National Geographic : 1957 Feb
254 A Balcony Assemblage in Saiun Hears a Sultan Speak Last summer Sir Ali Abdul Karim, Sultan of Lahej, made state visits to strengthen ties with brother sultans. Here he addresses dignitaries at the Kathiri palace. Harem women on distant parapets watch like ravens. From Ahwar, the administrative center of the Lower Yafai Sultanate, we journeyed on past Shuqra, resisting the temptation to veer off toward Abyan. Here the British have helped launch a most encouraging project of growing cotton under irrigation. Production has shot up from less than 10,000 bales in 1953 to 27,000 in 1956, valued at $6,500,000, and acreage under cultivation has almost quadrupled. Hurrying against the turn of the tide, we made our way down the beach to the Col- ony, dodging an oc casional caravan of slack-mouthed camels lurching toward Aden's markets. As the jagged profile of Jabal Sham shan's extinct volcano loomed up behind the city, a plane circled twice and lumbered slowly down upon the tarmac. I could guess its probable cargo-qat, the druglike plant which so many Ade nese chew with stub born addiction. It still comes down from Yemen and from the Western Protectorate by camel. But it is tastiest when the leaves are freshest; so now the airplane has been requisitioned to bring the Colony its daily supply, much of it from Ethiopia. I thought it odd that the marvels of 20th century transportation should be bent so fe verishly to bring about a state of languor. For, while the plane's en gines were still warm, some benign Arab gen tleman would be reach ing for his first leaves of the day, preparing to blot out the wor ries of the world and to slip into a light-headed, rose-tinted daze. Yet, after all, I had just been journeying in a long circuit through a land itself still half asleep, destined to wake soon from the slumber of centuries, but today still somnolent. As a tribesman, holding in his hands a fragment from the ruins of Qohlan, once said to his Western friend: "We Arabs live in an ancient house, and it has fallen on us. Now we lie helpless under the weight of its stones. You must tunnel down to us and open a door for us, so that we may pass out into the daylight and build our house anew."