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“Walking the Longest Wadi in Arabia” by Chris Bradley

Chris Bradley presented the first lecture of the 2019/20 MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series, held every year at SOAS. It was co-hosted with the British-Yemeni Society, of which Chris is a member. He described and showed photos that he had collected during his journey through the Wadi Hadhramaut, the longest wadi (valley) of the Arabian Peninsula, which he crossed in the 1990s. Chris started by introducing the Hadhrami people, their culture, their legendary origins and the reason that prompted him to write a guidebook about the Wadi Hadhramaut: the absence of such a textbook and the difficulty of finding any information on where and how to travel through the it.

Chris followed a trail described by Harold Ingrams, a British colonial administrator from the time when the British were based in Aden. He commenced his journey through Wadi Hadhramaut alone and decided to walk, unlike his predecessors who had traversed the wadi either on a camel or in a vehicle. In this way, Chris was able to experience hospitality from the local people while, at the same time, discovering their day-by-day activities and the businesses that they ran.

Chris showed the audience stunning pictures of all of the sites he visited, such as Shibam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. He also shed light on some of the traditions that are unique to Yemen, such as class systems that exist nowhere else in the Arab and the larger Islamic world, myths, pre-Islamic sites, as well as building practices. Especially wealthy families from Yemen, who made their fortune in trade, both locally and abroad, became patrons of the arts and had edifices built following various traditions: Arabian but also Indian and South-East Asian.

The pictures that Chris showed were welcomed with amazement by the audience for the beauty of the sights and cities that he captured. The new room that the MBI Al Jaber Foundation have been allocated in the Brunei Gallery, SOAS was filled to capacity.

We would like to thank Chris Bradley for his wonderful lecture and will keep you posted on future MBI Al Jaber Foundation events.

WARNING: Strobing effects occur during the film of this lecture which may affect viewers susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy and other photosensitivities.

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