Yemeni Relics in Global Museums

National Yemen

By Tamjid Alkohali

Yemen has a great ancient civilization that makes all Yemenis proud. However, some people are trying to destroy it and sell it cheaply. As a result of that, some museums around the world have Yemeni relics.

How did these relics arrive in these museums? Do the concerned authorities know about these relics? How they can be returned to the homeland? Many questions requires an answers from the Yemeni government in charge.

The general manager of the General Organization of Antiquities and Museums, Mohanad A. Al-Syani, said that he visited many museums and recognized Yemeni artifacts.

“Yemeni relics come in two groups. The first was moved out from Yemen through smuggling and the second was given as gifts for some British leaders before the 14 October Revolution in south Yemen. The good part of these relics are in global museums display that showslabeled as “from Yemen”, but it’s a problem if they are attributed to another state,” added Al-Syani.

Al-Syani pointed to the unfair agreements signed by the leaders of south Yemen where they divided archaeological sites between foreign authorities, which implemented the process of exploration, and between officials in Yemen.

Al-Syani said that before returning the relics, smuggling must stop. “The problem is markets where relics are sold through auctions. Most of the museums containing Yemeni relics are placed in France and Britain,” he added.  Al-Syani confirmed that they would work hard to return the relics according to the law because they have signed many international agreements to protect heritage.

Dr. Ibrahim al-Motaa, an Islamic archeology professor at the University of Sana’a, had greater hope for returning the relics. He said the retrieval of relics is possible through international diplomatic relations and communications. Relics smuggles illegally can be retrieved by international courts.

“Even if the relics aren’t documented, Yemeni relics are clear, especially those with Sindh

writing,” added al-Motaa. The situation of the relics indicates the negligence of the authorities.

The deputy director general of the protection of monuments of the General Authority for Antiquities and Museums, Abdul Karim Alburkani, claimed an auction in Turkey will continue this month. The body is closely monitoring the possibility of finding Yemeni relics in this auction, which is attended by many Arab antique dealers.

“The smuggled artifacts are considered Yemeni cultural that can never be compromised in any way,” he added.

According to the Alburkani, smuggling Yemeni relics began because of the absence of law. Yemen became a good ground for smugglers because it is rich with archaeological sites.

Abdul Aziz al-Gandari, the Advisor to the Minister of Culture for the Antiquities Affairs,  mentioned the Louvre in Paris, it contains a large collection of Yemeni relics dating back to pre-Islamic civilization. The most prominent of those relics is a dish from one of the apostolic sultans.

The British Museum contains pieces such as the head Gyeman given by Imam Yahya to King George VI at his coronation as King of Britain in the 1930s.

The Islamic Art Museum in Cairo contains a collection of textiles and glassware, the Tropical Museum in Amsterdam contains a part of the Yemeni folklore, and the Human Museum in Paris contains a full collection of Yemeni heritage, prepared by Dr. Claudia Vaillant who was working as a doctor in Yemen.

Arthur Hall in the United States has a large Yemeni collection was a result of the research and exploration done by the American mission, headed by Wendell Phillips in 1952 in Shabwa and Marib. The Victoria and Albert Museum in Britain includes beautiful Yemeni Islamic relics.

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