July 27, 2008

Guns for sale.

I don't want to leave the impression that traveling through Yemen is without its dangers. It appears to be very macho to be in possession of a firearm, and in particular a Kaleshnikov. Every now and then, out of sheer happiness or something else I would rather not think of, someone will shoot in the air.
I would always wonder, what goes up, must come down, and it might come down on my head, however it always seemed to turn out alright. At least for me, I returned without a bullet lodged behind my ear.

The desire for weaponry must be a modern version of the jambiyya, a knife Yemeni men wear on their belts as part of their outfit. The jambiyya handles are made of horn from goats, cows, giraffe and the most valuable ones are made from rhinoceros horn.

Now that 'modern' times are catching up with Yemen, her craftsmen are are losing interest in making janaby (plural for jambiyya) and that is not the only art they are losing. Also traditional carpentry, polishing agate and onyx and silversmithing are rapidly disappearing.

It happens everywhere, not just Yemen. It seems to have to be the way that we lose skills and knowledge as one generation takes over from the next. The arrogance of the young and the indifference of the old.

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