, 2000 & 2003; al-Mahrī, 1983) or non-Mahri residents of al-Mahra (al-ʾAhdal, 1999) Analysis of Mahri )and South Arabian society more broadly) that emphasizes its historical dynamism and that looks beyond the segmentary-lineage model of Arabian tribalism may be found in excellent scholarly works by Serge Elie SOCIETY, HISTORY, AND CULTURE Agafonov, Vladimir 2006–7 Temethel as the brightest element of Soqotran folk poetry Folia Orientalia 42–43 241–49 Al-ʾAhdal, Ḥasan Maqbūl 1999 Muḥāfaẓat al-mahra Ḥaqā’iq wa-l-’arqām Sana’a al-Ḍiyā’ li-l-Ṭibāʿa bi-l-Kambyūtur Al-ʾAnbālī, ʾAḥmad 2007 Tārīkh jazīrat suquṭra United Arab Emirates Maṭbaʿat al-Ṣahāba Al-ʿAydarūs, ʿAbd al-Qādir b Shaykh 1985 Tārīkh al-nūr al-sāfir ʿan ʾakhbār al-qarn al-ʿāshir Beirut Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya Al-Baghdādī, ʿAbd al-Qādir 1927 Khizānat al-ʾadab Edited by ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Maiman 3 vols Lahore University of the Punjab Al-Bakrī, Ṣāliḥ 1956 Tārīkh Ḥaḍramawt al-siyāsī Egypt Maṭbaʿat Muṣṭafā al-Ḥalabī wa-ʾAwlādihi Al-Dafari, Jaʿfar ʿAbduh 1966 Ḥumaini poetry in South Arabia PhD diss , School of Oriental and African Studies Al-Dakkāk, Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn 2003 Al-Mahra Shurūkh fī-l-baḥr wa-shurūkh fī-l-qalb al-Thaqāfiyya November 6, no 217 Al-Ḥaddād, Muḥammad Sālim ʿAbdallāh 1998 Qaṣāʾid wa-zawāmil wa-musājalāt wa-ʾamthāl mahriyya Sana’a Dār Jāmiʿat Ṣanʿāʾ li-l-Ṭibāʿa wa-l-Nashr Āl Ḥāfiẓ, ʿAlī Muḥsin 1987 Min lahajāt “mahra” wa-’ādābihā Majallat an-nahḍa al- ʿumāniyya Muscat Al-Hamdānī, Abū Muḥammad 1974 Ṣifat jazīrat al-ʿarab Edited by Muḥammad al-ʾAkwaʿ Riyadh Dār al-Yamāma li-al-Baʿth wa-al-Tarjama wa-al-Nashr Al-Ḥāmid, Ṣāliḥ 1968 Tārīkh Ḥaḍramawt Jedda Maktabat al-ʾIrshād Al-Ḥimyarī, Nashwān ibn Saʿīd 1916 Muntakhabat fī ʾakhbār al-Yaman min kitāb Shams al-ʿulūm Leiden Brill Al-Idrīsī, Abū ʿAbdallāh 1970 Nuzhat al-mushtāq fī ikhtirāq al-āfāq Edited by Fuat Sezgin Leiden Brill Al-ʾIryānī, Muṭahhar ʿAlī 1996 al-Muʿjam al-yamanī fī al-lugha wa-al-turāth Damascus al-Maṭbaʿa al-ʿIlmiyya Al-Iṣṭakhrī, Abū ʾIsḥāq 1992 Kitāb masālik al-mamālik Edited by Fuat Sezgin Frankfurt am Main Institute for the History of Arabic-Islamic Science Al-Jumaḥī, Ibn Sallām 1974 Ṭabaqāt fuḥūl al-shuʿarāʾ Edited by Maḥmūd Shākir Cairo Dār al-Maʿārif Al-Kindī, Sālim b Muḥammad 2003 Tārīkh Ḥaḍramawt al-musammā bi-al-ʿudda al-mufīda Sana’a Maktabat li-al-ʾIrshād [Al-Mahrī] al-Jidḥī 2013 Tārīkh al-Mahra al-musammā bi-al-tiṭwāf ḥawl tawārīkh wa-mashāhīr bilād al-ʾAḥqāf Egypt Dār al-Mustaqbil [Al-Mahrī] Balḥāf, ʿĀmir Fāʾil 2016(?) 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University of Texas Press Wellstedt, James R 1835 Report on the island of Socotra Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 4 138–66 — 1840 Travels to the City of the Caliphs, along the Shores of the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Including a Voyage to the Coast of Arabia, and a Tour on the Island of Socotra London H Colburn (Reprint Farnborough, 1968) Wranik, Wolfgang 2003 Fauna of the Soqotra Archipeligo Field Guide Rostock Universität Rostock Yāqūt [al-Ḥamawī] 1985 al-Buldān al-yamaniyya Edited by Ismāʿīl al-ʿAkwaʾ Kuwait al-Jamʿiyya al-Jughrafiyya al-Kuwaytiyya SPECIFIED REFERENT In the Mahri poetic tradition, sentiment—and the sentimental poems that stem from it—is the product of a relationship or encounter between the poet and another person Interior reflection bereft of any other human presence is not an act expressed through poetry in al-Mahra This means that there is always an other in Mahri poems of sentiment As a issue of etiquette, a sentimental poet may choose to withhold the name of this poetic other (particularly if the relationship to the other is a romantic one) If the other were portrayed through the lens of desire, naming that person publicly could result in social sanction On the other hand, many affectionate relationships are publicly celebrated in al-Mahra, such as that between parents and their children or younger kin Even some relationships that might result in scandal elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula are looked upon in al-Mahra as harmless fun and a source of frivolity Good natured flirtation, ribbing, and even wistfulness are all acceptable contexts for naming the other as long as the poet’s intentions are harmless In these latter cases, naming the other is natural and acceptable Sentimental poems in which the love object (“the referent”) is specified—that is, known by name to the intended audience—tend to be more common in the traditional poetic practice of al-Mahra I suspect that this is due to the generally more relaxed conventions regarding intermingling in the pre-republican era (before 1991); the ribald poetry in this collection inevitably dates from an earlier time Conversely, sentimental poems in which the love object is not specified, either through social decorum or because the love object is merely an abstraction, tend to be more recent compositions and are imitative of cosmopolitan Arabic lyric poetry Sentimental poems with a named referent share an important similarity with occasional poems, namely that both address a verifiable and specific entity outside of the poet’s creative imagination (either a person or an event) Because named referents are more common in the sentimental poetry of the premodern era, the distinction between occasional and sentimental poetry may be less important in the traditional poetic practice and has only become so with the development of clearly defined, non-specified sentimental poetry at the present time STROPHIC In the traditional poetic praxis of al-Mahra, strophic songs are distinct from all other forms of Mahri poetry due to the fact that they cannot be chanted or recited Melody is intrinsic to strophic songs to the degree that they cannot be performed without melodic accompaniment Traditional strophic songs in al-Mahra are restricted to work songs (Ar ʾahāzīj) and celebratory songs whose performance never falls outside of the prescribed cultural act or physical labor they are meant to accompany From a formal perspective, strophic songs consist of brief isometric, monostich lines that alternate with a repeated choral line The choral line may or may not be sense bearing; sometime the choral line is composed of quasi-nonsense syllables that evoke the melodic template to the song Any hemistich poem can, in fact, be performed as a strophic song The choral line will take the form of metrical filler syllables that reiterate the melodic template (hāy dān i dān or yā sāməʿī sāmʿī, for instance), or it may be a single stich adapted from the body of the poem However, the poems classified as strophic songs can only be performed as strophic songs; they have no existence outside of this category Moreover, the choral line itself is frequently sense bearing with regard to the broader meaning and aesthetic structure of the poem, even if it departs from the formal characteristics of the other lines in the poem In the last decade, the Mahri poet Ḥājj Dākōn has developed a new genre of Mahri poetry that is imitative of an Arabic-vernacular poetic genre the Ḥaḍramī sung-poem (qaṣīda ghināʾiyya) Ḥājj Dākōn’s strophic sung-poems differ from traditional ʾahāzīj in terms of their longer stanzas (three to four isometric monostich lines per stanza), sense-bearing choral lines divided into hemistichs, and the fact that they are not associated with any particular form of celebration or physical labor As a result, Ḥājj’s sung poems can be sung collectively at any celebratory event or sung individually when a lyric mood strikes the singer I address the historical development of the modern genre of sung-poem in southern Arabia in Liebhaber 2011b SUHAYL ZAʿBENŌT Suhayl bir Erabḫ bir Zaʿbenōt is the muqaddam of the Zaʿbenōt tribe Normally residing in Ḥabrūt, Suhayl bir Zaʿbenōt was visiting al-Ghaydha when I met him in the summer of 2008 He was familiar with a number of exchanged reǧzīt that took place between the muqaddams and notables of Zaʿbenōt and their counterparts among the other tribes of al-Mahra SUNG All poems in the Mahri language may be sung; indeed, no indigenous lexical distinction is made between “poetry” and “singing” in the Mahri language; such terminology has been imported from Arabic Any poem may be easily set to a number of traditional melodies that are available to all types of poetic line, regardless of syllable count or pattern of heavy and light syllable Different melodies might accompany the same configuration of poetic line; different regions of al-Mahra have their preferred melodies When sung (or chanted), filler syllables are often added to poetic lines to achieve the correct syllable count for a specific melody These filler syllables also encode the correct pattern of long and short syllables required by the melody; the filler syllables also supply the name by which such a melody or song is commonly known yā sāmeʿī samʿī (| - - v - v -|) and dān i-dān (| - v - ) are two such popular songs/rhythmic templates The only constraints on singing a poem relate to the appropriateness of the venue and the skill or inclination of the performer On the other hand, some poems may only be sung these are work and celebratory songs in which the choreography of the activity engaged in are guided by the rhythmic melody of the song ŚYŌḲĪ Though the poet appears to say “śyōḳī,” this doesn’t make any sense in this context Only “śīwōṭ” appears to fit TEA WITH MILK Poem composed and recited by Muḥammad Sālim al-Jidḥī Recorded by Sam Liebhaber in the office of the chief magistrate (mudīr mudīriyya) of Qishn, September 2003 The poem was composed by Muḥammad Sālim while traveling on the road from Sayḥūt to Qishn This poem receives close syntactic and thematic analysis in Liebhaber, 2011a 18-24 Recitation by Muḥammad Sālim al-Jidḥī šēhī ḥlīb šēhī ḥlīb Tea with milk, tea with milk men heyd ḏe-rḥōm w-mōṭī lbīb From the hand of the beauty whose build is slender ān neśfek tēh eḫeyr men eṭbīb If you sipped it, it’s better than the doctor ywūkeb ǧsēd we-yṭeyf lhīb It enters the body and extinguishes the burning kleṯk eṣidḳ ṭawb men l-yekḏīb I spoke the truth, my nature is not that of one who lies ḥōm ledfa beh eġōlī nsīb I want to pay out her price, [she of] precious pedigree w-felġem med ʾatē teġyīb And Wādī Falġam that stretches up to where it disappears meźmers b-ǧeśf meǧrē ḏe-ḏhīb The riverbed in its breadth is the channel for the flood hel ǧīd yeḥlūl leḥrēṯ zbīb Where beauty lives, I might cultivate grapes w-lebnē kūt bēl bēnī zhīb And build up a tower with many storeys all furnished for her meḳbōl ḏe-mdīt w-heh mehdərīb That faces the sea breeze and has a wall around it teḫdemmes kell w-seh teṣyīb With servants to serve her so she might rest at ease ḫīh ḳalbī ḫīh ḳtīleb ʾādīb Give up, my heart, let it go! Be more reasonable śī bebtek lā wel šūk yeṭrīb It’s not appropriate for your age and they don’t desire you b-ṭeyṭ het śōḫ we-mġōren ġrīb For one, you’re old and further, you are not from around here ḏ–ar hoh mhanṭeyb yḫā messəbīb I’m just talking nonsense like a bona fide prattler ber bī śewġāb w-heh mekkəlīb There’s still passion in me and it is deeply woven āǧōb be-rḥōm ʾatē tśīb I love the beauties even though I’m grey THE BATTLE OF ʾĀḲƏBBŌT Unknown composer and transmitter, both from the inland districts (Ar al-bādiya) of central al-Mahra In this recording, the poem is sung according to the standard ʾōdī we-krēm krēm melody The recording of this poem was given to Ḥājj Dākōn by Suhayl Zaʿbenōt (transferred from cellphone to cellphone?) and then translated and transcribed by Sam Liebhaber in al-Ghaydha, July 2008 This poem documents the battle of ʾĀḳəbbōt, which occurred approximately seventy to eighty years ago between the Ṣmōdā and Ḥrēzī tribes The battle was named for the eḳbīb tree, from which firewood is gathered During the battle of ʾĀḳəbbōt, Sādīt of Ḥrēzī and his companions were sniping at Ṣmōdā from a mountaintop However, Sādīt didn’t want to kill any of the Ṣmōdā because his mother was Ṣmōdā and the men below were his relatives So instead he and his companions shot at their headscarves and weapons in order to scare them off Ḥājj Dākōn met Sādīt when he was still young (in the early 1980s) Even as an old man, Sādīt was an excellent shot and his marksmanship was proverbial throughout al-Mahra He lived to be over one hundred years old In this poem, Slōm is from Smōdā, and Sēlim is Ḥrēzī Bir Sʿīd is from Ṣmōdā The Battle of ʾĀḳəbbōt hel ysūken bir sʿīd beyn bwōdī we-hrīt we-kkwōrī ḏe-mhərūt Where the son of Sʿīd lives between the deserts of Hrīt and the feeder ravines of Mahrūt we-ḳṣeylet ʾōfyōt we-dġawt əmāməlēt le-ḳnawṭer ḏe-zhūt The cease-fire expired the “field has sprouted” at the irrigation channels, it has grown tall (and abundant) nūka be-ḫbēr ḏrey le-mǧawma ḏe-ḥḥəǧīr tōba be-śtīrfūt They brought strange news to all of those assembled the possessors of excellent, exalted virtues fōn heǧs ertəbūb ḏ-īšṣawten le-ffəlēk hebṭā w-lē sbūt And after the passion [of Sʿīd] became dense [like the stars] he listens carefully for the appointed time whether it is delayed or comes earlier tē ḫbēr ǧrōh w-fār sōyer ke-mneddəbīn we-ṣfeth ṭeyrūt Until the news came and spread going with the messengers and its information flew all around we-ḥsōbī le-slōm bēl əǧesm w-hammēt habrē ḏ-semdəyūt My hopes are with Slōm possessor of fortitude and power son of the Smōdī woman bēr əǧōrem leh ʾāṣūr yeškōf w-heh klawl w-la ʾāyneh hāǧfūt [Days] and nights have already passed over him he lays down [to sleep] and is kept awake by pains and his eyes do not sleep tē ǧsēdeh ərteḳawḳ we-mṭā’t ḏ-meḫḫəlīḳ l-ād ḥōlet ṣeydūt Until his body becomes emaciated and the food of humans does not help his condition ənnəḳawd meḥḥəzūr w-nḫā l-heh sḫawṭ hel əḫaffeh seyrūt [Slōm] chose the choice fighting men of his tribe under him [i e , his command] (are) the bravest ones wherever he goes ṣalb we-ǧsēdeh ṭāt wel ḫāśer beh ḫśūr men əsōseh we-ṣmūt All from one back and body [they are kin] in no one is there mixed a mixing from his roots, his is of one flesh w-ewōber beh bsūl śill ʾāyneh we-nśərūt His mounts are swift and strong lifting their eyes and walking proudly [being happy] kūneḥ bīsen əssəbēḫ teḳrīren b-hāwēl / tē šnēdeḫ le-khūt He sets off with the camels across the plain trotting at the front he brought them up to their secret camp wōfeḳ we-ġrīm ḥźawr we-ǧdīdem leh yheyt we-hdīyet ġabrūt They found what they wanted and that their target was present they begin the encounter anew and shouted yheyt at him a gift that was there ġmōleh be-ksēl bād əmazh we-źḥāḳ w-hōbītem we-ġmūt They threw him down after a bit after playing a joke they pinned him down and covered his face sēlem ḳawṭa le-fwōd bēh bḫeys mharḳōn we-nyēt mhelwūt Sēlim [the quarry] cut off [the feelings] of his heart in him were pains well-known his intentions all wrought up ḳōbel ke-swīyet lā we-bkōr w-lū ʾāḳawr we-klēf ḏ-yertəbūt He doesn’t think about the things [done to him] or the pile [of worries], even if it grows large and its burden increases we-ṭmūten ebtəlūl śūra men ḥmō krā’ we-frūd l-hāḳfūt Their thirsty camels drank their fill and drank pure water and then took off for their hills tē w-lū brēk əźeyḳ we-mlōda ḏe-ffərūḳ əġmūlem we-kfūt Even if they are [ridden] in a narrow area their eyes glance around in fear… they threw him to the ground and pinioned his arms ʾār ḫźeyr w-lō ʾāmūm we-shīb ḏ-īḳḳədūt le-mkawser we-nkəśūt​ Like the ocean when it is angry waves follow upon wave over the reefs [the ocean] roils kem men ṭīt w-seh ṭnūh ətġawleḳ əmūḥeyr beh ṣrōt mhōhəfūt How many raging she-camels looking upon an fenced-in garden but ropes stop them from moving at all ḏ–ʾār ədarb hawrēs bāl əzōyed ḏe-ḥwōl we-śśəḳāt l-ʾāfdūt But the road prevents her [from reaching the garden] the wall is large and has many layers and the steps [she takes] do not take [her] over [it] we-b-sats ʾālḳōt we-ḥṭāb men əṣerbeyt w-ǧellōt əǧensəfūt And soon [war] broke out its fuel [taken] from the ṣarbeyt tree hot flames burning from the stumps we-ǧźawret yekrūr w-sūmeydī le-slōm hēs hatf ənǧəzūt The “lions” attacked and the Smōdī surrendered when his rifle was emptied le-ḳlūten yebhōr be-ǧmīlet we-drēk we-slōmet ḥeṣlūt He called for help from the young men [to come] well and speedily the help arrived we-ḥǧūfem leh ġyūǧ men ədēfer we-lhīb ḫōzem leh men əḥwūt Men came to protect him from the fire and flames and defended him from the net of death w-sādīt ḏlūf w-ferr we-ḳdōm hṭeyr əḳōn əġfōr ḏ-bēr ḳnūt Sādīt jumped up and went coming to the very top of a mountain May God have mercy on the woman who bore him yekhōb ḏ-heh ṣendūd yestūfī men əġell berh nōǧeḥ we-ṯbūt He who is brave came throwing dust on himself out of excitement indeed he is ready (“well cooked”) and steadfast we-brūkem hārwōn le-mḫawbeṭ əġzōn ṣnets ənǧəbūt The “rams” kneeled [with their rifles] in order [to shoot] their new bullets fresh from the factory b-śīwōṭḏ-seh nǧiḥt men ʾawafh ḏ–ṭerrāb wet rišt ənḳəbūt With the fire that is strong and continuous from the rapid action of the firing pin and the clicking of the trigger we-ḥzūrem mešwōf we-tḳawnem źebtāt hel əśawket ḫaṭfūt They know well the rifle sights and are experts at taking aim when the bullets whiz by tē mīzōn dkūs ʾāḳā we-ǧwēher ḏe-zhē men əkabś eftəlūt Until the scale tilted to the ground and “the jewels of the wedding” escaped and were lost from their hand we-zġīf ḏ-hāhmənōn w-kīlōten ǧāryōt ṣāreb bēhem we-hbūt They poured out their cartridges running through measures [of ammo] [there was] a loss [of ammo] and a heedless expenditure we-ḥsōb el menh bedd mīzōn tē l-ṣār le-brē men hkūt But there is no avoiding [taking vengeance] into consideration until the scales are even once again and is fixed of its tilt w-ber ʾāmer men khēn ḏ-el yṭōmeh śḳāt wel yrikt ḏe-rkūt And Bir ʾĀmer, for a long time past, is not one greedy to overstep [the bounds] and is not one who stomps on one who has stomped on him ġeyr we-killem hāmtōn we-śrūḳem men əḫawf yebṣeyr šūdəfūt Except if they cause him pain in his back or it is split in half from fear or if he sees the end-game coming we-ṣrōma we-krēm hɛ̄s əlēḥen ərtəbūb w-mehṣāt l-ġārəffūt And now ōdī we-krēm krēm when the melodies gather a reservoir that can’t be emptied by scooping men taʾmērem ənśəkōt ḏ–ʾār ḥmō brēk sōs w-mehṣāt mhaḥsūt [Beware] of saying that it has dried up indeed there is water in its deepest bedrock and the reservoir has been re-dug 38) wet nkūśes tentəkūś ke-mḫawreǧḏe-rbā we-mdīt dōṯəyūt If it is searched for, it is found [as though it were a well] at the time of the departure of Rbā and the mdīt of Dōṯa kem men ṭīṭ w-seh ṭmīt mnōhel ṣedrūt How many she-camels when she [sic] is thirsty goes forth from the streams [quenched of thirst] wet ṭwōren thāḳawb beyn ərāmel we-ḫṭāt hēs əbīr messənūt Sometimes the “muse” migrates between the sandy plain and the pasture land like a spring from which people habitually draw water w-adh ǧēza medḥeyḳ we-bḳāt ḏ-šāḳawt And Wādī Ǧēza is still well-travelled and the place of Šāḳawt hād ṣeydet ḏe-ḫḫəlē ḏīk tehyūm ʾāḳā le-hnefs we-ḫlūt No one but the desert gazelle the one who roams the land by herself in the desolate waste bēr thawzer əlebbōd ke-rdōten ḏ-rīḥeyn wet əǧēs əškerfūt She has known the hunter when the wind blows back and forth when she smells his sweat teḥrīren b-āzīb / tē men hāl ġeyṭāṭ / we-ḥrō əġteybūt She takes off at a run until she has disappeared and her head has completely disappeared THE CHARM OF OLD AGE Lyric poem composed and recited by ʿĪsā Kedḥayt and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at ʿĪsā’s home in Jāḏeb, January 2004 ʿĪsā Kedḥayt describes his hopeful pursuit of a young woman whose good looks have attracted a legion of young admirers and who herself is no stranger to coquetry ʿĪsā begins with a traditional formula “We left in the late afternoon, at sunset” [1] Following one solemn formula with another, ʿĪsā goes on to describe his elevated vantage point in this case, a “lofty castle, like a little mountain” [2] The tone breaks from the sonorous inflections of tribal-historical poetry at this point The “lofty castle” is not an isolated mountaintop but the castle “where Beauty lives, sweet and desirable” [3] Moreover, he is not heading toward Beauty’s castle but away from it, in rejection “I couldn’t get up and leave, I just wanted to look at her” [6] The poet’s age disqualifies him from competing for her attention despite the fact that his company is preferable to that of the other young men who surround her “like a circle around a campfire” [8] ʿĪsā has the benefit of wisdom and cunning (“I could perhaps deceive her” [7]); failing that, he can at least keep her amused, unlike the other young men who tire her with their unceasing attention [11] In his presence, at least, she is able “to laugh or to joke around” [14] However, ʿĪsā recognizes that in the end, he is merely “the day’s entertainment until she goes packing [to someone else]” [15] This poem echoes another poem in this archive in terms of its subject matter “Tea With Milk ” šūǧōśen nḥā berk eśfēḳ We left in the late afternoon, at sunset men ḳāṣer enawf hīs edwēhēḳ From the lofty castle, like a little mountain hēl ǧīd yeḥlūl ḥōlī w-māśēḳ Where Beauty lives, sweet and desireable eǧēdel erkēz w-reġb ṭlēḳ Legs strong and supple, [above them] a branch that sways ḥaftetsen kel b-mēken ṭnēḳ She surpasses all [the other women] in so many qualities l-ād śettelk lā ḥōm ār leġlēḳ I couldn’t get up and leave, I just wanted to look at her tē wlū hwāḫār bērī leġfēḳ Even if I am an old man, I could perhaps deceive her hēm mēken hnīs ḏ-ōd ḥeylēḳ There are so many with her, they’ve become like a circle around a campfire yešfedren kel eḏ-hēm yesbēḳ They are all jockeying for who will get to her first ḥād men enǧūd w-śī men ḥyēḳ One of them is from the Najd and another from the coast hēm bāź le-ttōt we-mḳalle tfēḳ Some have come just for pleasure – how little she enjoys it! w-bāź men hēm śī lā mrēbēḳ And for some of them, there is nothing in common between them [in age] tḥafleh lā ḫā heh l-ḫeylēḳ She’s indifferent to him, as though he had never been created ʾāsē w-ṭeźḥōk wlē teḥzēḳ Except perhaps to laugh or to joke around maġlīl ḏ-waḳt tē ǧīd yūśēḳ The day’s entertainment until she goes packing [to someone else] THE DESIRE OF THE FOUR POETS Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn, who transmitted them from Suhayl bir Zaʿbenōt, who himself transmitted them from an unknown source Transcribed by Sam Liebhaber in al-Ghaydha at the Tāj Plaza Hotel, July 2008 These couplets are considered to be very old; according to Ḥājj, they are perhaps hundreds of years old The lines are in the form of short, semistrophic couplets that are similar in form and performability to work songs (ʾahāzīj) Four Mahra living abroad each composed a few lines about what he missed the most about al-Mahra, each one building and expanding on the desire of the previous poet These couplets refer to the landscape of their native turf deep in the heart of al-Mahra The dialect is that of the interior bedouin and some dialectal elements may have been lost in Ḥājj’s recitation of these lines sād ḏə-līḥawfed nḫālī ǧōyef If only [I were] the one following the tracks underneath Ǧōyef ām sēn ḏe-ǧtōma we-ġyūǧ ḏ-īdōlef When [if] they are gathering [fem pl] and the men are playing the jumping game sād ḏə-līḥawfed nḫālī źālā If only [I were] the one following the tracks underneath the wādī’s side walls yeḥźāź eḥḥəbeybet tettōba eḫālā He picks up the traces of his special she-camel as she goes from tree to tree sād ḏə-līḥawfed yermah w-ġellenseh If only [I were] the one following the tracks at Wādī Ramāh and of its collected material and debris yešbeyled ḥōdī ḏ-mōn ḥellenseh Getting information at the wādī’s edges of those who are its inhabitants sād ḏə-līḥawfed nḫālī bir šbōneh If only [I were] the one following the tracks beneath Bir Shebōneh ‘āḳā ḏel-īzōmel we-ykūn be-mkōneh A land that doesn’t migrate and remains in its place THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER Composed and recited by Raġbōn birt Saʿīd and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at Raġbōn’s home in Kzayt (near “the school house” in the mountains overlooking Jādheb and the sea), March 2004 This poem receives close syntactic and thematic analysis in Liebhaber, 2011a 25-28 śmīmet enṭərōr teh bālī ksē Would that God might give us rain in the canyon of Śmīmet Neṭrōr yšeṭṭem ḥarḳ we-ryīḥ we-lhēb It has struggled against the drought, the wind and fire for long enough w-ḫeyr yemyōl law menh eysēr Let goodness return, certainly it’s much better wet nhā beh tetrūb be-bhēl While we are there, words turned to dust, tē hrūm ketlūl yḥōm śǧēr The tough last grasses [of the rainy season] have dwindled [to nothing] and want trees hel ḳāṭā hlā tē beh leḫrēǧ In the spots of shade [they wait] until [the dry season] has departed ʿār heh ḏ-hānōh ʾamūd yezlēl It is [the dry season] that bears down hard, throwing itself onto the roof beams ksōh mbārekt l-ād hīs meḳḫeyr It finds the cow Mbārakt with no one there to hobble her reyt ḥamr el-ʿayn šedhūḳ nīǧēr If only there were a brave young man to spot her from the wādī’s edge! w-fām eḫḫərūǧ neḳḏīs w-shēr He pulls her leg, saves her and stayed up all night [with her] we-mġōren klōṯ we-wzōm ḫbēr Afterwards he spoke to me and gave the news līferḥen tēn w-lezimh bśēr He makes us happy and gives it as a gift, seh źeywəlet lā hel kel zhēd This is not just idle talk either, but like [the talk] of all those who are knowledgeable her tēlī hǧisk ḥōm ḳalb yhēd Afterwards, I thought awhile and wanted my heart to quiet down eṣōdeḳ hnēf w-ʿāṣer shēr It trusts itself and stayed up all night ḫā heh ḏ-ġeyṣāb w-nefs ḳhēr As though someone had stolen something and got away with it ḏōme heh ǧḥīd lā maḫḫəṭeyṭ we-nzēl There is nothing deplorable about it, it’s written and revealed by God w-ber tǧēr lūk we-tkūn ḏ-hābēr It has happened to you before and you know how things happen hīs wet eḳbēt w-rēseh ydēr It is just one thing following the next, and troubles keep on coming back ḏīme ʿeds bsīt l-sēhel ṣbēr It is such a simple thing, so stay patient ewźōnek errab źōfī w-ḏe-kṯēr May God reward you, whether a tribal dependent or more! we-yhanʾem lūk be-ġyūǧ we-nśēr May God favor you, your men and dispersed [herds] THE DĪWĀN OF ḤĀJJ DĀKŌN This page contains links to audio and video recordings of the all of the poems published in The Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn (American Institute for Yemeni Studies, 2011) The recorded performances are varied Some are recordings of non-melodic recitations by Ḥājj Dākōn, and others are sung by him or, in the case of Zeyn we-kellek zeyn (#15), by the professional singer ʿAskarī Ḥujayrān Multiple recordings of the same poem are provided The recordings include both audio and video formats The first line of Poem #8 from the Dīwān (“I Want to Write a Line”) has been featured in the Khonsay Poem of Many Tongues (Holman, Zeitlin and Alkateb, 2015) You can visit the site that hosts the poem here THE EPIC OF ʿANZĪ, ʿĪSĀ KEDḤAYT’S PICKUP TRUCK Poem composed and recited by ʿĪsā Kedḥayt and recorded by Sam Liebhaber in ʿĪsā’s house in Jāḏeb, January 2004 Despite the formulaic opening formulas, this poem quickly diverges from the solemnity of a traditional tribal-historical ode ʿĪsā Kedḥayt is confronted not with the murder of a kinsman but with the unjust seizure of his car a 1985 Toyota pickup truck nicknamed “ʿAnzī ” ʿĪsā had left ʿAnzī in al-Ghaydha with a mechanic, a northern Yemeni named Ǧōbān (perhaps from Jubān in Central Yemen) who demanded 270,000 Yemeni riyals (ca $1380) for repairs ʿĪsā only had 200,000 Yemeni riyāls which Ǧōbān refused to accept and therefore kept the car under lock and key ʿĪsā returned to Rēhen to gather the remaining 70,000 YER in loans, (“to massage the udder of the milch-camel” [10]) but was turned down again and again One milch cow was so stingy that she would “turn away her own calves” [10-12], another had “his head lowered” (i e , was hard-pressed for cash) and “kicked” at ʿĪsā during “the milking” [13-15] ʿĪsā goes to six more possible lenders and is met with refusal each time Some he derides as people who sell tissue paper (klīneks < Eng “kleenex”) and spices for hot sauce and others as people who lift cinder blocks for a living [18-21] They are dismissed by ʿĪsā as petty vendors who are too stingy to help him out (“they are all businessmen, but it’s better to be broke” [21]) ʿĪsā manages to find some real friends Bakhīt, ʾAḥmad, and Rāshid, who recall how much ʿAnzī was appreciated in Rēhen for giving people rides and offer to return the kindness [23-25] Finally, ʿĪsā pays a visit to a certain Qaḥṭān who lives “in his fortress, like the rain clouds” [26-27] The “fortress” is the customs house at Ṣarfēt on the Yemen-Oman border where Qaḥṭān works as the chief customs officer Qaḥṭān speaks kindly to ʿĪsā and encourages him “to lift up his head” [31], because his pride (and ʿAnzī) will soon be restored to him Qaḥṭān offers to pay the rest of the repair costs and to “set loose the bond from where it was all knotted up” [32] Recitation by ʿĪsā Kedḥayt lawb ǧōneš ḥyūm l-ād ār eġlēs O Sun, you have set there is nothing except the twilight w-hēlʿayyēn lbōdem ḥwēs The small shadows have all become mixed and faded ār hōh b-ḫeyr lā bī mēken ʿākēs I’m not doing well there is a much agitation within me, hīs hōh w-ʿanzī ḫā ṭāṭ ḏ–ḥeybēs For me and for ʿAnzī like someone who is imprisoned w-hēl ǧōbān berk meḥrēs At Ǧōbān’s in a guarded courtyard, mhelḳawf b-deyn b-ḳeyd mīrēs Held in debt by the bond of a camel’s halter ber šēh mīteyn wel ḳawṭā ḥlēs He’s already got 200 but it doesn’t cut off his craving, ʾāsē b-sebʿīn zimh ǧrēs If only there were 70 may God give him trouble! w-hoh b-ḥaywōn l-ād śī fwālēs In my lockbox there’s not even any pocket change; fōn mōren ǧzūr l-ʿāḳār ʿansēs We have already massaged the udder of the milch-camel may God increase ʿAnsēs! [name of a milch-camel] w-ettōlī ḫzūt w-ḥruhs nśēs But then she refused and lifted up her head, w-l-ād bawt lā ettē l-ḥabrēs She didn’t even give suck to her child we-mġōren ġerhīt ettaḫf menkēs Afterwards to someone else, but my arrival (found him) with his head lowered feźḫōt be-ḥrōh we-źḥawt hīs yēs Deeply ashamed (?) [unclear delivery and vocabulary] w-ḥāl ḏe-ḥlēb bīn māken rfēs During the time for the milking there was a lot of kicking at us ār tewwen nleyn eśśawr neḳlēs That’s enough, let’s go in the late afternoon we’ll stick to the plan nāmēd heṭrōf men ġeyr menfēs We’ll rely on certain parties of kin who don’t give excuses hēm ār yettīt ḏ-nūka w-ḥēs There are six whoever comes (to them) they bat away with their hands bōlī klīneks w-bzūr ḏ-besbēs The Kleenex People and those of spices for bisbēs we-bkōr ḏ-keśrēb ślēl we-ḫsēs And piles of cinder blocks that they haul and dump tǧert hem kel ḫeyr mens flēs There are all businessmen but it’s better to be broke than this ār hoh b-neḳlīn ād šī hwēǧēs I still have other choices there are yet ideas in me bḫīt we-ḥmēd w-rāšed ḥrēs Bakhīt, ʾAḥmad and Rāshid, may God protect them! ʿāmōrem ʿanzī w-kōh tḥībēs They said “ʿAnzī why is she locked up? ḥallī w-serbēt ymedḥem tēs The people of the district and the packs of children praise her ” w-lū l-ḳaḥṭān ḏ-bēr ḫīrēs Or [I’ll go] to Qaḥṭān the one of the clan Ḥīrēs, be-ḥḥāṣen ykūn hīs erwēkēs He’ll be in his fortress like the rainclouds ād l-wukbeh ḥmō ḏe-źrēs Bitter water has not yet entered him w-bēr yembōt b-źīḳ we-nfēs And he’s already been spoken of in times of need and times of ease ʿāmūr ʾāmōh ḥeḏḏōr tehsēs He says “Grandfather take care to listen well! ḥruhk erfāʾ ām-bēr nīkēs Raise your head if it was lowered, nenōṯer eḳayd men hēl ḏe-ʿīkēs We will set loose the bond from where it was all knotted up THE GIRLS HAVE ABANDONED THEIR HONOR Composed and recited by Raġbōn bir Saʿīd Ḥawr for a young lady, Ṭmaʿ birt Saʿīd bir Ǧand Recorded by Sam Liebhaber at Raġbōn’s home in Kzayt (near “the school house” in the mountains overlooking Jādheb and the sea), March 2004 ġǧūten ber trōk feḫrēt w-l-ād ʾākōf The girls have abandoned their pride and no longer gather their hair in a bun men hēs ʾāḳrōt ṭmaʾ āḏ medḥes ber slōf Since Ṭmaʿ has grown up her praise has already preceded [her] ḏ-māken bīs erḥīm l-ād ṭ̌eyres tē yšūṣōf She has abundant beauty no one exceeds her in description ḳnets birt ḥmēd b-laṭf w-terhōf Birt Ḥmēd raised her in gentleness and with grace be-nhīr tḥawźef hīs wel ʾāṣer tšūkōf During the day, she kept her in her lap and at night stayed up for her nḥatš hīs hrē we-ṯbetš ḥerḳəfōt [Birt Ḥmēd] made her head round and made sure her hips grew evenly and solid w-fām el seh ġanṣayt we-bdēn mheǧdəlōt Her legs are not at all crooked and her body is kept well arranged leǧrēd ṭmaʾ tekmēr men hāl ḏ-āśōt neḥǧōt So that Ṭmaʿ could be the winner whenever she gets up to dance men mēt ḫaddūt ḫlēt w-bōḳī hansəlōt At that time the [dancing] ground is left empty and as for the other girls, she leaves them standing off to the side w-wudām bīs dwēl w-kel ber šēhem ṣfōt Every country knows of her and of all the ways they have of describing her ʾār bir ʾārmān ḫlā we-mletye ber brōk But now the son of ʿArmān is unmarried and turned [towards her] with hobbled camels [for a dowry] haḳhōb ʿašrīn bkūr w-men ṭḥōb ǧzōf He brings 20 unbred female camels that he has taken from his ample herds reyt terḥam hōrem šeh we-mġō ktēb hemlōk Would that they keep the roads open for him and that Fate give her to him! THE ISLAMIC CONQUEST OF EGYPT AND NORTH AFRICA (639-647 CE) Not long after ʿIkrimah restored the authority of the Islamic Caliphate over the tribes of al-Mahra in 634 CE, the Mahra were given an opportunity to demonstrate their fealty to the new state during the Islamic conquest of Egypt and North Africa Despite their small numbers overall, Mahri troops played an important role in the conquest of Egypt and Tunisia Their most noteworthy military achievement occurred during the siege of Alexandria in 645 CE, where Mahri troops earned high commendation from the commander of the Muslim army, ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ (d 664 CE), for their bravery According to the ninth-century historian Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam (d 871 CE), the Mahra displayed particular ferocity towards their Byzantine adversaries after a Mahri solider was killed and his corpse desecrated by Byzantine troops who kept his head as a trophy In return, the Mahri troops captured and beheaded a Byzantine soldier whose head they exchanged for their comrade’s in order to give his body a proper burial (al-Ḥakam, Futūḥ Miṣr wa-ʾakhbāruhā, 76) In light of their exemplary role in penetrating the defenses of Alexandria, ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ is reported to have said “As for the Mahra, they are a tribe that kills but are not killed” (al-Ḥakam, Futūḥ Miṣr wa-ʾakhbāruhā, 76-77) While the precise number of Mahri soldiers who participated in the conquest of Egypt is not recorded, the Mahra must have been present in sufficient numbers that a district within the military garrison town of al-Fusṭāṭ (later renamed Cairo) was dedicated to them khiṭṭat al-Mahra According to al-Ḥakam, khiṭṭat al-Mahra was located at the foot of Mt Yashkur and extended some distance to a trench “which the governor of Egypt ordered dug at a later date” (al-Ḥakam, Futūḥ Miṣr wa-ʾakhbāruhā, 118-119) Additionally, the Mahra were granted spring pasture lands for their camels in the countryside to the west of Fusṭāṭ (Muqaddam, 2005 93, citing Rajab Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm, al-ʾAzd wa-l-Mahra fī Miṣr) Finally, 600 Mahri troops out of a combined force of 20,000 were sent to subdue Ifrīqiyya (modern day Tunisia) under the command of ʿAbdallāh bin Saʿd bin al-Sarḥ in 647 CE (al-Ḥakam, Futūḥ Miṣr wa-ʾakhbāruhā, 184) It was during this period of contact between Arab bedouin and North African camel pastoralists (such as the Touareg) that the Mahri camel was most likely introduced into North Africa Whereas the unique linguistic status of the Mahri troops who brought their camels to North Africa was forgotten in subsequent centuries, the mahrī camel continues to serve as the totemic riding camel of the Touareg and is celebrated in their literary and oral traditions In the words of Ibrāhīm al-Kūnī, the Touareg-Libyan author of the novel, al-Tibr (1992) “We always say that the Mahri is the mirror of his rider If you want to look into a man and see what lies hidden within, look to his Mahri” (16) In subsequent centuries, prominent individuals in North Africa and Andalusia bore the Arabic gentilic “al-Mahrī ” However, it is doubtful that they still spoke the Mahri language or were even aware that their ancestors spoke anything other than Arabic The reference to the 600 Mahri troops who rode to Ifrīqiyya in 647 CE is the last time the Mahra as a distinct tribe outside of their South Arabian homeland appears in the historical record Except for tantalizing references to “Ḥimyarites”—a byword in Arab-Islamic intellectual history for the linguistically uncanny peoples of Southern Arabia—in North Africa, it appears that the Mahra became Arabic-speaking Arabs as they dispersed beyond the Arabic Peninsula and thus became no different from the other peoples of the Arab-Islamic world who claim a lineage that extends back to the Arabian Peninsula Whereas distinct, Mahri-speaking communities faded into the broader social matrix of the Arab-Islamic world after the seventh century CE, individual Mahri tribes and tribal confederations continued to play an important role in southern Arabia, as can be seen in the following pages THE MAHRA AND THE ʾAYYŪBIDS (1198-1213 CE) Following the account of the military exploits of Mahri troops in Egypt and North Africa in the seventh century CE, historical documentation with regard to the Mahra and their core territories becomes meager, although the Mahra continue to be noted for their linguistic exceptionalism by Arab geographers and belles-lettrists such as al-Hamdānī, al-Muqaddasī, and others However, a historical record for southern Arabia and Ḥaḍramawt from the thirteenth century onward begins to take shape thanks to chronicles composed by South Yemenis and Ḥaḍramīs such as Aḥmad bin Shanbal (d 1514 CE), ʿAbdallāh Bā Makhrama (d 1540 CE), al-Ṭayyib Bā Faqīh al-Shiḥrī (d 1562), ʿAbdallāh b Muḥammad Bā Sanjala/Bā Sakhla (d 1569), and ʿAbd al-Qādir al-ʿAydrūs (d 1628) The absolute number of chroniclers should not be confused with the number of unique chronicles; virtually all medieval chronicles of southern Arabia are drawn from the work of a much smaller number of chroniclers, primarily Shanbal, Bā Makhrama, and Bā Faqīh (Muqaddam, 2005 241-62) While the aforementioned chroniclers are primarily concerned with events taking place in Ḥaḍrawmawt and its chief seaport, al-Shiḥr, the neighboring Mahri families and tribes influenced the political dynamics of the region as the rulers and subjects of the various polities and dynasties that arose in the region from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries CE The high point of Mahri political power occurred under the Bā Dujāna family in the mid-fifteenth century CE, which found them firmly ensconced in the port city of al-Shiḥr, and, along with their allies, capable of launching a naval attack on Aden However, the first inklings of muscular Mahri territorial ambition dates back to the twelfth century CE with the emergence of the Āl Fāris statelet (Ar duwayla) in al-Shiḥr, the chief port city of Wādi Ḥaḍramawt Given the uneven nature of documentation for South-Central Arabia in the twelfth century CE, it is difficult to ascertain the nature of the Āl Fāris’s constituency and origins, chief holdings, or even the precise chronology of events during the period of their ascendance (Bā Wazīr, 1958 86-87; Ḥamdān, 2005 33; al-Shāṭirī, 1994 176) However, the founder of the Āl Fāris dynasty is generally resolved in the person of ʿAbd al-Bāqī b Fāris b Rāshid b Iqbāl, although the succession of its leaders—and ʿAbd al-Bāqī b Fāris b Rāshid b Iqbāl’s place among them—belongs to the realm of speculation It is clear, however, that the Āl Fāris (also referred to as the Āl Iqbāl) overlapped with the Āl Rāshid sheikhdom (Ar mashīkha) based in Tarīm, with whom they interacted alternately as regional rivals and allies against ʾAyyūbid efforts to extend their control to Ḥaḍramawt and its chief port, al-Shihr (al-Jidḥī, 2013 147) Given the intertwined patronymics of both the Āl Rāshid and the Āl Fāris, it is possible that their relationship was based on a sense of consanguinity; indeed, many Ḥaḍramī historians do not acknowledge a distinct Āl Fāris lineage, family, or political unit that is independent of the Āl Rāshid Interestingly, the first transmitter of the origin story of the Mahra during the Ridda War was one of the Rāshidī sultans of Ḥaḍramawt, Fahd b Abdallāh b Rāshid (Smith, 2008 255, citing Ibn al-Mujāwir); this implies particular knowledge of the Mahra within the Rāshidī sheikdom The Āl Fāris may have risen to preeminence in al-Shiḥr (and its outlying settlements of al-Rayda and Ḥayrīj) under the patronage of the Āl Rāshid at the end of the twelfth century Once established in al-Shiḥr, the Āl Fāris seem to have broken with their former patrons, leading to the appearance of an independent statelet based in al-Shiḥr after 1191 CE, when Fahd b ʿAbdallāh b Rāshid al-Qaḥṭānī reclaimed al-Shiḥr from the ʾAyyūbid “Turks” or “Oghuz” (Ar al-ghuzz) It is unclear whether Fahd b ʿAbdallāh b Rāshid al-Qaḥṭānī did so at the behest of Āl Rāshid or through his own initiative; regardless, by 1191 CE al-Shiḥr was free from ʾAyyūbid domination, and Āl Rāshid control—if indeed Fahd b ʿAbdallāh b Rāshid al-Qaḥṭānī paid fealty to the Āl Rāshid in Tarīm—was lightly felt Local sovereignty under the Āl Fāris name in al-Shiḥr ended in 1219 CE when Ibn Mahdī marched on al-Shiḥr at the head of an ʾAyyūbid host and expelled the Āl Fāris (Muqaddam, 2005 264-65) In the intervening years (1191–1219 CE), the Āl Fāris family was apparently riven by internal conflict, with descendants of the original ruling family - those coalescing around the ʿAbd al-Bāqī lineage - allying themselves with the ʾAyyūbids against their rivals, who were supported by Shaʿjana b Rāshid of the Āl Rāshid The latter seized control of al-Shiḥr and the proximate agricultural center, al-Rayda, and repulsed an ʾAyyūbid effort to retake al-Shiḥr in 1208 CE ʿAbd al-Bāqī b Fāris, scion of the original founder of the Āl Fāris dynasty, was briefly restored to control in al-Shiḥr in 1211 CE with the support of the ʾAyyūbids However, ʿAbd al-Bāqī b Fāris’s control of al-Shiḥr continued to be contested by his rivals under the leadership of Fahd b ʿAbdallāh; the latter were on the cusp of retaking al-Shiḥr when ʿAbd al-Bāqī’s mother reconciled the two rival factions After a brief respite, fighting within the Āl Fāris family resumed until the ʾAyyūbids arrived in force in 1219 CE and took direct control of al-Shiḥr and the rest of Ḥaḍramawt (al-Jidḥī, 2013 147-50) This historical narrative relies on al-Jidḥī’s Tārīkh al-Mahra al-musammā al-tiṭwāf ḥawl tawārīkh wa-mashāhīr bilād al-ʾAḥqāf (2013) Unlike Muqaddam’s meticulously referenced, chronicle-style approach to premodern Mahri history, the sources that al-Jidḥī relies upon are not always evident, yet the basic outlines appear to be reconstructed from Sālim b Muḥammad al-Kindī’s (d 1892) Tārīkh Ḥaḍrawmawt al-musammā fi-al-ʿudda al-mufīda (edited and republished in 2003 by ʿAbdallāh al-Ḥabashī), which itself draws from the aforementioned chronicles by Shanbal and Bā Faqīh Khamīs Ḥamdān’s al-Shiḥr ʿabr al-tārīkh (2005) and Muḥammad al-Shāṭirī’s ʾAdwār al-tārīkh al-ḥaḍramī (1994) provide confirmation of al-Jidḥī’s general narrative of a nominally sovereign statelet in al-Shiḥr under rulers from the Āl Fāris family that was undermined by internecine strife, leading to an eventual return of ʾAyyūbid hegemony (Ḥamdān, 2005 32-35) Other Ḥaḍramī historians such as Ṣalāḥ al-Bakrī (author of Tārīkh Ḥaḍramawt al-siyāsī, 1956) and Saʿīd Bā Wazīr (author of Ṣafaḥāt min al-tārīkh al-ḥaḍramī, 1958) do not recognize an Āl Fāris lineage independent from the Āl Rāshid in Tarīm; in their telling, al-Shiḥr changes hands between the ʾAyyūbids and the Āl Rāshid without ever passing through an independent Āl Fāris family The question of whether the Āl Fāris were Arabic monolinguals or Mahri speakers is a matter of debate Ḥaḍramī scholars generally assume that the Āl Fāris—stemming from the Āl Rāshid—belong to the lineage of al-Kinda from Central Arabia and, accordingly, that they share their maternal Arabic language (Ḥamdān, 2005 and al-Bakrī, 1956) A number of contemporary Mahri scholars start from the assumption that the Āl Fāris were Mahri speakers distinct from the Āl Rāshid (Bākrīt, al-Jidḥī, Muqaddam), thanks to their long-standing presence in al-Shiḥr They are supported in this by ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b ʿUbaydallāh al-Saqqāf, the preeminent muftī of Ḥaḍramawt and Ḥaḍramī historian/geographer, who opines that the Āl Fāris are of Mahri origin (Muqaddam, 2005 266-67) This latter opinion carries particular weight because al-Saqqāf, a Ḥaḍramī scholar of great authority, cannot be assumed to have any reason to exaggerate the role of the Mahra in regional history By all accounts, the Āl Fāris family is associated with al-Shiḥr, which formed the western boundary of the Mahri-speaking tribal domain in the premodern era (even if nowadays al-Shiḥr appertains administratively, culturally, and linguistically to Ḥaḍramawt) Like the Āl Fāris dynasty itself, there is debate as to whether the indigenous population of al-Shiḥr are Arabic monolinguals or Mahri speakers Although al-Shiḥr is virtually Arabic monolingual at present, medieval Arab geographers were virtually unanimous in assigning al-Shiḥr to the Mahra and described how its population spoke a language other than Arabic (Ibn Durayd [d 933], al-Hamdāni [d 945], al-Masʿūdī [d 957], and al-Idrīsī [d 1165]) Later events under the Āl Bā Dujāna dynasty confirm the presence of large numbers of Mahri speakers and Mahri-speaking tribes in al-Shiḥr, suggesting that the port city once fell on or near the western margins of Mahri tribal (and thus linguistic) dominance Presumably, the demographic composition of al-Shiḥr lost its Mahri-speaking component and shifted to Arabic monolingualism after the sixteenth century CE, when the Kathīrī state from Ḥaḍrawmawt absorbed al-Shiḥr However, before Mahri dominion of al-Shiḥr ended in the sixteenth century, the Mahra inhabiting its coastal environs would experience periods of sovereignty and subordination in accordance with the waxing and waning fortunes of two of Yemen’s most famous centralized political dynasties the Rasūlids (1229-1454 CE) and the Ṭāhirids (1454-1517 CE) THE MAHRA AND THE ṬĀHIRIDS (1454 CE - 1495 CE) The recrudescence of Mahri sovereignty over al-Shiḥr (60 km east of al-Mukallā) reached its high-water mark under Muḥammad bin Saʿīd bin Fāris Bā Dujāna, whose control over the port was enabled by the decline of the Rasūlid state in the mid-fifteenth century and the absence of an immediate successor to it along the South Arabian littoral Emboldened by circumstances, Muḥammad bin Saʿd bin Fāris Bā Dujāna mounted a naval campaign against Aden in 1456 CE, perhaps modelled after the raids against Dhofār in the preceding decades The naval campaign against Aden was spectacularly unsuccessful and had critical consequences for the independent statelet presided over by the Bā Dujāna family based in al-Shiḥr, as shall be seen A note about the identity of the Bā Dujāna family is necessary here as indicated for the Āl Fāris and for other historical players along South-Central Arabian coast, there is uncertainty whether the Bā Dujāna family or lineage was Mahri in the sense that their maternal language was the Mahri language For instance, we may infer from the gentilic “al-Kindī” applied to Muḥammad bin Saʿd Bā Dujāna by a number of Ḥaḍramī historians that the Bā Dujāna lineage is derived from Central Arabia and was Arabic monolingual, not Mahri However, his family’s territorial holdings within the majority Mahri-speaking region of Ḥayrīj (east of al-Shiḥr near modern-day Dharfāt), his primary associates and allies from the Mahri Zwēdī and Mhōmed tribes, and the interwoven Āl Fāris/Shamāsa/Bā Dujāna patronymics suggest that, like the other members of the Bā Dujāna family, Muḥammad bin Saʿd bin Fāris was Mahri-speaking or closely related to those who were Moreover, the legacy of Muḥammad bin Saʿd bin Fāris Bā Dujāna is ardently claimed by the Mahri themselves, and, despite the gap of over five hundred years, the name Bā Dujāna evokes a sense of pride and regional chauvinism in al-Mahra, particularly its western territories However, this sentiment is linked to modern manifestations of political sovereignty; it is doubtful that the Bā Dujānas (or the Āl Fāris or the Shamāsa group) viewed themselves as appertaining to an abstract community of Mahri speakers in contrast to the Arabic monolinguals who lived around and among them Importantly, the Mahri language plays no role whatsoever in premodern histories of the region; the various tribes that nowadays speak the Mahri language are treated by Arabic-monolingual historians no differently than other Arabic-monolingual tribes from the region Except for distinctly Mahri elements in personal and tribal names such as Zwēdī (rendered in written Arabic as “Zawīdī” or the “Bayt Ziyād”), Mhōmed (rendered in written Arabic as “Muhūmad” or “Bayt Muḥammad”), or Umbārek (Ar Mubārak), a reader unacquainted with the linguistic singularity of al-Mahra would never guess so from the premodern historical chronicles As suggested by the intrigue of the Zaydī Imāmate in Sana’a during the conflict between Rāshidi and Fārisi factions in al-Shiḥr, the history of al-Mahra is inevitably intertwined with events happening elsewhere in Yemen, in this case, the replacement of the Rasūlid dynasty by their native Yemeni vassals and former collaborators, the Banī Ṭāhir As reported by Bā Makhrama’s chronicle, the transition from Rasūlid to Tāhirid authority proceeded with difficulty in Aden One of the final claimants to the Rasūlid sultanate, al-Masʿūd Abū al-Qāsim, sought refuge in Aden as a redoubt against his Rasūlid rivals, yet his hold over Aden was precarious In the absence of effective Rasūlid authority, Aden in 1454 CE had devolved into a state of intramural violence wrought by two rival factions the Āl ʾAḥmad and the Āl Kilad, both of whom hailed from Yāfiʿ to the north and east of Aden Whereas the Āl Kilad were the more numerous of the two factions, the Āl ʾAḥmad possessed the strategic advantage because they held the fortifications surrounding Aden The situation was so fraught that commerce ground to a halt; homes were shuttered, and any who could afford to do so stationed hirelings on their roofs to hurl rocks onto the heads of potential troublemakers below Fearing that the merchants of Aden would hand him over to the ascendant Banī Ṭāhir, the Rasūlid Sultan al-Masʿūd fled Aden and found refuge with the Mamlukes in Zabīd After the abdication of al-Masʿūd, the final claimant to Rasūlid authority, al-Muʾayyad Ḥusayn bin al-Ẓāhir, entered Aden; however, the situation had already progressed beyond his control Fearful of the Āl Kilad’s numerical superiority, the Āl ʾAḥmad sent a delegation to al-Miqrāna (near present-day Radāʿ) where the Banī Ṭāhir were based and offered them their vassalage in exchange for leadership positions in Aden Āl ʾAḥmad’s support for the Banī Ṭāhir was likewise made contingent on the removal of their rivals, the Āl Kilad, from Aden (Bā Makhrama, cited in al-Ḥāmid, 1968 570) The leaders (mashāyikh) of the Banī Ṭāhir agreed to the proposal and deputized ʿAlī b Ṭāhir (later titled al-Malik al-Mujāhid, “The Warrior King,” the second Ṭāhirid sultan) to take Aden, supported by a second force under his brother, ʿĀmir b Ṭāhir (later titled al-Malik al-Ẓāfir, “The Victorious King,” the first Ṭāhirid sultan) Living up to his future title, ʿAlī b Ṭāhir personally scaled the walls of the Taʿkar Citadel with the connivance of Āl ʾAḥmad guardsmen who lowered ropes to assist him However, one of the Āl ʾAḥmad guardsmen, a certain al-Qaḥḥāṭ, had second thoughts about betraying the defenses of Aden and left ʿAlī b Ṭāhir dangling in midair Al-Qaḥḥāṭ was prevailed upon by his fellow guardsmen, and ʿAlī b Ṭāhir was pulled up to the ramparts Once in control of the fort, ʿAlī b Ṭāhir called to his brother ʿĀmir, whose troops entered Taʿkar Citadel and there dealt fairly with the Āl ʾAḥmad guardsmen except for al-Qaḥḥāṭ, whose fate is not recorded (Ba Makhrama, cited in al-Ḥāmid, 1968 570) Having taken control of Aden and treated the final Rasūlid sultan al-Muʾayyad with clemency, the Banī Ṭāhir followed through with the final condition of their agreement and expelled the notables of the Āl Kilad from Aden The latter took refuge in a number of cities and towns along the coasts of the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, including al-Shiḥr, where they found a patron in the person of Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna, the sovereign Mahri shaykh of al-Shiḥr (Muqaddam, 2005 280, citing Ibn Daybaʿ) The Āl Kilad refugees in al-Shiḥr prevailed upon Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna and convinced him that Aden was ripe for plunder - its defenses weakened and its people leaderless in the absence of a sultan – and provided tactical details for infiltrating a fort known as al-Qufl (“The Lock”) (Muqaddam, 2005 284, citing Bā Makhrama) With his appetite for plunder and political ambitions whetted, in 1456 CE Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna outfitted an armada of nine ships to transport a host of Zwēdī and Mhōmed tribesmen from al-Mahra and their allies, the Yāfiʿī Āl Kilad, to the outskirts of Aden Meanwhile, Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna ordered that all traffic leaving the port of al-Shiḥr be halted lest news of the impending attack reach Aden However, one small craft, a sunbuq, slipped the blockade and informed the Ṭāhirid governor of Aden, al-Sharīf ʿAlī b Sufyān, of the impending attack and its first strategic goal at al-Qufl What the crew of the sunbuq found in Aden would have heartened Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna the Ṭāhirid army had already departed Aden, and its defenses were poorly manned Upon receiving word of the coming invasion from al-Shiḥr, the Ṭāhirid governor of Aden, al-Sharīf ʿAlī b Sufyān, sent word to the Ṭāhirid capital at al-Miqrāna for reinforcements and hastened to shore up what little defenses existed in al-Qufl with a levy of Somali and Ethiopian troops The Āl Kilad had not exaggerated the weakness of Aden’s defenses al-Sharīf ʿAlī b Sufyān was only able to find four cannons (makāḥil; see Serjeant, 1974 130-31) to defend his post In the meantime, Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna launched his armada; however, opposite the coast at Khawr Maksar on the approach to Aden, a vicious windstorm blew up that sank two ships in Bā Dujāna’s fleet While Bā Dujāna remained stalled in his advance on Aden by high seas and difficult winds, the Ṭāhirid Sultan al-Malik al-Ẓāfir ʿĀmir b Ṭāhir was given sufficient time to march an army to Aden and assume command of its defenses Confronted with the loss of two of his ships and the arrival of a Ṭāhirid host, Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna decided to cut his losses and return to al-Shiḥr However, while bringing his fleet around, Bā Dujāna’s ship was swamped by waves, and Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna and a number of his confederates were cast up on the beach at Khawr Maksar where they were captured by the Ṭāhirid troops who had watched the disaster unfold from their positions along the beach Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna was taken alive; Mubārak al-Yāfiʿī, one of the Āl Kilad who instigated the campaign, was killed on the spot In celebration of their unexpected deliverance, the Ṭāhirids paraded Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna on camelback through the streets of Aden and took him up to the balcony of the ʾamīr’s residence in Aden, the Dār al-Saʿāda, where he was instructed to watch the festivities below, having been overheard to promise that one day he would look out from the Dār al-Saʿāda as its sovereign (Muqaddam, 2005 288) Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna would be held as a captive of the Ṭāhirids in Aden for a period of two years 1456-58 CE Meanwhile, back in al-Shiḥr, the Bā Dujāna family faced new woes Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna’s naval campaign was not launched with the unanimous consent of his family and clients For one, his mother, a tribeswoman (bint al-maʿāshir) of firm and resolute character (dhāt ḥazm wa-ʿazm), had advised against the naval campaign in the first place (Muqaddam, 2005 288, citing Bā Makhrama) Having dealt with Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna’s naval invasion, the Ṭāhirids determined to take the fight back to al-Shiḥr and sent an army to take it under the command of Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn Jayyāsh al-Sunbulī in 1457 CE (Porter, 2002 173) Al-Sunbulī managed to occupy the eastern portion of al-Shiḥr; however, the western half of the city remained under the control of the Bā Dujāna family thanks to an energetic defense organized by Muḥammad Saʿd Bā Dujāna’s mother The city was divided and both sides were locked in a stalemate until a delegation of al-Shiḥr’s citizens brought al-Sunbulī and the matriarch of the Bā Dujāna family together to negotiate a settlement the Ṭāhirids agreed to release Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna from captivity on the condition that he and his mother would relinquish their claim to al-Shiḥr and retire permanently to Ḥayrīj (Dharfāt) The Bā Dujāna matriarch agreed and withdrew to Ḥayrīj where she was joined after by her son in 1458 CE (al-Jidḥī, 2013 158-59) and where he died shortly thereafter Despite the retirement of their former chief and his mother to Ḥayrīj, the remaining members of the Bā Dujāna family in al-Shiḥr refused to submit to Ṭāhirid control under al-Sunbulī, placed one of their own in charge of al-Shiḥr, and forbade any maritime commerce from al-Shiḥr to Aden (Muqaddam, 2005 295, citing Yaḥyā b al-Ḥusayn) As a result, the Ṭāhirids resolved to march an army to al-Shiḥr in order to remove the Ba Dujāna once and for all and install a Ṭāhirid-loyal governor Accordingly, in 1461 CE, al-Malik ʿĀmir b Ṭāhir, the first Ṭāhirid sultan, set out along the southern coastal route to al-Shiḥr with a great host (the cost of baggage camels alone was 12,000 dinars), which was accompanied by a flotilla of resupply ships (Muqaddam, 2005 297, citing al-ʿUqaylī; Porter, 2002 173, citing Ibn al-Daybaʿ) Much like that of Muḥammad Saʿd Bā Dujāna before him, al-Malik ʿĀmir b Ṭāhir’s campaign nearly ended in disaster his army would have perished from thirst along the desolate stretch of coast from Aden to al-Shiḥr but for a providential flood When the Bā Dujāna in al-Shiḥr learned of the size of the Ṭāhirid army on its way, they decided not to contest the fight and withdrew from al-Shiḥr, leaving it open to the Ṭāhirid vanguard, who plundered it for a day until the Ṭāhirid Sultan al-Malik ʿĀmir b Ṭāhir arrived from the rear, restored order, and appointed ʾAḥmad b ʾIsmāʿīl b Sunqur al-Yamanī as governor of al-Shiḥr (Muqaddam, 2005 295, citing Bā Makhrama; Porter, 2003 173, citing Ibn al-Daybaʿ) In removing the Bā Dujāna from authority in al-Shiḥr, the Ṭāhirids also secured the support of the Āl Kathīr, the ruling family of Ḥaḍramawt and Dhofār, who looked upon the Bā Dujāna (and subsequently, the Mahri Āl ʿAfrār) as an obstacle to their territorial ambitions Indeed, total control of al-Shiḥr appears to have been quickly assumed by the Āl Kathīr; in his report for year 1462-63 CE, Shanbal writes that the Ṭāhirids appointed Badr b Muḥammad b ʿAbdallāh al-Kathīrī the governor of al-Shiḥr, apparently replacing ʾAḥmad b ʾIsmāʿīl b Sunqur al-Yamanī (Muqaddam, 2005 296) However, Ṭāhirid control over al-Shiḥr did not last long al-Kinḍī writes that al-Shiḥr was claimed by an independent Kathīrī state under Sultan Badr b Muḥammad al-Kathīrī in the same year In this way, al-Shiḥr passed from nominal Ṭāhirid control to Kathīrī vassalage in the space of a year (Muqaddam, 2005 296) The Kathīrīs moved quickly to consolidate their power fearful of another Mahri recrudescence under the Bā Dujāna family, the Kathīrīs marched on Ḥayrīj in 1466 CE and wrested it from their control (Muqaddam, 2005 297, citing al-ʿUqaylī) However, they were ultimately unsuccessful in their bid for regional hegemony the Bā Dujāna clan reconstituted itself under the leadership of the young and ambitious Saʿd b Mubārak b Fāris, who managed to retake al-Shiḥr from Badr b Muḥammad b ʿAbdallāh al-Kathīrī in 1478 CE Once again in the hands of the Bā Dujāna family, al-Shiḥr would remain under their control until 1495 CE (Muqaddam, 2005 298, citing Shanbal and al-Kindī) There is one important coda to Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna’s attempted invasion of Aden, captivity, and release The nineteenth-century Ḥaḍramī historian al-Kindī relates that when Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna’s mother departed al-Shiḥr to secure her son’s release, conflict broke out in al-Shiḥr between a number of its residents, on one hand, and the Bā Dujāna family and their maternal cousins, the Āl ʿAfrār, on the other (Muqaddam, 2005 290, citing al-Kindī) The reason for this uprising is not mentioned in al-Kindī’s history, although one may speculate that it was linked to the catastrophic failure of Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna’s naval excursion Ultimately, however, the Bā Dujāna and Āl ʿAfrār surrounded al-Shiḥr and quelled the uprising Although this notice is historically insignificant, it constitutes the earliest mention of the Āl ʿAfrār family, the future sultans of al-Mahra (and Soqōṭrā) who would remain its paramount shaykhs until 1967, and whose star appears ascendant once again in al-Mahra as a consequence of the collapse of a centralized and united Yemeni republic in 2014 Further, the conjoining of the Bā Dujāna to the Āl ʿAfrār on his mother’s side is incontrovertible evidence of Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna’s Mahri bona fides; not only did he possess a verifiably Mahri lineage through the Āl ʿAfrār, but the maternal side of his family appears to be firmly tied to Bā Dujāna interests and was active in promoting them The final significance of this report relates to a thematic rendering of Mahri history the passing of the torch of Mahri revanchism from the Bā Dujāna to the Āl Afrār family, a political inheritance that we have previously seen hinted at through historical association and shared patronymics between the Āl Fāris and the Shamāsa group, the Shamāsa group and the Bā Dujāna, and, finally, the Bā Dujāna and the Āl ʿAfrār It is not necessary that these families be as closely related to one another as the historical sources indicate; rather, we may interpret the unbroken chain of the revanchist lineage in al-Mahra as genealogical engineering by historians and chroniclers to project a common lineage onto those Mahri families and clans who adopted a similar political posture, in this case, the rejection of non-local domination THE MAHRA AND THE RASŪLIDS (1355 CE-1445 CE) Whereas the fortunes of the Āl Fāris are unclear, the Mahri Bā Dujāna family achieved unequivocal dominion over al-Shiḥr and its environs; moreover, the historical trajectory and mixed fortunes of the powerful Bā Dujāna family are rendered more clearly in the historical record The Bā Dujāna family name first appears one century before the establishment of the Bā Dujāna statelet in 1355 CE, when Sheikh ʾAḥmad ʿAbdallāh Bā Dujāna was dispatched by the Rasūlid governor (ʾamīr) of al-Shiḥr, Dāʾūd b Khalīl al-Hikārī, to pursue and retake a ship that had been stolen by fugitive Indians who had slipped their bonds in al-Shiḥr, swam out to the craft, and piloted it to Soqotra ʾAḥmad ʿAbdallāh Bā Dujāna recaptured the ship and returned it al-Shiḥr; the fate of the Indians is unclear (Muqaddam, 2005 269, citing Shanbal) In this way, we find that the Bā Dujāna family already enjoyed some measure of preeminence in al-Shiḥr by the middle of the fourteenth century CE, serving as the enforcers for the ruling ʾamīr Indeed, the same shaykh ʾAḥmad Bā Dujāna achieved sufficient status that his death warranted specific mention one year later in Shanbal’s terse chronicle (Muqaddam, 2005 270, citing Shanbal) In the years immediately subsequent to Sheikh ʾAḥmad Bā Dujāna’s naval adventure, the picture of al-Mahra and the ascendant Bā Dujāna family loses focus, although one consistent theme emerges rivalry and conflict between a faction of Mahra coalescing around the Shamāsa family based in Ḥayrīj (roughly 200 km east of al-Shiḥr, near the present town of Sayḥūt at the mouth of Wādī Masīla) and the Rasūlid governor of al-Shiḥr from 1378 to 1392 CE, Muḥammad b Thawr b Ḥasan al-Kurdī al-Quḍāʿī (alternately referred to as “Bin Thawr” or “Bin Bawz” in Arabic historical sources) For instance, in 1388 CE, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b Shamāsa plundered the fort of al-Rayda and killed three of Bin Bawz/Bin Thawr’s people there This led to an engagement between the Mahra under Ibn Shamāsa and the Rasūlids, which ended in a lopsided defeat for Ibn Shamāsa thirty Mahra were killed, including two from the Banī Maḥāwib [sic? < Mḥāreb?], two the Banī Shaḥāwir [sic? < Sharāwiḥ?], three from Banī Ḥasḥas [sic? < Saḥsaḥ?], one ʿAlī b ʾAḥmad Bā Dujāna, and one ʿĪsā b Fāris from the Banī ʿAlī b Fāris (Muqaddam, 2005 270, citing Shanbal and al-Ḥāmid) Coincidentally, the latter two names echo the patronyms of two politically sovereign Mahri families, the preceding Āl Fāris and subsequent Bā Dujāna, perhaps an unconscious effort to project the nativist tendency in al-Mahra onto a few prominent families This local conflict had broader political repercussions looking to undermine their Rasūlid rivals, the Zaydī imām offered refuge to ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b Shamāsa after his defeat at the hands of Bin Bawz/Thawr In 1392 CE, the Mahra under Saʿd b ʾAḥmad b Shamāsa al-Shuʿaybī, apparently affiliated with the Bin Shamāsa group responsible for the first razzia against the Rasūlid governor, Bin Bawz/Thawr, ambushed a squadron of troops sent by Bin Thawr/Bawz to collect a tax of dates from the gardens and orchards of al-Rayda to the east of al-Shihr This time, the Mahra were successful and killed forty of Bin Bawz/Thawr’s enforcers Fearing for his life, Bin Bawz/Thawr fled to Sana’a, where he sought and received the protection of the Zaydī imām—an ironic turn of events Having removed Bin Bawz/Thawr from the picture, Saʿd b ʾAḥmad b Shamāsa wrote to the Rasūlid sulṭān, al-ʾAshraf Ismāʿīl, requesting that he be appointed the governor (ʾamīr) of al-Shiḥr This request was humored as long as it took the Rasūlids to send a new governor, Muḥammad b ʾAḥmad Qarājā, to take control of al-Shiḥr (1394 CE) In the same year, the Rasūlid governor of Dhufār, Shihāb al-Dīn ʾAḥmad ʿĀmir al-Harrānī, was murdered—according to some accounts—by the Mahra (Muqaddam, 2005 272, citing Shanbal) If this occurred subsequent to the appointment of Qarāja, one wonders whether this murder was meant as a message to the Rasūlid sulṭān about the dangers of double dealing The Mahra disappear from the written chronicles until 1421 CE when the town of Ḥayrīj—located further to the east of al-Rayda, near present-day Sayḥūt and the former turf of the Bin Shamāsa family—appears under the control of Saʿīd b Fāris Bā Dujāna From his base in Ḥayrīj, Saʿīd b Fāris Bā Dujāna launched a maritime attack against Dhofār, governed by the regional rivals of the Mahra the Āl Kathīr, who would later constitute their own state with its capital at Sayʾūn in Ḥaḍramawt The attack was a disaster for the Mahra their craft were caught in a storm, forty-five of the Mahra perished, and the survivors were cast up along the shores of Dhofār Another raid on Dhofār reached Jarḥāʾ, but Saʿīd Bā Dujāna’s men were forced back in the face of organized resistance (Muqaddam, 2005 273, citing al-Kindī) While these unsuccessful raids appear fairly unremarkable, the patronymic “Bin Fāris” belonging to Saʿīd Bā Dujāna suggests that lineage is destiny in South Arabian historiography not only do the patronyms “Bin Fāris,” “Bin Shamāsa,” and “Bā Dujāna” frequently occur together, but the Mahra bearing them often appear in South Arabian historical annals in revanchist roles Slightly over a decade later (1432 CE), al-Shiḥr had fallen out of Rasūlid control and into the hands of the Bā Dujāna family As a result, the Rasūlid sulṭān (a title indicating sovereignty), al-Malik al-Ẓāfir b al-Malik al-ʾAshraf, was compelled to send an army to retake al-Shiḥr from Muḥammad b Saʿd b Fāris Bā Dujāna, possibly the nephew of the same Saʿīd b Fāris Bā Dujāna who attacked Dhofār eleven years earlier The Rasūlids failed in their attempt to recapture al-Shiḥr, and their army retreated back to Aden, only modestly enriched by plunder (Muqaddam, 2005 273) This would mark the last Rasūlid military excursion along the Ḥaḍramī littoral and al-Shiḥr would remain under the control of the Bā Dujāna family for the next twenty-five years, with one challenge to their rule In 1445 CE, the reigning shaykh of the Bā Dujāna family, Shamāsa (or Saʿīd) b Saʿd b Fāris Bā Dujāna, died, leaving behind a son (or possibility a nephew) to succeed him Sensing the vulnerability of the Bā Dujāna state in al-Shiḥr and emboldened by the decline of Rasūlid power, Sultan Abdallāh b ʿAlī of the nascent Kathīrī state in Ḥaḍramawt launched a campaign to take al-Shiḥr from the Bā Dujāna family Recognizing some incapacity on the part of the newly appointed leader of the Bā Dujāna family, the appointee’s mother, either a wife or a sister-in-law of Shamāsa (or Saʿīd) b Saʿd b Fāris Bā Dujāna, took control of the situation and led the defense of al-Shiḥr with the support of allies from the Mahri-speaking Bayt Mhōmed tribe While the name of the queen regent of al-Shiḥr remains unrecorded, she successfully beat back the Kathīrī incursion and inflicted a serious blow to Kathīrī designs on al-Shiḥr She also bought time—a little over ten years—for the named successor of Shamāsa (or Saʿīd) b Saʿd b Fāris Bā Dujāna to grow into one of Ba Dujāna family’s most storied leaders Muḥammad b Saʿd Bā Dujāna THE MAHRA, THE ĀL KATHĪR, AND THE PORTUGUESE (1495 CE - 1548 CE) By 1495 CE, the Bā Dujāna family appears to have been in control of al-Shiḥr for at least eighteen years, although the Kathīrī sultans of Ḥaḍramawt continued to threaten the city throughout this period, going so far as to attack and establish control over some portion of it in 1488 CE (Muqaddam, 2005 301, citing Shanbal) Anticipating such an incursion, the Bā Dujāna family (or possibly the Āl ʿAfrār) had previously prepared the island of Soqotra as a refuge and settled it with their confederates from the Slōyem, Zwēdī, and ʿAfrār tribes (Muqaddam, 2005 300, citing ʾAḥmad b Mājid [d ca 1500 CE] from his maritime navigation treatise, al-Fawāʾid fī ʾuṣūl ʿilm al-baḥr wa-al-qawāʿid; also see Serjeant, 1974 157-58) This decision carried an important consequence from this time onward, Soqotra would remain socially linked to al-Mahra through bonds of consanguinity and politically tied to al-Mahra under a common sultan Indeed, the sovereign Mahri sultanate that existed until 1967 was ruled by the Āl ʿAfrār from their capital of Hadibo on Soqotra and the political and administrative union of Soqotra and al-Mahra remains a popular ambition in al-Mahra today However, Mahri foresight in extending their authority to Soqotra in the fifteenth century CE had more immediate payback when Badr b Muḥammad al-Kathīrī attacked al-Shiḥr in 1488 CE, Saʿd b ʾUmbārak b Fāris, the leader of the Bā Dujāna family, called upon his allies on Soqotra to sail to their aid; this they did and forced the Kathīrī army to retreat from al-Shiḥr (Muqaddam, 2005 300-301, citing Shanbal) While the Bā Dujāna family remained secure in al-Shiḥr for the next seven years (1488-95 CE), the seeds of their political displacement were taking root In 1493 CE, a rivalry between two formerly allied tribes from western al-Mahra, the Bayt Ziyād (Mhr Zwēdī) and the Bayt Muḥammad (Mhr Mhōmed), led to open conflict, and the Bā Dujāna took the side of the Bayt Muḥammad/Mhōmed against their former allies, the Bayt Ziyād/Zwēdī In response, the Bayt Ziyād sought an alliance with the Kathīrī sultan in Ḥaḍramawt, who agreed to attack the Mhōmed in their fortress in Qishn—the first Kathīrī incursion into a region squarely within the current boundaries of al-Mahra (Muqaddam, 2005 302, citing Shanbal) Sensing an opportunity to wreak further havoc on the Bā Dujāna, the Kathīrī sultan, Jaʿfar b ʿAbdallāh b ʿAmr, reinforced his army in 1495 CE with newly minted Zwēdī allies and invested al-Shiḥr with siege works Despite reinforcements brought by his son, ʿAbdallāh, who arrived from Dhofar, Jaʿfar b ʿAbdallāh b ʿAmr was forced to abandon the siege after twenty days and decamped to the agricultural settlement of Tabāla on the outskirts of al-Shiḥr, the first stop on his way back to his capital in Ḥaḍramawt, Sayʾūn (Muqaddam, 2005 301, citing Bā Faqīh and Shanbal) Receiving news that Jaʿfar b ʿAbdallāh had divided his troops and retained only a small escort for his personal protection, Saʿd b Umbārak Bā Dujāna leapt at the chance to finish off his Kathīrī antagonist once and for all Against the advice of his councilors, Saʿd b Umbārak Bā Dujāna left the safety of al-Shiḥr and personally led an assault on the fortified position in Tabāla held by Jaʿfar b ʿAbdallāh, who, as it turned out, was well supported by his Zwēdī allies The attack turned into a rout over one hundred of Saʿd b Umbārak Bā Dujāna’s men were killed, and Jaʿfar b ʿAbdallāh launched an immediate and successful counterattack against al-Shiḥr, achieving in a short time what a decade of concerted effort had failed to accomplish (Muqaddam, 2005 302-3, citing Shanbal and Bā Faqīh) From his position in control of al-Shiḥr, Jaʿfar b ʿAbdallāh al-Kathīrī was able to dictate favorable terms for a cease-fire in exchange for control of al-Shiḥr and the reduction to rubble of the Bayt Muḥammad/Mhōmed’s fortress in Qishn, Bā Dujāna and his men were given safe passage to their home turf, Ḥayrīj (Muqaddam, 2005 303-4, citing Bā Faqīh and Shanbal) At this point, the power of the Bā Dujāna family was effectively broken, and the family faded into obscurity Saʿd b ʾUmbārak Bā Dujāna would later be killed in Mombasa along with some men from the Mhōmed tribe (al-Jidḥī, 2013 164-65, citing al-Kindī, Bā Faqīh, and al-Ḥāmid), and the last scion of the Bā Dujāna family would be forced out of Ḥayrīj by the ambitious Kathīrī sultan, Badr Bū Ṭuwayriq, in 1539 CE (al-Jidḥī, 2013 167, citing al-Kindī) In their stead, the ʿAfrārī family, based in Soqotra and Qishn and supported by their Zwēdī kinsmen, would assume preeminence in Mahri political affairs as the primary standard bearers of the revanchist tendency in pre- (and post-) republican al-Mahra For instance, in 1531 CE, Saʿīd bin ʿAbdallāh bin ʿAfrār coordinated an attempt to wrest al-Shiḥr from Kathīrī control; the attempt came to naught after Muḥammad bin Ṭawʿarī (a name associated with the Zwēdī tribe and later to be claimed by the ʿAfrār as their sole tribal subsection) refused to assist in the campaign (al-Jidḥī, 2013 167, citing al-Kindī and Bā Faqīh; also Dostal, 1989 30) While Saʿīd bin ʿAbdallāh bin ʿAfrār does not yet merit the label of an independent sovereign in this account, the fact that he receives mention indicates that ʿAfrārī power and leadership was ascendant in al-Mahra With the exception of the abortive attack on al-Shiḥr in 1531 CE, Mahri military activity from the early sixteenth century CE onward would be defensive having surrendered al-Shiḥr to the Kathīrī sultans, the energies of the ʿAfrārī sultanate would be devoted to defending the borders of the core territory of al-Mahra, which at the time included Soqotra The success of the ʿAfrārī sultanate in holding the line can be measured by the fact that the western borders of the ʿAfrārī sultanate would be the same as those of the administrative governorate of al-Mahra by the end of the republican era in 2014 (with the exception of Soqotra, which was annexed to the Aden Governorate in 1967 and the Governorate of Ḥaḍramawt in 2004) In short, the western border of the Mahri-speaking territory after 1495 CE would thenceforth be located 200 km to the east of al-Shiḥr at Ḥayrīj and Sayḥūt, where Wādī Masīla meets the Arabian Sea The political situation in al-Mahra in 1495 CE—Kathīrī expansionism and the eclipse of the Bā Dujāna family by the Āl ʿAfrār—sets the stage for one of the most famous chapters in Mahri history Faced with the loss of al-Shiḥr on their western border, the Mahra were dealt an unexpected blow in 1506-7 CE when sixteen Portuguese caravels led by Afonso de Albuquerque (d 1515 CE) sailed into in the Arabian Sea and seized Soqotra from the Mahra, killing ʿĀmir b Ṭawʿarī al-Zuwaydī, son of the Zwēdī sheikh in Qishn, and fifty Mahra soldiers in the course of fierce hand-to-hand fighting to take the fortress at Sūq (Muqaddam, 2005 313, 321-29 and Serjeant, 1974 43, citing Shanbal and Bā Faqīh) In 1510 CE, the Zwēdī launched their response two sons of the Zwēdī sheikh, Khamīs and ʿAmr, led a force that sailed from Qishn, landed in Soqotra, and, after brief negotiations, killed ten of the Portuguese and reclaimed the island for the Mahra and the Zwēdī-ʿAfrārī shaykhdom (Muqaddam, 2005 334 and Serjeant, 1974 46, citing Shanbal) From the moment of Albuquerque’s appearance in the Arabian Sea at the beginning of the sixteenth century CE, the South Arabian littoral became an arena of conflict between the Portuguese and the Ottomans, with the Kathīrī sultanate of Ḥaḍramawt and the Mahra under ʿAfrārī-Zwēdī leadership maneuvering against one another by courting the support of the two imperial rivals However, the fact that the Mahra occasionally partnered with the Portuguese has been held against the Mahra by Ḥaḍramī partisans as a blemish on their history; in contrast, the Kathīrīs appear to have generally collaborated with the Ottoman Turks (although not always; see Serjeant, 1974 29) For instance, in 1523 CE, a flotilla of nine Portuguese ships attacked and pillaged al-Shiḥr, claiming that the property of a Portuguese merchant who had died in al-Shiḥr had been unlawfully seized by the Kathīrī sultan, Badr bin ʿAbdallāh Bū Ṭuwayriq With the apparent collusion of some Mahra, the Portuguese killed a great number of the town’s defenders, including seven of its legal scholars and learned men who would collectively come to be a known as “The Seven Martyrs of al-Shiḥr” and whose tomb would become the site of an annual pilgrimage (Muqaddam, 2005 343-46, citing al-Kindī and Bā Faqīh, and al-Jidḥī, 2013 208-20) Two Mahri historians, Muqaddam and al-Jidḥī, have recently set forth a challenge to the negative depiction of the Mahra as Portuguese collaborators, pointing out that the Mahra fought against the Portuguese and harassed their ships as frequently as they assisted them, and, moreover, that any collaboration needs to be understood within the context of Kathīrī aggression against Mahri territories in al-Shiḥr and Qishn, often with the direct support of the Ottoman Turks The détente between the Kathīrī sultanate based in Sayʾūn in Ḥaḍramawt and the Mahra under the leadership of the Āl ʿAfrār and Zwēdī ended in 1545 CE when the Kathīrī sultan Badr bin ʿAbdallāh Bū Ṭuwayriq (r 1516-65 CE) embarked on a massive campaign by land and sea to take Qishn and, having done so, compelled the head of the ʿAfrārī family and a coterie of his supporters to flee the city Faced with an uprising by the Mahra west of Qishn in the following year, Badr bin ʿAbdallāh al-Kathīrī, supported by Turks, northern Yemenis and Mahra from the Mhōmed tribe, marched against a force of Zwēdī and ʿAfrārī tribesmen at the pass of Līban (or Layban), near Sayḥūt, killing approximately sixty of the Zwēdī and ʿAfrār confederates (Muqaddam, 2005 281-82, citing Bā Faqīh and al-Kindī) However, we hear about Badr bin Ṭuwayriq’s conquest of Qishn only after the fact Bā Faqīh (citing Bā Makhrama) reports that, in 1548 CE, a Portuguese fleet harassing the Ottomans along the South Arabian coast was accompanied by Saʿd bin ʿĪsā bin ʿAfrār, the apparent leader of the ʿAfrārī family, who had previously sent his brother to enlist the aid of the Portuguese after the ʿAfrār were forced to flee Qishn in 1545 CE Having turned back from Aden in the face of a newly arrived Ottoman fleet, the Portuguese ships (along with Saʿd bin ʿĪsā bin ʿAfrār) made their way to Qishn and attacked its fort—now garrisoned by Kathīrī troops and their allies—and, after a heavy bombardment, forced its capitulation and restored it to ʿAfrārī control (Serjeant, 1974 108-9, citing Bā Faqīh) The accounts in written historical chronicles may be buttressed by oral folk narratives that still circulate among the Mahra concerning the seminal years of 1545-48 CE In popular oral narratives, the loss of Qishn and its restoration to Mahri control is linked to the foundation of the ʿAfrārī sultanate (which remained a nominally sovereign state until 1967 CE), and the events of 1545-48 CE are given a symbolic cast in popular retellings Not all of the facts between the written chronicles and oral narratives add up the role of the Portuguese is generally elided in oral narratives circulated by the Mahra; moreover, Serjeant points out that time is greatly telescoped in the oral history of the years 1545-48 CE (Serjeant, 1974 156) However, the significance of this narrative is deeply felt by the Mahra; no less than four versions of it have been recorded by foreign researchers (including one by myself) from Mahri and Soqotri consultants Walter Dostal (1989 30-31), R B Serjeant (1974 155-56), and Marie-Claude Simeone-Senelle (2002 227-42) The following version, recorded in 2008 in al-Ghaydha, was related to me by Ḥājj bir Ālī bir Dākōn When the Kathīrī invaded al-Mahra, the sayf al-dawla [“the Sword of the State,” i e , the sultan’s standing army] and the Bayt Mhōmed, who lived near ʿItāb in the direction of Sayḥūt, switched to the side of the Āl Kathīr and so Badr bin Tuwayriq was able to take Qishn and depose the Āl ʿAfrār The sultan’s wife—a woman of the Bayt Ziyād—was pregnant and gave birth to a son She raised him amongst the Zwēdī and he thought he was Zwēdī as well One day, he learned that his father’s family had been murdered and asked his mother whether any property was due to them She responded “Just a few slaves, and if you ever ask about them, Ṭuwayriq will kill you too!” When he grew older, the lad’s maternal uncle bought him some slaves and a boat and he sailed to Soqotra where he lived anonymously as the assistant to a wealthy merchant He became close to the merchant, who had a daughter but no other relatives The merchant’s daughter fell in love with the lad from the mainland, who was, in fact, the last living member of the Āl ʿAfrār They were married but he refused to consummate the marriage When she asked why he refused her, he revealed who he really was and swore that he would not lay with her until he had taken back his birthright, Qishn, from the Āl Kathīr His wife urged him to ask her father for his assistance; her father agreed and offered boats and manpower Even the daughter, the wife of the deposed sultan, participated in the campaign against the Kathīrīs The last ʿAfrārī’s army—composed largely of Soqotris and slaves—defeated Badr bin Tuwayriq who fled from Qishn into the hinterlands of Mahra While passing through the country far from Qishn, Badr came across a young Mahri Bedouin girl who was dancing the tanwīś swinging her head and flipping her tresses in joy He asked her why she was so happy and she replied that the ʿAfrār had retaken Qishn Badr was shocked that the news had travelled quicker than he had fled and gave the girl his golden jambiyya—a dagger—and his belt as a token of his respect When the girl returned to her family’s camp and showed them the gifts, they surmised that she had met Badr bin Tuwayriq This story proves that news travels amongst the Bedouin faster than lightning! Back in Qishn, the wealthy trader died and left all of his wealth to his daughter, who funded the new ʿAfrārī state Other versions of this tale differ only in the details For instance, in the version recorded by Serjeant (1974 155-56), the treasonous Sayf al-Dawla is an individual, and Badr bin Ṭuwayriq’s legacy is bloodier he butchers the Āl ʿAfrīr/ʿAfrār to a person (Dostal, 1989 30), and their grave markers may still be seen near Yabnī (Serjeant, 1974 155) “Yabnī” here is probably the same place where the sixty Zwēdī and ʿAfrār tribesmen were killed in 1546 CE; “Līban” (or “Layban”) can easily be read in Arabic as a scribal error The boy is given a name in most versions, Saʿīd (or Saʿd), that comports with the historical account of a Saʿīd (or Saʿd) bin ʿAfrār who was found travelling with the Portuguese in 1548 CE In virtually all renditions of the tale, Saʿd bin ʿAfrār also adopts the nom de guerre Abū Shawārib (“He-of-the-Mustaches”) for his refusal to trim his whiskers and consummate his marriage until he reclaimed his birthright In Serjeant’s version, the father of Saʿd’s Soqotri wife is “Sulṭān bin Mājid,” a reflection of the mythological stature that ʾAḥmad bin Mājid (d ca 1500 CE), the famed navigator and author of al-ʿUmda al-baḥriyya, attained in later centuries In both Serjeant’s and Dostal’s versions, the ruler of Soqotra enlists the support of the Portuguese and together they expel Badr bin Ṭuwayriq from Qishn and install Saʿd Abū Shawārib bin ʿAfrār as the sultan In Serjeant’s version Sa’d Abū Shawārib’s wife gives birth to a son, Ṭawʿarī, who in turn has two children, ʿĀmir and Saʿd, one of whom ruled Soqotra as its sultan, and the other, Qishn While we can take certain details of the oral narrative with a grain of salt, the basic gist of the tale comports with near-contemporaneous written accounts; moreover, the oral history includes important thematic elements that enable deeper and more detailed reading of premodern Mahri history For one, the Abū Shawārib narrative confirms the deeply intertwined personal history between the Zwēdī and ʿAfrārī tribes insofar as it posits that the sole remaining member of the ʿAfrārī family was brought up among the Zwēdī and even thought that he himself was Zwēdī Moreover, there appears to have been a long-lasting enmity between the Mhōmed and the Zwēdī tribes; it is therefore unsurprising to read that the Mhōmed participated with the Āl Kathīr in deposing the close confederates of the Zwēdī, the Bayt ʿAfrār Finally, the Bayt Ziyād is understood to have served as the sayf al-dawla to the ʿAfrārī sultan in the pre-republican era; they appear to have inherited this title from the Mhōmed, who lost it after collaborating with Badr bin Ṭuwayriq against the Āl ʿAfrār As seen in the written chronicles, the Zwēdī and ʿAfrār may be referred to interchangeably, and it is often unclear where one family begins and the other ends; this is certainly the case for the settlement of Soqotra in the final decades of the fifteenth century CE Walter Dostal addresses the confusion between the ʿAfrārī and Zwēdī tribes (Dostal, 1989 31); however, whereas Dostal uses this fact to confirm a Zwēdī presence in Soqotra, we may also suppose that the Bayt ʿAfrār was initially a subunit (fakhīdha) within a larger Zwēdī tribe, and that only after the events of the mid-fifteenth century CE did the ʿAfrārī lineage emerge as an autonomous social and political entity The relatively recent emergence of an ʿAfrārī lineage would explain their small number overall and the paucity of subdivisions within the tribe (Only one subdivision, the Ṭawʿarā, is understood to exist within the ʿAfrār tribe ) Mahri storytellers, however, could explain the modest composition of Bayt ʿAfrār as stemming from their near-extirpation in 1545 CE it certainly makes for a better tale and preserves the notion of an independent and sovereign ʿAfrārī lineage Further, the origins of the most recent standard bearers of the Mahri revanchist tendency, the Āl ʿAfrār, at the moment of their near-extirpation brings us back to one of the earliest, quasimythical narratives about the Mahra the wholesale slaughter of the Mahra during the Ridda Wars (632-33 CE), the flight of the Mahri women to the mountains, and the reconstitution of the Mahra through intermarrying with the folk who lived there It is difficult to determine where historical fact can be disambiguated from folk parable or how the narrative of the Ridda War subsequently informed the Abū Shawārib narrative; however, the deep thematic correspondence between the two narratives suggests an archetypal, quasihistorical framework in which the Mahra confront their precarious state as a linguistic minority, juxtaposed with the means for their persistence THE OCCUPATION OF IRAQ The following are two lines from a longer poem that addresses the US occupation of Iraq in 2003 These lines were composed by Muḥammad Sālim al-Jidḥī and recited to me by an anonymous Mahri in al-Ghaydha, 2008 He either did not know or did not want to recite the rest of this poem fōn ṭāṭ ʾāzūm we-ǧhēz ḳawwēt we-ḳlōṭ b-ǧeyś men śī kelkəlēt There once was a man [who] came to a decision and prepared his forces and encircled his army against any perturbations we-ḥḥarb ḏ-bawš śefh ʾār ǧersēt mṣōna hdūm we-ḫrūb ʾāddēt But Bush’s war ended up exhausting factories destroyed and equipment wrecked THE PURLOINED SLAVES Exchanged reǧzīt couplets related to Sam Liebhaber by Suhayl Zaʿbenōt in a conversation, July 2008 No recording available These couplets were exchanged between ʿAlī bir Erabḫ, muqaddam of the Zaʿbenōt tribe, and ʿAmr bir ‘Āmrōten, muqaddam of the Ǧeydeḥ/Jidḥī tribe in Qishn As related by Suhayl Zaʿbenōt, a few young men of the Zaʿbenōt tribe visited a suburb of Qishn called Yentūf and, while staying there, “helped themselves” to a few things In addition to taking some paltry items, they also stole slaves belonging to the Ǧeydeḥ tribe When the young men returned to Ḥabarūt with their loot, ʿAlī bir Erabḫ—their muqaddam—ordered them to return everything to their rightful owners in Qishn and went himself to apologize to ʿAmr bir ‘Āmrōten ʿAlī bir Erabḫ begins his apology with the following couplet ʿALĪ BIR ERABḪ ḥsōbī l-yentūf w-yednut ṣedḥeyt ḏ-ḥībes yeṭmūm I’m headed for Yentūf and the glimmering white wādī of Yednūt, that whose flash flood surges we-ḫṭā ḏ-ber ǧrōh bēh ḳźā men ǧsēd w-kel fēśel yetmūm The mistake that happened [we’ll pay] the price of it from [our] body so that every issue will be settled ʿAMR BIR ‘ĀMRŌTEN bir ǧawn wsāʾ beh men ediḳḳ ḏ-hārkōn tē mtellī beh ālūm The massive camel is broad enough for it [even] from blows to its columns [legs] except for the last one [which] was grievous (i e , stealing the slaves) hāṭlōḳ sebyōt we-ḏbūr meḫdōm ʾāfrīhem we-ǧsūm [Erabḫ] let them wander freely [like animals] [into] gardens that were guarded which [the farmers] had ploughed and worked into furrows THE REBELLIOUS SON Poem (in both tristich and hemistich lines) composed by ʿAlī bir Erabḫ bir Zaʿbenōt and recited by Sālim bir Salēm bir Ṣmōdā Recorded by Sam Liebhaber in Jāḏeb, March 2004 The poet, ʿAlī bir Erabḫ, discovered that his son, Sʿīd, slaughtered a number of kid-goats that he had been put in charge of by his mother and then, according to the introductory narrative, hung their bodies from trees Sʿīd had grown weary of providing fodder for the kid-goats, an arduous task that requires stripping branches from the thorny šīḳāf trees and then building corrals out of the dense, prickly shrubs Immediately thereafter, Sʿīd fled beyond the anger of his father to “the mountain people,” who welcomed Sʿīd as a guest, fed him generously, and offered to protect him against his father’s rage While ʿAlī bir Erabḫ is proud of his son’s strong character and defiant streak, his pride is tempered by his son’s evident recklessness and immaturity From a formal perspective, this poem was not viewed as a fine example of Mahri poetry because the lines switch between hemistichs and tristichs This is an error that so-called proper Mahri poems do not make Recitation by Sālim bir Slēm bir Ṣmōda tawwen neṭrēd sʿīd emhūr mhawṣayf Now let’s banish Sʿīd, who is described as precious gold bāl eḳalb ǧinzerī we-ššebdīt ḥawrōt teḳbōl kdēr w-ṭayf The owner of a heart of steel and a black liver that receives filth and bile, ḏe-l-heh men ʿīlēt lyēk ḏīzlūl we-mġōr yhawṭayf He’s not one of the cowards who makes a mistake and afterwards surrenders, birt sālem ettəzūm hīs hōyeǧ be-ḫlē hād ebōkī teḥseyf The daughter of Sālim [his mother] stays awake, watchful, like an angry camel of the empty desert, (for whom) there is nothing by crying and sorrow, ēr mḏōlel hān bkōh we-dmeʾsen ġreyf As for women, they cry and their tears pour forth ḏib leh mrawġ ḏ-śir śwerreġ ḏe-šḳayf The pangs of mischief arose in him, the turmoil of the events (or [of getting fodder] from the šīḳāf trees) bōtī men erawmī ṭāt ḳāt lēsen ehhəḳayf [The kids] were all of one type; he lay branches down all around them [to hem them in] seḥṭayhem be-skīn be-ḥdīd hendwōn emḥallef erhayf And slaughtered them with a knife of sharpened iron, cutting and razor sharp, ʾād el ġaymeź wel bnēd ynūfeġ bēhem kel wṭayf He didn’t have time to blink or close his eyes, and threw them all to the ground, corpses in heaps we-mġōren šeṭrūd men hād twōlī hād yeḫterīǧen heh sʿayf Afterwards, he fled from one to another who organized help for him on the way tē khēb hṭer eġayl hel eġōlī yeškeyf Until he arrived at the top of Ġayl, where anything precious can be kept safe ḳath men bellēt w-ḫabz we-śḫōf ḏ-bōtī nōb wet yḥaymeh yeśḫayf His food is of mixed fat and meat, bread and milk of “The She-Camel of the Bees,” whenever they want milk, they drink it w-mātīm berk ekkūt hel eḳāṣer enweyf And his sleeping-place is inside the fortress, a mountain stronghold, we-mġōren leh ḥarrest yhātīm b-hāzwōm we-šnēt līdġayf Moreover, there is a guard over him; they spend the night at the watches and do not doze off THE RESCUE OF ŚĪBĪ Composed by Ḥmēd bir Sālim bir Baʿbēt and recited by Raġbōn birt Saʿīd Ḥawr; recorded by Sam Liebhaber at Raġbōn’s home near Kzayt in Ḥawf, March 2004 hātūm lī haǧs w-šī heǧzōm A feeling has spent all night with me and stayed with me the next day too b-śībī hǧisk bīs heǧsī dōm I am thinking about my camel, Śībī who’s always on my mind hwūt b-źīḳ be-mkōn maʿdūm She fell into a cleft in a desolate place ʾār sōlem ḥmēd hēs hīs heḳdōm May God strengthen Ḥmēd as he comes over to her hāl heh mešhūr heh baʿlsen dōm He’s very well known as his herd’s constant shepherd hās ġōṯī mġāt w-wōḳa ʾezōr When he lifted her up by the neck and placed her forequarters his back w-līs ʿayyīd be-ḫlēḳ hāṭawr To help with this deed [the people called to each other], whirling their shawls overhead we-ġyūǧ šiǧhīm l-ād hād wetḫawr The men arrived not a single one tarried w-heh ǧbīlūl we-zyūd w-ʾāḳawr And becomes like a mountain and his strength grows greater we-klūl kensīt w-nekfīs men ṭawr He heaved with his shoulder and lifted it all at once we-hwōbī hǧōm hōdōh w-šūġawr Then attacked the wolves and took some rocks and threw them, rektīsen b-ḫaf w-ḥays el ḳṣawr He ground them underfoot and his power never failed we-ǧrūt fyōl hāl šīsen tkūn Then the she-camel left on a safe path to where the other camels grazed, tetbē b-rekśīt wel tēs hāṭawn She follows the lead camel and he lets her go unfettered mġō ḥebrēs ǧrūh w-šeḏḫawr And after her, her foal went and pastured with her yestāhel ḥmēd leḳā ḏ-šenṣawr Ḥmēd deserves to boast, ykesfes lā ʾār bīs fetḫawr He doesn’t hide [his deed] but is proud of it THE RIDDA WAR (632-633 CE) A community of Mahri speakers fully emerges in historical time during the Ridda (“Apostasy”) Wars in the first decade of the Islamic Era Having converted to Islam during the lifetime of Muḥammad, the Mahra (along with a number of other Arabian tribes) rebelled against the first caliph, Abū Bakr (d 634 CE) Under the command of ʿIkrimah, a Muslim army was sent to subdue the rebellious Mahri tribes On his arrival to al-Mahra, ʿIkrimah discovered that al-Mahra was divided into the less numerous followers of Banī Šaḫrīt of the Banī Šaḫrah, who lived in the coastal lowlands of al-Mahra, and the more numerous Banī Muḥārib in the interior highlands, whose leader was al-Muṣabbiḥ Exploiting this division, ʿIkrimah entreated the Banī Šaḫrah to re-embrace Islam, and, when they did so, the combined army of ʿIkrimah and Šaḫrīt defeated the Banī Muḥārib (al-Ṭabarī, 1905, vol 3 263) The medieval historian Ibn al-Mujāwir (d 1204 CE) adds a grim coda to this first chapter in the history of the Mahra (Ibn al-Mujāwir, 1986, 271-72) ʿAlī b Muḥammad b ʾAḥmad al-Sāʿī informed me in al-Mafālīs Fahd b ʿAbdallāh b Rāshid (the Sulṭān of Haḍramawt) informed me, saying “The origin of al-Mahra is from al-Dabādib where no prayers were ever heard So the Commander of the Faithful, Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq (RAA) sent an army to this district but the people of the village rebelled against them and when [the soldiers] were victorious over the people of the village, they set about with their swords and didn’t stop killing them until the blood congealed to the depth of a standing person, such that not a single one from amongst them survived except for three hundred unmarried girls, bedecked in anklets, bracelets and clothes They stayed fast in some near-by mountains and when the mountain people saw them, they gave them dowries [ʾamharūhum] and married them and so their descendants are the Mahra While Ibn al-Mujāwir’s account of the near-extirpation of the Mahra is meant to provide an etiological account of their name (“Mahra” < Ar ​mahr, “dowry”), it also echoes a more recent narrative concerning the near-extirpation of the ʿAfrārī sultanly lineage at the hands of the Kathīrī sultan, Badr bin Ṭuwayriq, in 1545 CE (see “The Mahra, the Kathīrīs, and the Portuguese”) The archetypal similarity between the two narratives suggests that an existential disquiet looms large in the Mahri popular imagination as a function, perhaps, of their precarious linguistic status It is certain, however, that Ibn al-Mujāwir’s account is apocryphal because Mahri soldiers, presumably male, played an outsized role in the expansion of the early Islamic caliphate into Egypt and North Africa just a few short years after the Ridda Wars THE TIMES WE LIVE IN The following are the introductory lines of a dāndān tribal ode by an unknown poet from the interior of al-Mahra and sung by an unknown performer (possibly the poet himself) I believe that the recitation is incomplete and therefore the topic of this poem is obscured Although this recording does not specify the event that occasioned the composition of this poem, I believe that it merits classification as an occasional poem The metrical scheme and melody to which this poem is sung was referred to by Ḥājj as yēd w-yēd (DAN i DAN, or | – ˇ – |) The rhyme letter is /d/ and /ṭ/, indicating the coalescence of these two phonemes in pausal position This recording was played for me on a cellphone in the possession of a Mahri visiting al-Ghaydha from Shiḥn I transferred the recording to my own digital audio recorder by placing the latter against the cellphone’s speaker while the clip played hayye bīš emdīt rēhī men eġawṭ Welcome to you, Mdīt refreshing breeze from the middle of the sea! hāwēl ḏe-rbē šīs ḥell mawʿūd The first appearance of Rbē has happened at its appointed time nekśōt hǧīs ḏ-hēm šbawṭ It aroused feelings that were still under wraps hēm fōn yūḳayf rīhōf ḏe-ǧmōd They had stayed still slender and unmoving [“frozen”] ḥōm lāmēr beh lenṭeyren wrawd I want to speak about it in order to make the roses [feelings] blossom men ḏōbel nwōź we-ṭrēf yehdawd From the direction of the lightning and the direction [where] it thunders w-ḥōm slōm be-ḳlēm we-śhōd I want peace [as testified] by the pen and witnesses w-rēḳem ṣḥeyḥ ḏel heh yhenġawṭ A correct accounting which will not cause [any one] anger le-twōlī le-sʿīd ḥrō w-ʾāmawd And after this, to Sʿīd the head and the spinal column (i e , an important, responsible man, Ar al-marjaʿ) yśeyləsen kell we-l heh yeśśədawd He carries them all (virtues) and is not incapable [of anything] w-ġawheh kell ṭrūf yeśdawd [For] all of his brothers he represents [all] parties hābūn māyōn wel fōn yeśṭawṭ The people are flowing springs (some goods, some bad) but Sʿīd has never “overflowed the limits” hṭeyr besṭōn we-ḏbōr we-ḥdawd [Standing watch] over the garden [protecting] its soil and borders we-nḥā men khēn bēnwēn tḳeyyōd And we, since time immemorial tribal rules [are followed] among us ṭeyr śēra w-ṭawl w-ṭeyr mezhawd [Remaining] atop the Sharia and its entire scope and atop intelligent ideas men bād hawlōʾī eə-ṣfēf we-ǧdawd Ever since the very first ones for generations and [since our] ancestors [we have preserved our laws] ʾār waḳten ḏēh ġśōh l-mezhōd But this time of ours has overturned wisdom šenhawl eṭmā rōyā l-meḳṣawd Inconsistent ambition has vanquished the [steadfast] intention w-kām men ṭnōḥ le-bdēn yerźawd How many people follow [the ambitious] and hack [my] body to pieces (people who cause the poet problems) wśawr ḏ-lūḥeyn wet tēhem nḳawd In putting together the planks to make a boat at that time, he chooses the best of them THE TRIALS AND REWARDS OF FIELDWORK Poem composed by ʿAbdallāh ʾAḥmad Sheyl al-Mahrī and recorded by Sam Liebhaber in Ṣalālah, February 2012 During one of my meetings with ʿAbdallāh, I received a phone call from my wife, and ʿAbdallāh saw how much I missed her and my son, Marwan This poem addresses the longing and anxiety of being separated from one’s family as well the rewards that hard work will bring men hīs marwān hrūǧ we-bkoh From the time when Marwan spoke and cried ḳfūd edmā l-ḥayb we-hwoh Tears came down [tears] of his father and they poured down w-lū wudʾak lɛ̄ ḏā hāśen bloh But I didn’t know from what he suffered ḳeylōb we-śwāḳ ǧemʿīhī kloh Worry and longing together the two ǧnūb eḥarmēt beḏlīs we-rdoh He went away from his wife he abandoned (her) and left (her) behind w-ʾeṭēfel kṭawr ār ḥawlī ṯroh The child had only tied two years together ʾār ḫāf eḏ-zəhēd w-eġeyǧ šehdoh But perhaps he is one who understands and the fellow did it correctly we-bǧūd ektōb w-ḳawl šeǧboh He ran after books and gathered poetry l-hān eḳlēm we-ǧhāzeh ḥwoh Anything that his pens and his equipment [his computer] collect w-ʾāmer ḳṣeyr ʾār ḥad we-ǧroh A lifetime is short indeed it is limited and passes by w-benɛ̄dem ḏkeyr b-hān hebḳoh But mankind remembers [a person] by what he has left behind THE TRIBAL ODE The two most quintessentially Mahri genres of poetry are the ʾōdī we-krēm krēm and reǧzīt, neither of which has an immediate counterpart in the Arabic poetic traditions Unique within the vernacular poetics of the Arabian Peninsula, the ʾōdī we-krēm krēm and reǧzīt genres are composed by tristich lines (three isometric sense units per line) rather than the hemistich lines that define the Arabic poetic tradition As such, these two genres are the most challenging for Mahri poets to compose because the concentration and lexical creativity required to keep three sense units in line is correspondingly greater than the two sense units that is more common in Mahri poetry Indeed, one can occasionally come across lines of reǧzīt or ʾōdī we-krēm krēm verse that consist of hemistichs, attesting to a lapse in the poet’s concentration and memory Too many such lapses, and the poet and poem will be viewed negatively These two genres are eminently public genres; no one composes reǧzīt and ʾōdī we-krēm krēm poems without the intention of circulating them These genres comment upon public issues that call for a collective response; as such, these poems are inevitably deemed formal, important, and serious Poets who compose such poems inevitably must take on a public role; or, rather, public figures are inevitably called upon to compose such poems Since the ʾōdī we-krēm krēm and reǧzīt genres are both isometric (tristich), they are distinguished only by length They are also commonly chanted and sung according to the same melody Thus, the melody for the genre is itself a cue for public reception of a poem of collective social and political significance These two genres of poem were the types of poem that my Mahri consultants were most proud of transmitting; they stand in the role of epic poetry and evoke the heroic endeavors of the Mahra However, since they could also refer to former tribal rivalries, my consultants were often leery of providing the entire texts of these poems, so many of them came to me in abbreviated form THE WANING YEARS OF THE ʿAFRĀRĪ SULṬĀNATE This is an exchange between Bir Frēǧ Kalšāt, a ṣūfī and caretaker of the shrine of al-Mahwī in Ṣaḳr, and Muḥammad ʿAlī bir ʿAfrār, the ʿAfrārī’s representative (Ar nāʾib) in Qishn Muḥammad ʿAlī is the uncle of ʿAbd al-Saʿīd bir ʿAfrār Detailed analysis of this exchange can be found below Recited by ʿAbd al-Saʿīd bin ʿAfrār (“Shaykh Hamza”) and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at ʿAbd al-Saʿīd’s home in Qishn, January 2004 Complete Recitation Recited by ʿAmr Sālim Šalmōten al-Jidḥī and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at ʿAmr Sālim’s home in Qishn, January 2004 Incomplete Recording BIR FRĒǦ tawwen nemdēd esseyr we-nbōleġ b-ʾadēd hal eǧerf ywūṣōl Let us now continue our journey and cast our fishing net where it may arrive at the sardine grounds we-rbōn ḏ-heh fḳēh śōreḥ le-msawreḥ kel w-meśtīwer yekhōl The discerning skipper keeps control wherever action is called for and the skilled one has good sense MUḤAMMAD BIR ʿALĪ ḏeybar we-ḥmō ḏ-hōh be-ḳwōyem we-śhūd brī men āṭōl The land and water are mine by proofs and witnesses that are free from fault ār w-bēr eśōra leh we-ḳdōm hṭ̌er essed be-ǧzē w-heflōl Except for that which is beyond the law on borders established before me by bands of men and armies BIR FRĒǦ tōǧer neǧḥedh lā men emōl ḏ-berh šeh we-nʾawmer yešhōl We don’t deny what belongs to the traders and the property that he owns we say that he deserves it ār ḫṭeyr eṭ̌almīt śbeḥ mens yerdūd w-maksēres yehbōl But [upon] the dangerous, dark sea the swimmer must turn back or the waves in narrow places will smash him to pieces MUḤAMMAD BIR ʿALĪ ḳyūd ḏ-ke-nnehōr ebrī men eġwōṭ we-mšettem hāḥwōl The bonds of time past free from any uncertainty whose terms were perfect and complete we-ṣrōma lad zhedk hes essībeh berkeh we-ḥrīh mhaġwōl Now I don’t understand them as though the swimmer is in the sea but the heads are hidden BIR FRĒǦ rōyes yezhōd eśśebk w-ḳawwet men ṣnāt wel ṭawreḥ heḏbōl The mindful fisherman knows his net and the strength of its manufacture and doesn’t overlook the fringes at the ends we-wǧāʾ ḏ-heh ḳwey yṭefh kel yawm yḥawzer mentəhōl Where its weak points are most severe he checks it over every day and tries to limit any damage MUḤAMMAD BIR ʿALĪ TRANSLATION hōyem meḳtīda lā w-elmeth ḏe-ssewīṭ wel ġayṭ̌eh yedwōl The grasping person is bound by nothing his dorsal fin thrashes above the water line his ill intentions do not lessen with time ār w-deḥmeh ṭbīb be-mḳawdeḥ eśśəyēḫ we-ḫdōmem tēh bīḫōl Except if a doctor attacks him with a large bore instrument and is busy against him, like an untreatable illness BIR FRĒǦ TRANSLATION ṣrōme šōhī ṣār be-ssennēt emaḥmūt we-mnawśī eṭṭīwōl Now the communists have arisen with an exchange of piercing iron and their massive tools of war we-ḏ-hēh brēk edawr ḳaṣf ṭ̌eyreh kel yawm we-mwōź nwīġ abōl That one in the fortress they strike it every day and the percussions trouble the mind MUḤAMMAD BIR ʿALĪ TRANSLATION kel ḏ-lad efōker lā w-ḏīḳawleb le-dmēm we-ǧdemh ḏ-yeġdōl The one who acts without thinking about others it burdens his conscience woe unto the one who bears it! ṯēḳel yelḥōḳ eǧawf we-zmōmer yāźeyd we-mġōren yefšōl The weight of it sinks into his chest his body’s strength is stricken with pain and in the end, it fails him BIR FRĒǦ TRANSLATION ḥāmel tē wlū zyūd ślūlen tēh rīkōb we-l-ewōber yeshōl Even if the weight were increased the beasts-of-burden could carry it and the best camels would do it with ease 2i) tē wlū leḳā ykūn twaḥyen kel yawm w-berkēhem eǧīhōl Even if things are as they are they are able to do it every day though amongst them are wrong-doers MUḤAMMAD BIR ʿALĪ tewwen nemdēd emawl be-śśrūṭ mwetteḳeyn we-mreddef heḳdōl It’s best we loosed the rope with all the conditions agreed upon and the tie bound twice over we-ḫzōyen neṣkēk elyēk henyōb sdēd w-hāḳfōl The storage rooms are closed though they be spacious they are blocked off and locked By the 1960s, the authority of the ʿAfrārī Sulṭānate began to lose its luster as it faced serious domestic criticism For one, the social underpinnings of the ʿAfrārī Sulṭānate were challenged by the militant antifeudalism espoused by the National Liberation Front (the NLF, al-Jubha), an umbrella revolutionary group that was the leading contender for authority in postcolonial South Yemen By the mid-1960s, the NLF had gained the upper hand against its rivals; it was firmly entrenched in Ḥaḍramawt and had proven its mettle against the British Special Air Services group in their counterinsurgency campaigns in Radfān in 1963 Secondly, an organization of Mahri workers and students who had returned from the Persian Gulf, the Mahra Youth Organization (Munaẓammat shabāb al-Mahra), pushed local sentiment toward union with the NLF and, in doing so, laid the groundwork for the transition from sulṭānate to Marxist republic This exchange of reǧzīt captures the political and social uncertainty of the waning years of the ʿAfrārī Sulṭānate and is a witness to the breakdown of traditional lines of authority Garbed almost entirely in maritime metaphors, this exchange discusses the obligations of the tribal muqaddam to his sulṭān and vice versa Both sides seem to agree that these obligations are no longer being met In (a), Bir Frēǧ sets the metaphorical framework their exchange will be like a fishing trip, their creativity will be their nets, and reǧzīt couplets will be pulled from “rich fishing grounds ” Continuing the metaphor, Bir Frēǧ adds that the sulṭān (the ship’s captain, rbōn) can bring the ship safely home provided that he is wise (fḳēh) and skilled (or well advised, meśtīwer) The nāʾib sulṭān, Muḥammad bir ʿAlī, responds with a couplet that reflects a major concern for the Āl ʿAfrār the security of property rights in the face of growing antifeudal, collectivist sentiment In (b), Muḥammad bir ʿAlī sets out the first principle of his (i e , the sulṭān’s) position what is his, is his; beyond that, he makes no claims His property is a function of inherited rights, through tribal custom (al-ʿarāf) and through his kin (ǧzē), as well as by the force of his armed soldiers (haflōl) In (c), Bir Frēǧ repudiates the most extreme rhetoric of the NLF and reaffirms the right of private property; the traders (tōǧer) shall not be deprived of the property (amōl) which they have earned (yešhōl) However, he warns that the sulṭān is one person swimming against an entire sea, and that some compromise (yerdūd) will be necessary lest he be “smashed to pieces” (yehbōl) The nāʾib sulṭān responds in (d) by turning the metaphor around the sulṭān is indeed a swimmer lost at sea because the heads (ḥrīh) of the other swimmers (i e , the muqaddams on whom he depends for guidance) have disappeared and abandoned him (mhaġwōl) In doing so, the muqaddams have forsaken “the bonds of time past” (ḳyūd kennəhōr), which spelled out their duties and responsibilities to the sulṭān, were free from error (ebrī men eġwōṭ), and were always fulfilled (mšettem hāḥwōl) Bir Frēǧ responds in (e) by pointing out that the mindful fisherman knows his net (i e , the sulṭān should know his subjects); in particular, the fisherman knows the sections that are weak and those that are strong The implication here is that if the social “net” is broken, it is because the sulṭān has failed to check it and to make repairs In (f), the nāʾib sulṭān takes a fairly belligerent line He describes the threat to the sulṭān’s authority as a shark swimming below the surface of the water whose dorsal fin betrays its predatory intention In a like way, the sulṭān’s enemies believe they are silently moving in for the kill, yet their “thrashing” gives them away To defend himself, the sulṭān will confront the danger like a doctor faces illness but with large calibre “instruments” and will show the persistence of an infectious disease (bīḫōl) In (g), Bir Frēǧ follows with a reference to current affairs, namely, to the attacks led by the NLF (šōhī) against the British in Aden (“that one in the fortress”) However, Bir Frēǧ describes this fighting in negative terms (“the percussions trouble the mind”) in order to demonstrate to the sulṭān that he takes a dim view of the conflict and prefers symbolic violence (such as this poetic exchange) over violent revolution Yet the threat remains hanging revolution is at the border of al-Mahra whether the sulṭān wants it or not In (h), the nāʾib sulṭān (?) warns Bir Frēǧ (?) against making decisions without considering “all of the others” (his tribal dependents) and then describes the effect of poor decisions as a burdensome weight that gets heavier with time and eventually leads to the disintegration of health (yefšōl) This is a fairly common trope in Mahri poetry (see “Atop the Peak of Ṭarbūt”); the negative consequences of selfish, antisocial decisions are expressed in insomnia and melancholy In (i), Bir Frēǧ (?) counters that no weight is too heavy for beasts of burden and certainly not for the pedigreed camels of al-Mahra Indeed, Bir Frēǧ (?) can endure the burdens of responsibility even if ignorant wrongdoers (eǧīhōl) should attempt to thwart him The nāʾib sulṭān concludes the exchange before it gets out of hand He asks that “the rope” between them (the tension) be loosed and their conflicts resolved He offers a compliment to himself and his competitor although they have locked up the storage rooms (ḫzōyen) of their creativity for the moment, he avers that both have ample (hanyōb) room for more This final couplet is binding, and the conversation is “blocked off and locked” (sdēd w-hāḳfōl); it is appropriate for the sulṭān’s representative to get the last word THEORY OF CLASSIFICATION There have been excellent, thoughtful and detailed publications of Arabic-language, oral vernacular poetry from the Arabian Peninsula (Bailey, 2002; Holes and Abu Athera, 2009; Holes and Abu Athera, 2011; Kurpershoek, 1994–2005; Sowayan, 1985) Yet, for the most part, such collections have focused on the multiline, hemistich qaṣīda—the most prestigious form of Arabic vernacular poetics—to the exclusion of quotidian and less revered poetic acts While this emphasis on the qaṣīda is consonant with local appraisals of poetic value, the greater number of lyric, sung, and strophic poems is eclipsed as a result A consequence of this approach toward the collection of Arabian vernacular poetry (nabaṭī poetry) is that it gives a preeminent role to genre in the archiving of poetry and holds poetry that doesn’t easily fit into any generic categories at a distance This yields a picture of Arabian oral poetry that is weighted toward the tribal historical ode and fails to capture the daily recitation of oral poetry by its many amateur practitioners While the traditional approach to the study of bedouin vernacular poetry gives a thorough picture of the finest poetry composed by Arab bedouin poets, it is also an unbalanced representation of its multifaceted nature As a result of a genre-based conception of the poetic system, the poems are presented as whole, integral, and predetermined text, and not as one—often accidental—outcome of a generative process that commences at the moment of creative inspiration In print scholarship, poems are thus encountered as unique, unalterable, and irreducible to more fundamental parameters For instance, vernacular poetry has previously been archived or indexed according to conceptual theme and melody (Sowayan, 1985 139-140), performance mode (Sowayan, 1985 140-44), or the individuals who excel in their composition (Holes and Abu Athera, 2009; Holes and Abu Athera, 2011; Kurpershoek, 1994-2005) Historically speaking, the poem’s genre or composer provides the basic framework for studies on nabaṭi poetry, with more detailed analysis occurring through the divisions of the tribal qaṣīda into reflexes of the classical literary nasīb, riḥla, and gharaḍ The absence of a more granular schema of vernacular poetry from the Arabian Peninsula conveys the perception that its genres are independent, unchanging artifacts, and that, moreover, genre is the basic criterion for defining a poem and cueing its reception amongst listeners My own fieldwork in al-Mahra suggested differently that only a subset of poem fit neatly into genre-based categories, and that poems must therefore be generated according to more atomistic parameters As a consequence, we should expect to find such parameters guiding the creation of a poetic text and steering it toward a performance and subsequent transmission This process, I believe, occurs as a series of steps that, when rendered in binary fashion, offer a road map to poetic creation within the strictly oral poetic practice of al-Mahra Such a schema is presented in Poetry, whereby visitors may travel the route from poetic inspiration to final text in an informal fashion The goal of this site is to set forth a comprehensive scheme for the vernacular poetic traditions of the Arabian Peninsula that indicates the relationships among the various types of poetic act on the basis of primary and fundamental parameters as opposed to the criterion of genre, which is a secondary expression of those parameters Not only do Mahri poets work through a hierarchical decision-making process on the way to the composition of a poem, but the expression of these parameters is critical in cueing the reception of an individual poem among Mahri audiences The result is the following classificatory scheme upon which any Mahri poem may be plotted; that is to say, each poem in al-Mahra lies at a unique intersection of the three structural parameters The various possible intersections resolve upon the composer’s sense of his or her own capacity as a poet; therefore, the intersections are linked to a preferred performance mode (public recitation? collective recitation? private song? etc ) This approach holds true for poems that are commonly assigned to a genre and those that are not Indeed, this approach encourages us to re-envision genre in Arabian vernacular poetry as nothing more than a preset intersection of the three parameters (and a semicontingent performance mode); that is to say, regular patterning of variables that serves at recurring occasions At the heart of this approach to the Mahri poetic system was the realization that many, if not most, of the poems I recorded could not be confidently placed within any particular genre category by my consultants, and that a broader means of analysis was required to provide a comprehensive picture of Mahri poetry TRIBAL CONFEDERACIES There is a general conviction in al-Mahra that every Mahri tribe belongs to one of three confederacies the Ṣāʿir/Ṣār/Sār confederacy, the Śrōweḥ (Ar Sharāwiḥ) confederacy, and the Šēḥaḥ/Šḥīḥ/Šaḥšaḥ confederacy The names are subject to considerable variation; this is due to their different articulation in Arabic and Mahri, as well as the fact that these groups are evolving phenomena whose constituent members, origins, and purposes lie in an immanent zone of the Mahri social and political consciousness This appears to be most acutely the case for the Šēḥah group, which is perhaps the most recently emerged of the three confederacies and is therefore more open to interpretation According to some Mahra, these groups should be understood as political confederacies or alliances but are not necessarily indicative of a shared lineage (al-Qumayrī, 2003 10) In other cases, a common ancestor is claimed who binds members of the same group through consanguinity (as tends to be the case in online discussions posted to almahrah net, which is currently defunct) These divisions do not have much political or social significance in the recent history of al-Mahra, unlike, for instance, the Ghāfirī-Hināwī division of Omani tribes, which was reified during a dynastic struggle in the early eighteenth century CE and reflects a general religious distinction (Sunni vs ʾIbāḍi Islam) in contemporary Oman Similarly, the Qaḥṭānite-ʿAdnānite division of Arab tribes played a significant role in the dynastic politics of the medieval Arab-Islamic state, and its effects could still be felt in the early modern era However, its influence on the contemporary politics of the Middle East is nonexistent In all cases, these social cleavages suggest a binary between indigenous and unmixed populations on the one hand, and immigrant populations who subsequently adopted local customs, languages, and lineages on the other Thus, both the Qaḥṭānī group of Arab tribes and Hināwī group of Omani Arab tribes customarily evoke nativist associations The Qaḥṭānī Arabs are considered to be Arabic speaking as far back as the lineage extends and to descend from “undiluted” Arab ancestry The Hināwī group of Omani tribes is populated by indigenous South Arabian tribes that adhere to the local ʾIbāḍite sect of Islam (Peterson, 2003 1) Conversely, the ʿAdnānī and Ghāfirī groups are associated with northern, “Arabicised” peoples who adopted the language—Arabic—and customs of the early Qaḥtānite Arabs However, the constituency of these groups does not always follow the logic described above and the assignment of individual social groups to a confederacy should be viewed within the construction of an idealized social and political imaginary However, the same logic that distinguishes between a nativist/revanchist group and and an assimilationist group within the Qaḥṭānī-ʿAdnānī and Ghāfirī-Hināwī groupings obtains for the Mahra between the Sharāwiḥ (Mhr Śrōwiḥ) and the Sār confederacies (Dostal, 1967 77 and Carter, 1982 60) This is also the opinion of a contemporary Mahri scholar, ʿAlī Saʿīd Bākrīt “The tribes of al-Mahra come in two types the Mahri tribes that originated and reside in the land of al-Mahra and the others that arrived from beyond al-Mahra and with the passage of time, affiliated themselves [intasabat ʾilā] to Mahri society” (Bākrīt, 1999 37) The polarization of Mahri society described by Dostal, Carter, and Bākrīt is attested for al-Mahra in early historical accounts For instance, al-Hamdānī describes a rivalry between two groups of Mahra, the Banū Khanzarīt and the Banū Thughrā, the latter of whom assimilated Arab immigrants from the tribe of ʾAzd into their ranks in order to expel the Banū Khanzarīt from Raysūt (al-Hamdānī, 1974 66-67) Elsewhere, al-Hamdānī divides the Mahra into an “eloquent” (faṣīḥ)—that is, Arabic-speaking—group and an “incomprehensible” (ghutm) group whose speech is like that of “foreigners” (ʿajam) (al-Hamdānī, 1974 193, 277) Suggestively, al-Hamdānī places the Banū Thughrā, who include “Mahri-ized” Arabs in their ranks, in the eloquent Arabic-speaking group; presumably the incomprehensible group consisted of the Mahri “indigenes ” As Dostal indicates, al-Ṭabarī’s account of the Apostasy War (or, Ridda War) contains another suggestion of polarization in Mahri society between the indigenes and “immigrants ” When the Muslim military commander ʿIkrima attempted to restore Abu Bakr’s authority over al-Mahra, he allied himself with a Mahri confederation led by Shakhrīt/Šaḫrīt against the recidivist Banū Muḥārib, who remained hostile to the caliphate and withdrew to the mountains Dostal proposes an etymological connection between “Shakhrīt,” “Sharāwiḥ,” and Ibn al-Mujāwir’s reference to the Mahra as the “Saḥara” (Dostal, 1989 29) However, I suggest that “Shakhrīt” and “Saḥara” are more probably Arabicised articulations of Mahri and Jibbālī term śḥayr, which is roughly translatable as the mountain range overlooking the plains of Dhofār and is the etymological source for the Śhērī language and the people who speak it But the point remains the same early historical evidence documents a polarization in Mahri society between indigenes and immigrants that exists into the present era Given the fluid nature of tribal relationships, even this basic binary pattern is currently being redrawn The most recent descriptions of Mahri society written by native Mahri authors describe a three-way distinction between the Ṣāʿir/Ṣār/Sār, the Śrōweḥ, and Šēḥaḥ/Šḥīḥ/Šaḥšaḥ While the tribes that belong to the Śrōweḥ/Sharāwiḥ confederacy have remained the same (the “indigenes,” according to Dostal), many of the tribes listed under Dostal’s Sār heading (the “immigrant” Mahra) have since been recategorized as belonging to the Šēḥaḥ/Šḥīḥ/Šaḥšaḥ group Because Mahri authors do not publicly identify indigenous versus immigrant groups, it is unclear what this shift entails Based on discussion threads on www almahrah net, the implications of belonging to the Šēḥaḥ are not clear to the Mahra themselves I suggest that a number of Mahri tribes formally belonging to the immigrant Sār group are graduating to the intermediate Šēḥaḥ group on their way to full membership in the indigenous Śrōweḥ group The reason for this shift may be prompted by the ongoing assimilation of Bayt Āl Kathīr tribes into Mahri tribal society In contemporary accounts of tribal lineages in al-Mahra written by local authors, space is being made for the Āl Kathīr to assume common ancestry with their Mahri neighbors (Bākrīt, 1999 42 and al-ʾAhdal, 1999 81) As immigrant Āl Kathīr households adopt the Mahri language (the one case in contemporary al-Mahra where Arabic monolinguals are adopting Arabic-Mahri bilingualism), the mechanism of assimilation through shifting confederacies can be witnessed in real time Formerly immigrant lineages are graduated to the indigenous Śrōweḥ confederacy through a Šēḥaḥ intermediary; this, in turn, leaves space available on the immigrant side of Mahri society for tribal newcomers to claim the resources and access due to local and indigenous tribes The tribal membership of the three confederacies can been found in the list of tribes All tribes attributed to the Šēḥaḥ confederacy in the list that I have compiled are attributed to the Sār confederacy by Dostal (Dostal, 1967 77) TRIBAL GOVERNANCE In addition to the Islamic and civic legal codes that apply to the Mahra as Muslims and citizens of the Republic of Yemen - on the ropes though the unified Republic may be - inter- and intra-tribal relations are further regulated by ʿurf, the collected dictates of tribal custom passed down through the generations and adjudicated by specialists (Ar marjaʿ pl marājiʿ) who are versed in its application Typically, the leader (muqaddam) of each tribe or lineage is also its marjaʿ Currently, the general marjaʿ (Ar al-marjaʿ al-ʿāmm) of al-Mahra is appointed from within the Bin Yāsir lineage of the Raʿfīt tribe In the pre-Republican era, the paramount rulers – the sulṭāns – of al-Mahra were drawn from the Ṭawʿarī lineage of the Āl ʿAfrār tribe The selection of a new sulṭān proceeded as an internal election within the Āl ʿAfrār tribe since (in principle) the title of sulṭān was not inherited from father to son The right of the Āl ʿAfrār to select the Mahri sultan was balanced by the fact that their candidate needed to find general approval among the Mahri tribes, who judged the acceptability of a candidate on the basis of his impartiality, the strength of his personality, and degree of education in social and religious matters (al-Mahrī, 1983, 143) Until 1967, the ʿAfrārī sulṭān was the head of the nominally independent Mahri Sulṭānate of Qishn and Soqōtrā However, the Mahri Sulṭānate was a British protectorate from 1886 onwards and surrendered control of its foreign policy to the British in exchange for financial and diplomatic support Under the Mahri Sulṭānate, different responsibilities were assigned to different tribes; this practice is customarily attributed to “the era of Saʿīd bin Tawʿarī al-ʿAfrār” (al-Mahrī, 1983, 143); that is, prior to the Kathīrī occupation of Qishn in 1546 For instance, the muqaddams of the Zwēdī tribe claimed the title of “sayf al-dawla” (chief military commander) of the Mahri state and the Zwēdī bore the responsibility for the personal safety of the ʿAfrārī sulṭāns This honor was no doubt linked to the tradition that the mother of Saʿd bin ʿIsā, the first ʿAfrārī sulṭān, sought the protection of her Zwēdī relatives against the depredations of the Kathīrī sulṭān, Badr bin Ṭuwayriq For more information on the relationship of the Āl ʿAfrār to the Zwēdī tribe, see The Mahra, the Āl Kathīr, and the Portuguese Under the ʿAfrārī Sulṭānate, the Bayt Yāsir lineage of Raʾfīt (based in Jāḏeb) was charged with determining the size of fines and penalties owed by wrongdoers (al-Mahrī, 1983, 143) This crucial responsibility has persisted through the Republican era; Bayt Yāsir is still viewed as the highest authority in matters of customary law Similarly, the Bā ʿAbduh shaykhly lineage (based in Qishn) was responsible for providing the ʿAfrārī state with its chief judicial authorities; this responsibility is currently echoed in their role of nominating the chief religious authority of al-Mahra (muftī al-diyār al-mahriyya) from their midst Other tribal or shaykhly lineages are distinguished by their specialization in particular fields of ʿurf due to a long history of association with a certain line of work For instance, the marājiʿ of Bayt Kuddah (who inhabit the inland deserts) are famously equipped to deal with questions relating to camels while the marājiʿ of Gēdeḥ (from the coastal districts of Qishn) specialize in issues relating to fishing In the pre-Republican era, tribal assemblies were occasionally convened that brought together different tribes and different tribal confederacies to discuss and resolve issues that concerned them The largest of these semi-regular, ad hoc assemblies was convened in al-Ghaydha; the last one was convened in 1962, a few years prior to the dissolution of the ʿAfrārī Sulṭānate and its annexation to the PSRY (renamed the PDRY shortly thereafter) in 1967 After the ʿAfrārī sulṭāns adopted Soqōṭrā as their primary residence, a tribal assembly was convened in Qishn on an annual basis to coincide with the sulṭān s month-long visit to the mainland Membership in this assembly was open to all tribes that abided by the government’s decisions concerning intertribal treaties and agreements Membership in the ad hoc tribal assemblies was open to all the tribes of al-Mahra, including Arabic-monolingual tribes that had settled in al-Mahra in historical time (the Āl Kathīr and the Manāhīl) even if they were not formally subjects of the ʿAfrārī Sulṭānate A pan-Mahri tribal assembly has recently been reconvened in al-Mahra in response to the collapse of the Republic of Yemen in 2014 This assembly is linked to the current scion of the Āl ʿAfrār, ʿIsā b ʿAlī b ʿAfrār, who has become very active in al-Mahra and Soqotra in the last few years and likely views the restoration of a tribal order as a means for the rehabilitation of his family s political fortunes Finally, moral and religious authority could be brought to bear on political and social matters by the class of ʾashrāf (or sayyids) as well as the caretakers of shrines dedicated to saints (Ar ʾawliyāʾ) since these sites served as demilitarized zones where truces could be negotiated and oaths sworn While the lineage of Belḥāf generally bore the responsibility for the maintenance of saints’ graves, this work was also undertaken by ṣūfīs who played a far more prominent role in the pre-Republican era (as in the case of Bir Frēǧ) than they do at present One such site was the Qubbat al-Fanṭūs at the coastal debouchment of the Wādī Gēzaʾ near Mḥayfīf At one time, “The Man of the Fanṭūs” (Ṣāḥib al-fanṭūs, “fanṭūs” being a clay-lined, covered trough used for storing sardine-oil) was the presiding genius of the sardine-oil storage industry; nowadays, the shrine dedicated to him is a derelict ruin TRIBAL MAHRA The majority of the population of al-Mahra (Mahri speaking or Arabic monolingual) belong to one of roughly twenty-five tribes, each of which is divided into lineages or clans (Ar fakhīdha, pl fakhāʾidh) Technically speaking, each tribe selects its political leader (muqaddam) from a single shaykhly lineage within its ranks; in reality, the position of muqaddam is inherited The muqaddam avoids direct involvement in actual fighting between tribes; his person is generally held to be inviolable During periods of intertribal hostility, a military leader is appointed on an ad hoc basis to lead the tribe on raids or into battle The tribal population of Mahri society can be divided into three primary confederacies a) the Ṣāʿir/Ṣār/Sār, b) the Śrōweḥ (Ar Sharāwiḥ) and c) the Šēḥaḥ/Šḥīḥ/Šaḥšaḥ These confederacies (often reduced to a binary configuration through the elision of the third group, the Šēḥaḥ) echo tribal polarities found elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula The two most prominent examples of moietization in Arabian tribal society are the Hināwī-Ghāfirī division in Oman and the Qaḥṭānī-ʿAdnānī division in the premodern Arab world, both of which reflect a similar divide in the popular imagination between an indigenous population and a population that is felt to be, if not entirely foreign, then less indigenous than its counterpart The ʿAfrār tribe has held the paramount leadership among the Mahra since at least the early sixteenth century and, for this reason, its leaders merit the title of sulṭān (pl salāṭīn) A social and historical anomaly, the tribe of ʿAfrār is one of the smallest of the Mahri tribes and lists a single fakhīdha among its ranks the Tawʿarā It is possible that the ʿAfrār dynasty emerged from non-tribal roots and was granted tribal status to justify its preeminent political role While matrilineal lineages and uxorilocal marriage are not unheard of in present-day al-Mahra, they are not as prevalent as they were in the past, when it appears that tribal affiliation was frequently passed down through the maternal line TRISTICH Poems based on a tristich line (three isometric sense units divided by a brief pause) are almost always occasional compositions addressed to a public audience ʿAskarī Ḥuǧayrān, the Mahri singer based in al-Ghaydha, described poems that utilize tristich lines as inevitably taking “events of the moment” (Ar aḥdāth al-sāʿa) as their topic, as opposed to an expression of sentiment that is not linked to a single moment Accordingly, tristich poetry in al-Mahra rarely deals with expressions of sentiment such as ghazal (love declaration), ʿitāb (rebuke of a lover), and waṣf (description of a beloved) The exception to this is the poem “Message from Sinǧēr,” a lyric poem regarded by my consultants as a poem of exceptional quality For the most part, sentimental topics fall under the bailiwick of the other two formal categories of Mahri poetry hemistich and strophic verse Instead, tristich poems reflect upon an actual event, typically a murder or another grave injustice, that requires a collective response In the form of ʾōdī we-krēm krēm tribal odes, tristich poems act as historical annals in Mahri society, while at the same time fulfilling an immediate persuasive function The following example of tristich line is from “Gunfight in Niśṭawn,” a poem which responds to a gunfight between of a group of Mahra and members of the Yemeni security forces that took place in 1997 ʾāśer šeh drīyet lā be-rḥōyeb ḏ-ġarbēt we-ttəḥawdī ḏ-mesḳōt I have a friend who doesn’t know living in the western towns at the edges of Masḳōt The tristich line appears to be unique to Mahri poetics and is not found in Arabic poetics Mahri poetry utilizing tristichs should not be confused with Arabic trimeter rajaz For one, the individual stichs of a Mahri tristich poem are of a different order of quantity four heavy syllables plus three intervening light syllables | – ˇ – ˇ – ˇ – | (x3) Secondly, the individual stichs of a Mahri tristich poem possess a grammatical and conceptual independence not found in a foot of Arabic trimeter rajaz This distinction is clearly expressed in collective chants of tristich verse where a breathing pause is audible in between each stich Poems composed of tristich lines tend to be viewed as the most socially and aesthetically potent forms of poetry The most prestigious genre of Mahri poetics, the ʾōdī we-krēm krēm tribal/historical ode, is almost always composed in tristich lines Amateurish poets generally compose poetry in hemistichs, leaving tristich poems to those Mahra who are most comfortable with the more arduous constraints of poetic line composed of three isometric components WAHĪBA RAIDERS Poem composed by Bḫīt bir Maḥrūs Qhōr Thawʿar al-Mahri (no information available), sung by Musallim bir Rāmes, and recorded by Sam Liebhaber in Ṣalālah, February 2012 The poem mentions Musallim bir Rāmes Ṣāliḥ Saʿd (Bīt ʿAmūš) Thawʿar al-Mahri, grandfather of Musallim bir Rāmes, who recorded this poem The melody of this recording is Musallim bir Rāmes’s variant of the traditional samʿīn samʿīn melody Similar in content to ʾōdī wə-krēm krēm poems, samʿīn samʿīn poems address specific events; however, the melody that accompanies sung performances of these two types of poem is different The poem is approximately eighty to one hundred years old and described a raid on the Bīt ʿAmūš by the Wahība tribe The Wahība surprised two Mahra from Bīt ʿAmūš of the Bīt Ṣabḥ subsection—a father and a son—whom they killed, but not before the two Mahra had exacted their price The son acquitted himself particularly well by sneaking around the Wahība raiders and killing two of them from a rear position before he himself was killed The poet calls upon Rāmes to lead the counterattack and praises his skill as a raider samʿīn ʾawmer bīs wel ḳōfel līs ebōb eǧwōbes men ḥrō [Hark,] o listeners, I am speaking about this [event] the door is not closed for it the response to it comes right from [my] head ḳeṣdōna be-fzāt eḏ-m rīḥeḳ ehyīṭ el-wheybe hīs ġzō I will say a qaṣīḍa about the fearsome [attack] [those] who braved danger from afar the Wahība when they attacked šīhem slēb eǧīt we-ḏlēl ʾabrōt we-mzōyed ḏe-ḥmō They [carried] with them good weapons sturdy, far-travelling mounts and plenty of water we-dlēlhem fhēm berh ḏ-ġrūb bkāt we-hnafh eḏ-ḥzō The guide understood the way indeed he knew the area he keeps himself out of the way of danger te šūḳa l-ḥākəbīt eṭṭərefse klōh Until he brought them to [Wadi] Ḥākəbīt [and] its two sides kūseh bēr we-ġyūǧ we-hbūn ḏ-bet eṣabḥ teḳḳəfōren eḏ-ḳnōh They found camels and men the children of the clan of Ṣabḥ May God requite those who raised them šēhī essəbūr ḫeybet lehne mḏeyyəbeyn we-mderrəkeyn klōh The two of them had a couple of bullets but they were courageous and they, the two of them, were vigorous fighters ḥebrē ḏ-hemmes ǧīd eḳnawn eḏ-herhō The son whose mother’s name is virtuous a young lad who shows no fear nōke bīhem hel śat hel eǧeyḥī ebḥayt we-mġōren šehǧō He came at them from around and about at the [flank] of a steep mountain and then he came to stop ṭarḥeyhem ḏe-ślōl be-źhēr ḏ-bātī nōb we-mlōteḳ men ṯrōh He let them load up on the backs of the large, sturdy camels the corpses of the two men hnīhem we-hnīn ʾenʿəyūten kel bkōh From them and from us every mourner cried ʾazzətehn w-ʾazzəteyn ʾazzəteyn tnōfe lā ʾār ḏe-b-ḥeydeh eswōh If only…if only… “If only…” doesn’t help but what is “in the hand” is an action reytəhem bīt ʾeskanyōt ʾawḥāhem elṭəyūm we-mnōbī berh ṭwōh If only they were of Bīt Eskanyōt and that their rescue had come together and that the news had arrived at night ǧrēzzəmenna we-ġyūǧ tehmān hīsen ṣawt hīs lḥaymer wet wsōh Rifles and men you would hear the sound from them [similar to] when the star Luḥaymar “rains” [i e heralds the start of the rainy season] ʾār yeslōm hīhem ʾāḳrōn ʾādeh rāmes šīkem bōh May God strengthen him [Rāmes] against them, knowledgeable in the terrain so that Rāmes would be with them here rāmes yedlōl ʾāḳā ber dwīlef emaġzē eḏlōla hedlōh Rāmes is well versed with the land he is accustomed to raiding [on] a riding camel that he takes WATCH OUT AND BE WARNED Poem #16 from the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at home, al-Ghaydha, January 27, 2004 Sung by Ḥājj Dākōn and ʿAskarī Ḥujayrān at ʿAskarī Ḥujayrān’s home, al-Ghaydha, September 25, 2003 heḏḥ w-ḥeḏḏūr…men tettōma bī ḥesdēt Watch out and be warned…against listening to those who envy me ʾān ʾāmōrem hūk hōh ḏ-īšġawyen men srūk If they tell you I love someone else hēm ḏ-ībōdī būk w-yḥaymem hīn fetnēt They’re lying to you They want strife to come between us heḏḥ w-ḥeḏḏūr…men tettōma bī ḥesdēt Watch out and be warned…against listening to those who envy me ġeyrem bī w-būk ḥesdem tī w-ḥesdem tūk They’re jealous of me and you They envy me and envy you wēt ġlōkī šūk yemtenyem tī lemēt When they see me with you They hope I’ll die heḏḥ w-ḥeḏḏūr…men tettōma bī ḥesdēt Watch out and be warned…against listening to those who envy me bōlī ʾāmūr kēḏə-l-ɛ̄d menhem ḥeḏḏūr As for the gossips Who ever isn’t on guard against them menhem ġatyūr we-ḳlōbem lēh nyēt Is changed because of them They turn his desire upside down heḏḥ w-ḥeḏḏūr…men tettōma bī ḥesdēt Watch out and be warned…against listening to those who envy me mēken bēr hlūk men fnīnī we-fnūk Many have been worn down by them Even before you and me w-ḏēd yḥawźeb lūk l-ād yḳawder lekmēt The one who craves you Can never hide it heḏḥ w-ḥeḏḏūr…men tettōma bī ḥesdēt Watch out and be warned…against listening to those who envy me aḥamk tehmā w-tettōma līhem lā I want you to listen [to me] And not to listen to them fōza men tḳā hīhem fēdī w-kelṯēt I’m worried that you’ll be Their sacrifice or just another story heḏḥ w-ḥeḏḏūr…men tettōma bī ḥesdēt Watch out and be warned…against listening to those who envy me bīhem ḫeyr lā bōlī ġaybet ān tdā There’s nothing good about them In case you don’t know about gossips beyn eġā w-ġā yedsīsem ʾādəwēt Even between brother and brother They could poison them with hostility WEDDING NIGHT SONG Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber in his home, al-Ghaydha, April 2004 This song is known as halyōt, from the injunction ehalyōt (“Let’s go out!”) Halyōt songs were traditionally performed by women as they marched to the groom’s house during the nighttime wedding festivities in a procession called the frōźet w-yā layle nūr O Night of Light ehalyōt Let’s go out! ġōṭī l-reḥbēt It has covered the village ehalyōt Let’s go out! we-mṭawlā kel In every direction ehalyōt Let’s go out! tēhem nīwrēt It glows with light ehalyōt Let’s go out! WHY ARE YOU WORKING IN A DUST CLOUD? Poem #7 from the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at home, al-Ghaydha, January 27, 2004 hēt wkoh brek ezēḫī w-be-ḥḥarḳ tedwīrī Why are you in a dust cloud working in the heat? hɛ̄śen heh ysūl ettābeš tē men śōneh tʾāṭṭīrī What is he who equals your discomfort for whose sake do you tire yourself? ḥamš ɛ̄r brēk ehhōla wel ḥamš teztəwīrī I would like you in the shade I don’t want you to be concerned [with anything], b-ʾālē men emǧawles hel tśīnī w-tʾābīrī Sitting in the loftiest spot at the gathering where you can see [all] and gaze [at everything], źār [sic ṯ̣ār] ḳṭōyef we-mdawkī līhem kel thōmīrī On cushions and pillows they have all that you command ġābī meddəwīr l-ġeyreš w-ān ʾamerš le meġtīrī Leave work for someone other than you and if you say “no,” I’ll speak [to them], ʾamrōna sēhel līhem lerwīḥem le-ʾamīrī Saying “It’d be so easy for them to give my princess a break ” ġabh lezyēd eġalleh ked ḥatteś we-ḏ-ġeyrī Let him increase his resentment whoever is angry and those who are jealous misk we-dḫōn ḫlēṭī we-ʾawīśī we-ftəḫeyrī Musk and the incense of the ḫlēṭī-branch show your beauty and be proud, we-lbīsī men eġōlī līhem lɛ̄d tšeḫbīrī Wear only expensive clothes you’ll never have to ask about them again tē w-lū ʾamūrem ḥeywel we-ḳlūb mlōyem ṯ̣eyrī Even if they told me I was out of my mind and began to put blame on me, hēt ʾaǧēbeš ḫeś eǧawfī źeybeṭ ʾaḳlī w-tefkīrī Love for you has pierced my chest and taken away my reason and mind WORK SONG FOR STITCHING AND REPAIRING FABRIC Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at his home in al-Ghaydha, April 2004 This is a traditional women’s work song called haryōt (derived from the command harya [“Take down the sail!”]) Haryōt songs were traditionally sung when the ocean was calm enough to permit travel (Ar al-futūḥ, beginning in December and lasting four to five months) At this time, men living abroad were expected to return to al-Mahra, and haryōt songs express the longing of their wives who have abided in their absence During al-futūḥ, Mahri women would sing haryōt songs while stitching together patches of fabric (Mhr ḳōfā) for use as tent material (Mhr ḫeyder) or sewing floor mats (Mhr nźōf) yā haryā bōh Let down your sails śillek be-mḥammed śillek I sing in the name of Muhammad, I sing yā haryā bōh Let down your sails yā haryā bōh Let down your sails ww-ṭrekkek be-lḥawnet I’m singing with a melody yā haryā bōh Let down your sails yā haryā bōh Let down your sails w-śetwaḳek l-ġalḳath I’ve missed seeing him yā haryā bōh Let down your sails yā haryā bōh Let down your sails we-śwēḳeh bī ṭawnet My desire for him pierces me yā haryā bōh Let down your sails YAḤYĀ AL-ḌĀWĪ BELḤĀF Yaḥyā al-Ḍāwī Belḥāf recited four medium-length poems in Mahri and a number of poems in Arabic that address Sulṭān Qābūs of Oman and his friends and family living in Dhofār I have no further personal information regarding Yaḥyā al-Ḍāwī Belḥāf, except for the fact that he lives in Damḳawt YEARNING FOR BAḲLĪT Composed by ʿAlī ʿAwaź al-Jidḥī and recited by his son, ʿAwaź bir ʿAlī Awaź al-Jidḥī Recorded by Sam Liebhaber at ʿAwaź bir ʿAli ʿAwaź’s home in Qishn, January 2004 This poem receives close syntactic and thematic analysis in Liebhaber, 2011a 32-40 hey bīš emdīt akkaws ḏ-aġrīr Welcome to you, Sea breeze the gentle wind that comes from the southwest nekśīt fwōd w-šīs henśīr It stirs my heart and with it, I am glad w-śelṯ eyōm lī wet fwīr By the third day it has begun to seethe in me w-ḳalbəlōb ymōh šeǧhīr And today all the sensations in my heart became even more frantic hes śēnem aġawṭ wel śī šebrīr After they saw the distance and that nothing will come easily hes rōrem aḫarf ḥyēs we-mśīr Like the sea during the monsoon with big waves and dangerous currents tebhōt rebnē we-lyēḏ yeśwīr It conceals its intentions from the ship captains and those who know it well w-ṣawdeh lawḥ w-lew mhōśīr And breaks up the planks even if the boat is newly built w-bōlī melk leǧīd yenhīr Those who earn their living [from the sea?] head toward its bounty [themselves] yherdūd bineh hel heh mhōṯīr He always returns to work at it in the very place where he was accustomed to doing so yhōkī ḥmō w-tēh yhedwīr He alters the course of the water channels and turns it back to fertile soil w-sēr ewlē kel yeǧterīr Behind the profit and gain they are hard at work we-ḏ-heh menbēr el šeh meḫyīr But the one who is outside he is left without a choice w-lew ḳdōm heh / lyēḏ ḏ-yaġīr Even if they offered him [help] those who are envious, ynaḳśem ḫaṭ w-yeḳtərīr And wrote a letter [for the poet’s sake] and settled on it together, yḳōlebh kel ḥar eźhīr They would pile everything atop [the poet’s] back reytī ehmūm lesbeḳ eṭyīr If only I were able to arrive before the bird! lāḳā ṣawḳer men wet frīr Or that I were a falcon and so whenever it takes off lehenfeḳ aźawt we-leṭāf kdīr And goes beyond Wādī Aźawt and circles the plateau at Kdīr w-źam ḏ-wedḥ wet heh meṣbīr To where the wādīs meet at Wadḥ after descending from the heights hel hēm yeḥlōl we-yheḏkīr And the place where her people live and are well remembered w-enḳad beḳlīt hāwēl ḏe-dyīr I’ll chose that of Baḳlīt whose settlement was the first [I visited] tezhōd ḏe-šwōb ḥebbōr taġtīr Her response is always pleasant from the very moment she begins to speak w-naṭḳ ykūn hṯ̣eyr teḳdīr And her conversation is always right on the mark w-zeynes hnīs erēġeb nwīr Her beauty goes with her a bough that gives off light śeǧrēt ḏ-mešmūm w-ʾūd el-ksīr A fragrant tree a branch of the magic ksīr-plant aw ǧīd menśēr men fenn ḥrīr Wearing new clothes of the silky type awle rwāḳāt wet āymel ḥǧīr Or like dark rain clouds that produce rain without storms yerḥōm arūź w-lew ḏe-hwīr And drench the gardens once stricken by drought w-ḳā bādeh yehṣawbeḥ nwīr The land afterwards is colored with flowers ḫā hōh mḥārīṯ wlē mhāfīr Like irrigated land or furrowed earth wle men aġeyl w-ātōm essīr Or next to a stream that flows in its channel hābū swē lā wet hēm debbīr People are not always on the same footing when they deal with each other bāź men hwē ber lēd yeḥsīr Some people who were spoiled will never hold anything back yeblīġ ādīd tōlū šǧīr He’ll pay any price even if it causes him trouble w-hēd leǧwōd tōlū šeḳmīr Another person raised on virtue if he can’t compete [with the former], we-ttīn ḏ-ǧawf w-ber aġyīr A feeling [hidden] in his chest, it alters him wet źeybet ǧsēd we-ḏ-heh mesrīr It takes over his body that which is hidden [inside him] we-lḥāḳ menźōf w-hel fḏīr And clings to his organs and “the heart and the liver ” ār ḳalbī ḫeh lad šī teġṭīr But O, my heart, give it up and stop talking to me, we-kmēt meśkē brek eṣdīr Conceal your complaints inside my chest hēt ār ḏe-ḥwelk kel śī mhābīr You know [the situation] well since everything is clear ʾanūf mḳeym w-ber ḥyīr The property owner has refused you and forbids it ywōzem anšē ʾār keḏ yeśwīr Some people can draw out their patience those who know how, tē bōlī ṣnāt w-šī leftəkīr Or perhaps the craftsmen will deliberate yemdūd hīrōb w-kel yūśīr Measuring out the rudder they will all build a boat atop it YOU ARE THE DEATH OF ME AND MY LIFE Poem #12 from the Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn Recited by Ḥājj Dākōn and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at home, al-Ghaydha, May 2004 mawtī we-ḥyōtī hēt ān tšaḫber we-l-ʾāmēr You are my death and my life if you’d ask, so I’d tell you we-ffəwōdī we-bṣār w-ferḥātī we-bśēr My soul, my sight my happiness and joy ḳalbī yentəwīren būk we-k-rawḥ yhenśēr My heart is illuminated by you and with my soul, is refreshed we-mʾawleḳ le-ǧsēd wēt enūrek lī źhēr As are all other bodily senses when your light appears before me; kel yhenśīrem šūk hād tḳōbel we-tdēr Every one of them is refreshed when you approach and come around w-ān ġyebk lī nhōr ṣawl w-hegs yekkədēr If you disappear from me even for a day my clarity of thought and emotions are roiled, we-mhawges yerḥeyḳ yeźlūlem ke-fkēr My thoughts go far away and get lost along with my mind nūnī lād yeḳtərūr be-ttəḳawleb le-nśēr My pupils get no rest at night while tossing back and forth at [every] stage of sleep, yedfīrem men ʾāllōt we-mšawḏeḫ le-ǧmēr They burn from sickness like splinters of hot embers hēs eṭāfel ḏ-ītwōḥ mōn yʾōmer heh ṣbēr When a baby wails who tells him to be patient? tē leźeyṭem teh b-laṭf men essəfā we-khēr Instead they take him gently from the hot gust [of tears] and [their] continuous force