Bustan al-Husseini, Paradise Lost

The vast garden, “Bustan al-Husseini,” was one of the most beautiful places in Lahj governorate.  It was a place of lovely scenery and manifold trees – many brought from India and Egypt – whose fragrances were sweet and fresh.  The enclosure once served a shrine for all sorts of people to spend their days among the beautiful shade of enfolding boughs, and the landscaped there used to inspire and astonish its visitors.

The founding of Bustan al-Husseini is credited to Ahmed Fadel al-Kumandan, whose vision was the precursor to what would soon become a landscape which would astonish its viewers.

Bustan al-Husseini was once home to all kinds of fruits and vegetables, which were brought by the Prince al-Kumandan from India.  He managed insulate the new plants and make them flourish as if they were in the tropics, despite Lahj’s high temperatures in the summer.  It was a semi paradise and one of the great historical treasures of the land of Sheba.  It was the only resort for the people of the surrounding areas, who came there to rest  and eat from its fruit without freely, although taking al-Bustan’s fruit outside with them was strictly forbidden.

At the earliest time of its founding, poets and artists used to be inspired when they lay among the branches of its trees, with their famous aromas.

The Communist Rule of the South period began after the overthrow of British colonial that had turned Bustan al-Husseini into a den for alcohol and partying, which typically raged from six in the evening until seven in the morning.

After that point, the guards of al-Bustan required that intoxicated people were not allowed out until the influence of alcohol had worn off.

The events of 1990, the date of Yemen’s unification, gave citizens the opportunity to reclaim their rights to the land adjacent to al-Bustan, which had long been usurped and withheld by the Southern Regime.   At that time, gangs closed in on the area and looted large parts of it, which led to the deterioration of the garden and explains its current sorry state.

Bustan Al-Husseini is located north al-Hut, between a small valley on the East, and a rather larger one on the west.  Bustan al-Husseini was famous throughout all of Yemen, the Gulf, and the entire Arabian Peninsula.  It was known for its jasmine and fragrant Indian plants which were used by the women of Lahj to make all sorts of perfumes and fragrances extracted from their pith.

When al-Kumandan established the farm, first he began to construct a canal in order to get access to springs located were in a nearby small valley, and he tasked three farmers with the job and began working on the construction of the al-Husseini canal until they successfully tapped the wells.

The canal crosses al-Soroah village from the eastern side, and the work continued till the water flowed  from the valley until it reached Hid Kubar Eassa, where the forested area begins by Sultan Fadl Bin Ali al-Abdali.

When World War I broke in 1914, the Turks entered Lahj, and the local sultans and princes were forced out the province and work almost stopped at the farm.  But, after their withdrawal in the wake of defeat, local care for the garden resumed.  Ahmed Fadel al-Kumandan supervised the work, and planted a variety of rare and foreign trees, some of which were brought from India.

Al-Husseini’s workers were mostly from the villages of Khadad and Quraishi.  Most of the al-Quraishi workers were charged with trimming the trees of the enclosure, which comprised mango, olive, and guava. After Ahmed Fadel al-Kumandan ‘sdeath, the land was given to his nephew Fadel Bin Abdelkarim, who after a short while leased al-Bustan to several farmers.

Farmers had continued working there after the independence in 1967 from the British government.  On New Years 1968, al-Bustan was occupied by the Communist government ruling in the southern provinces.  Accordingly, work began to deteriorate as the experienced workers who maintained the facility during the lifetimes of the princes and sultans began to die out.  Finally, the garden returned to their original owners in 1990.

“Bustan al-Husseini stretches from Ramadah from the west and  Hait Eassa from the east. It was divided into several sections, the most famous of which were those devoted to bananas, cane sugar and roses.  But, some of these trees and fruits withered and disappeared as a result of a lack of water and interest, specifically after Sultans’ time,” a local said.

Al-Kumandan brought trees from various countries, with the intention of making it resemble heaven itself, so he decided to call it «al-Husseini».  But many of these tree varieties, such as the coconut and many others, have long since withered and died. Its tenders used to sing and chant among al-Bustan’s groves, fields, and aromatic leaves.

The size of the garden at its time of greatest extent was estimated at about 300 acres, and its workers were 120 male and female gardeners at the peak of its prosperity.

Al-Husseini’s reputation for beauty attracted people from the surrounding areas.  Visitors came from all over Aden, Abyan, and Lahj, especially on the weekends, as well as during public and Eid holidays. Also, it provided a good income to those who took part in maintaining it.

The garden eventually became a tourist haven. The people of al-Huta region and some nearby villages made popular cuisine from its offerings, which included such as al –Kamer,  and al-kedr bread, for which the region was famous.  They also supplied al-Husseini’s visitors, who used to stand in long lines waiting for its products, which have now essentially disappeared from local shops.

Bustan al-Husseini was also productive farm, whose fruits and vegetables were marketed and sold not only in the local market, but also throughout the Republic, including all various kinds of mango, guava, banana in addition to other fruits, such as pomegranates, and figs, which no longer exist.

There were different views over the founding of al-Husseini. Ahmed Fadel al-Gghemndan wrote a book which indicates that his father was more interested in agriculture. He said, “my father, Sultan Fadl Ben Ali was one of the vassals of the al-Abdali sultan, who was interested in expanding agriculture – a major priority at the time.”

Even still, few disagree that al-Ghemndan was the real founder, regardless of whether it was the al-Abdali sultan’s idea, and he was the one responsible for finding and acquiring the rare tree species.  These specimens gave the place the elegance and splendor for which it was known, and endowed the garden with flowers whose aroma could be enjoyed from a distance of even several hundred meters.  But today they have disappeared, and knowledge of the Bustan’s very existence with it.

Last year, in 2010 one of the investors  restored part of the area and converted it to a resort for visitors in addition to renovating a pool in order to regain al-Husseini’s old glory days.