National Geographic : 1964 Mar
the hills not far from Ma'rib, tribesmen were willing to die for the royalist cause. And in my tour of the country, more than once I heard the same doubt guardedly expressed: "The Imam is not merely a king; he is our spiritual leader. When we revolt against him, do we not also revolt against Allah?" I traveled through this new republic last March and April-or rather through a major part of it. Although I was unable to pene trate the hills held by royalist tribesmen backed by Saudi Arabia, my journey took me across boulder-strewn passes, green fields, and drifting deserts. I visited cities like San'a', Yemen's capital, some 7,200 feet above sea level; dusty Mocha, the port that gave a coffee its name; and Ma'rib, whose ruined temples attest the glory of ancient Sheba.* Border Fades Into Empty Quarter A sizable piece-and the greenest one-in Arabia's jigsaw puzzle, Yemen faces the Red Sea on the southwest coast of the peninsula. Its eastern border fades gradually and un defined into Ar Rab' al Khali, Arabia's vast lifeless Empty Quarter. Most of the country's five million people live in the cool mountains and high plateaus; few dwell along the Ti hamah-the sweltering narrow coastal plain (map, opposite). Yemen's geographical ancestor, the land of Sheba, straddled the profitable incense roads that stretched from the Hadhramaut, on Arabia's south coast, to ports on the Mediter ranean. Three thousand years ago Bedouin tribes, growing rich on caravan plunder, crys tallized into a powerful state and grew richer still from tolls. The kingdom of Saba, the Biblical Sheba, was born. About 650 B.C. the Sabaeans built a giant dam and irrigation system across the Wadi Adhanah, and lush gardens blossomed around Ma'rib. A hundred years before Christ, the Himyarites succeeded the Sabaeans as the power in southern Arabia. Later, the caravan routes declined in com petition with Roman sea lanes. A flood during the time of Ethiopian rule in the sixth century broke the neglected dam; today, only a few ruins of Sheba survive the drifting sands. "But you can't leave Sheba without seeing the Temple of Ilumquh," insisted Lieutenant Hassabou. So next day, after morning prayer, we piled * See "Yemen-Southern Arabia's Mountain Wonder land," by Harlan B. Clarke, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, November, 1947. 407 Bugler wears massive curved dagger, Enfield rifle, and embellished cartridge belt. Formerly a royal soldier, he now serves the republic.