Yemen needs international support for the liquidation of the cholera epidemic, which is currently spreading over the country. The disease caused the death of more than 900 people, and the contaminated are over 120 thousand

E. Mr. Abdulrazaq Mohamed Al-Amrani is a career diplomat with over 26 years of experience. Born in Sana’a on September 30, 1965, he graduated from the Faculty of Business at the University in his home town in 1988. He is married with four children. His professional career has developed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Yemen. He has held a number of positions, including Deputy Director of the Planning and Research Directorate and Director of the European Union Department. At the same time, he has been giving lectures on consular law at the Diplomatic Institute in Sana’a.

Outside of his country, he has worked at the embassies of the Republic of Yemen in the Republic of Austria and the French Republic. He was a consul at the embassy in Amman, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and deputyhead of the missions in the Republic of Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Since July 2015, he has been appointed as head of the mission in Bulgaria but is also in charge of the Yemeni citizens in Romania.

Ambassador Al-Amrani is an author of many books including "Al-Amrani’s Cruise: Knowledge and Amusement", in which he collects narratives and amusing stories heard from his father – judge in religious law Mohamed Ismail Al-Amrani. He is also the author of "The Consular Profession: Laws and Practices in the Republic of Yemen" and "The Yemenis in Jordan: History and Characteristics". Ambassador Al-Amrani is currently working on a new book entitled "Bulgaria from the Eastern Angle".  

- Your Excellency, recently the Yemen was to celebrate its national day – the Proclaimation of the Unification in 1990. Unfortunately, the country is going through an awful humanitarian crisis caused by the cholera. What is the situation now?

- Undoubtedly, the Day of the Unification of Yemen on May 22, 1990 is a great historical event as on this date, the supreme goal and dream of the Yemeni people for unity turned into reality. It fulfills the hopes, aspirations and struggles of the Yemenis so it can be called a historic turning point in the history of Yemen and the Arab nation.

The current situation comes as a result of the coup of the Al-Houthi group and the former president regardless of the results of the National Dialogue that lasted nearly one year, and united all Yemenis in the development of radical solutions to political, economic and cardinal issues (such as the issue of the demands of the South, the Saada issue, the form of the state), and solutions have been developed in favor of all Yemen. The results of the dialogue led to the draft of a new constitution for the Republic of Yemen that will ensure the establishment of a modern secular federal Yemeni state.  However, the coup and the plotters’ control over a part of the country, including the capital Sana’a, ruined all these great efforts and brought Yemen decades back, leading to a destructive war, financial and administrative corruption and weakness in the basic services for the citizens. This also led to the poor humanitarian and economic conditions, resulting in the spread of the cholera epidemic in several Yemeni provinces. So far, more than 900 people have died and the contaminated are over 120 thousand of people are contaminated.

- Twenty-seven years ago was signed the Agreement of Merger and Implementation of the Unification between North Yemen (The Yemen Arab Republic 1962 - 1989) and South Yemen (The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen 1967 - 1989). The country was united, but there is a civil war going on in it even today. Is there a hope for peace?

- The unification is not a reason for the war, on the contrary, it guarantees the stability of Yemen and the region. The cause for the war is the Houthi coup against the legality, supported by the previous president, as well as the mismanagement of the state by the former regime, and its misunderstanding of the unification - the failure to achieve justice and equality between the children of Yemen, the restriction of the state, the concentration of the political and economic benefits in the hands of a group of influential people. All this led to the creation of a political movement against the unity as a solution to the issue of the South. The state however believes that the Yemeni people must first unite to face the coup and the wrong political situation and return the rule of law so as the legal authority to execute its role according to the references for that- the resolutions of the UN Security Council that are relevant, and in particular Resolution 2216, and the results of the National Dialogue. As well as the Initiative of the Gulf states on the basis of which the former president handed over the power to President Abd-Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. Only after the restoration of the normal situation and after the end of the coup, the issue of the South can be discussed wisely and calmly in a way that guarantees the security and stability of all Yemen and the Gulf states, as well as the well-being of the Yemeni people. This will happen if what is stated in the National Dialogue Document and the results of the National Dialogue is fulfilled.

- In this situation, how do the diplomatic relations between our two countries develop?

- Bulgaria is a friendly country and our relations are historical and excellent. The first visit of an Arab Head of State to the Republic of Bulgaria was the visit of President Abdullah Al-Sallal in 1964 (the first President of Yemen after the 1962 Revolution). The relations between the two countries reached their peak in the eighties of the last century, and our bilateral diplomatic relations were established in 1979.

Bulgaria and Yemen have goodwill and determination to develop relations in all spheres and to activate the bilateral agreements signed between them. However, the international changes and local conditions obviously hinder that. The political crisis in Yemen and the changes since the beginning of 2011 followed by a coup against the legitimate government and, as I already said, all this detains the development of the bilateral relations. Nevertheless, Bulgaria has excellent political attitudes towards Yemen. In the midst of the political crisis, the Joint Bulgarian-Yemeni Economic Commission held its session in 2012 in Sana, which is a clear political message and confirmation of Bulgaria's support for the political transition in Yemen. Bulgaria has a fair position in the support of our legitimate government and strives within the European and the international community to find a peaceful political solution to put an end to the Houthi revolt. Your country also decided this year to include Yemen in the countries in need of humanitarian assistance and such was provided through humanitarian organizations.

We hope that this revolt will be wiped out as soon as possible and the Yemeni State could return to its previous normal state and begin the discussion of the revival of the Joint Economic Commission together with the resumption of the agreements already signed between the two countries in the cultural, economic or military fields.We also hope that the war will end, and that the situation in Yemen will be soon stabilized in order to begin the recovery phase, in which we hope Bulgaria will have a role through its energy, infrastructure and construction companies, which will benefit both countries. Your country has experience in this field and is also competitive with many European companies due to the lower price and the required European quality. Moreover, there is future activity of Yemeni businessmen and desire to invest in Bulgaria.We, at the Embassy, support and encourage them to do so.

- Bulgaria will chair the Council of the EU in the first half of 2018. Do you think this will contribute to the development of the relations between Yemen and the European Union?

- There is no doubt that Bulgaria, presiding the Council of the European Union during the first half of 2018 will double its efforts to support issues they believe in, and among them is the support of the legitimate government in Yemen. Moreover, the historical friendship between the two countries will reflect upon the activity and the efforts of Bulgaria within the European Union.

- You are an ambassador of your country in Bulgaria, but you are also responsible for the Yemeni citizens in Romania. Are there many of your fellow citizens in our countries, how do they feel in them, what is their realization?

- Now there are not many Yemenis in Bulgaria and Romania, as was the case in the eighties and nineties of the last century, when thousands of Yemeni students came to study in Eastern Europe especially in Bulgaria and Romania. The Yemenis who have graduated in Bulgaria only are more than 3000, among them - doctors, engineers, military commanders, journalists, etc., and such is the case in Romania. Currently, the number of our citizens who reside here has decreased significantly. Most of them are those who have studied in Bulgaria and then settled down and married to Bulgarian ladies thus being integrated into the Bulgarian society. In addition, there are few students who recently arrived to study in Bulgaria and Romania, the number of whom currently does not exceed 50 people in both countries.

- Yemen is a country with ancient history and rich cultural heritage. But three of the four sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, are at risk. At the end of last year, Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO expressed concern over the devastation caused by the airstrike upon historic buildings in the Old City of Sana’a. Tell us about it and its current condition...

- Yemen has an ancient human cultural and civilization heritage. As you have mentioned some of the Yemeni sites and cities are listed on the World Heritage List, and among them is the Old City of Sana’a, included in it in 1986. This is a historic city that captivates with its unique beauty and ancient architecture. Some of the buildings in it, built 400 years ago, are still intact with people living in them. According to some historical records it was built by Sim, son of Noah after the Flood, so among the old names of the city is his - "Sim". It had been also called Azal by the name of Azal, the grandson of Sim, the son of Noah and this is the name by which  the city is mentioned in the Torah, it is still familiar. It was as well named Sana’a, and so far this name is the most famous and most popular. It is said that the word is related to the quality of the industry in the city.

The Old City of Sana’a with its neighborhoods, narrow streets and markets is considered a dream for the tourists from different countries around the world. However, the unstable security situation has affected the size of tourism. The war caused by the rebellion against the lawful government, as well as Al-Houti’s control over the capital Sana’a, made it vulnerable to the air strikes of the coalition forces, especially because of the mountains surrounding the capital, which were used for arms depositories from the former regime.

- And what is the situation with the Old City of Shibam and the historic city of Zabid?

- The historic city of Shibam in Hadramout has high-rising tower-like buildings dating from the sixteenth century and built with sun-dried milky white bricks. These buildings reach a height of seven floors, which gives reason to some people to describe them as "Manhattan" or "Chicago of the Desert". The city is at an important point for the convoys on their way of trade with spices, scents and incense on the southern highlands of the Arabian Peninsula. The beginning of the city of Shibam is rooted in the pre-Islamic period when the star of this city rises and it becomes the capital of the Hadramian kingdom in 300 AD. And despite the civilian and urban invasion in the city, it still retains its character and uniqueness in terms of the functional and practical urban planning and design.

As for the coastal city of Zabid in the western part of the Tihamah region in West Yemen, its remarkable archaeological and historical heritage has deteriorated to a dangerous extent in recent years, when 40% of the original buildings have been replaced by concrete houses. In 2000, the historic city was included in the List of World Heritage in Danger. UNESCO helps local authorities to draw up a conservation urban plan and adopt strategic course for its preservation.

Many mosques and religious schools were built in the city of Zabid, where medicine, astronomy, agronomy, chemistry, algebra, arithmetic, astronomy and other scientific disciplines have been taught alongside religious law and linguistic sciences.The first school in Yemen was founded precisely in this city in 1173.The city has an outstanding significance for the Arab and Muslim world thanks to the Islamic University in it. I would like to note that I have read a manuscript of the book with the description of the city of Zabid and its history, preserved in the Bulgarian National Library in Sofia, written by the Yemeni historian Ibn Al-Dibaa Al-Zabidi.

- You have many monuments from the pre-Islamic period as well - the throne of the Queen of Sheba... The City of Aden, known since the time of Ancient Greece...

- The city of Marib has been known since ancient times as the capital of the Sheba state (1200 BC - 275 AD) and is also famous for the historic Marib Dam and the throne of Queen Belkis. Traces of the remains of these two historical landmarks still exist today. As for the city of Aden, its history, as you have noted, dates back to the time of Ancient Greece, with the name Eden mentioned in the Torah (592 BC), the Book of the Old Testament, the Ezekiel Travel, chapter 27, verse 22, referring to it as an important commercial center. According to sources for the origin of the names, Aden is a Hebrew word that means something that has a special attraction. The Romans called Aden "Eudemon", which means happy. From Aden caravans departed with the valuable at that time goods - incense, scents, spices and herbs in the ages of Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Rome, Byzantium and Greece, the main source of these products coming from Dhafar, India and the Horn of Africa.

- The songs of the Bistritsa Grandmothers from Bulgaria are part of the intangible cultural heritage of the world, but you also have the songs of Sana’a. What are they - the songs of the Yemeni people, sad or cheerful?

- What distinguishes the Yemeni chant is its diversity according to the region and the city, and sometimes it may be different in the same region. Yemeni song has no single formulation and arrangement. Yemeni art of singing is abundant, fertile and diverse. The song of Sana’a is different from that in Lahj and Jaffa in terms of rhythm and melody. There is also a Tihamah song, a Taiz song, a Hadramout singing art. In all these song genres there are sad tunes, but others are filled with cheerfulness, the melody is rhythmic, fast and vibrant. Various models of this rich artistic and musical heritage are recorded for fear of extinction of some of them and are preserved by UNESCO as an artistic heritage.

- Culture brings the peoples together, builds bridges between them. Shall we have the opportunity to touch somehow the Yemeni culture?

- Cultures can get closer only through communication, publishing and exiting from the narrow circle in which culture itself is restricted. That is what the Yemeni culture suffers from - its closure in its own shell and its non-distribution, except in the immediate vicinity where it is distributed in the countries of the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf. Yemen has witnessed a movement of its distribution through cultural and musical festivals outside the country and cultural weeks in European and other countries, including concerts, exhibitions and expositions of the unique Yemeni national costumes and traditional handicrafts in the 1980s and 1990s. Only, unfortunately, this activity has recently ceased. We, at our embassy, strive to highlight elements of the Yemeni culture according to our capabilities, despite the circumstances - war, security, political and economic problems.

- Yemen is famous all over the world as the homeland of the "Arabian" coffee... What is its production and export today?

- Coffee is the most popular product of Yemen in the history and it appears as the first Ambassador of Yemen abroad reaching out to Europe, America and all over the world, imposing its quality and unique taste. There is a close historical connection between Yemen and the coffee. Its discovery as a refreshing drink is due to our country, as well as it is its merit the coffee to be named Coffee "Arabica".

Its cultivation spreads in Yemen in the middle of the 15th century, with Yemen being the only exporter of coffee in the world by the end of the 17th century. The first coffee transaction took place at the port of Mocha (from it the name of Mocha comes from) where the Dutch bought the coffee in 1628.After three centuries of Yemen’s prosperity and uniqueness in the coffee production and export, several factors emerged that negatively affected the coffee plant. A gradual reduction of the trade with Yemeni coffee started and Yemen, despite the increase in the coffee consumption and its worldwide demand, lost many of the world markets in the 19th century. Coffee production decreased and in recent years its amount varies between 10 and 15 thousand tons per year.  Despite Yemen's decline in the list of the countries producing and exporting coffee, the Yemeni coffee still retains its quality and world fame.

- You are the author of several books. One of them - "Al-Amrani’s Cruise: Knowledge and Amusement" is related to your father Sheikh Muhammad Ismail Al-Amrani. What is the content of the book?

- Various humanities - history, literature, poetry, religious law, religion, wisdom, stories and biographies of scholars, politicians and others are covered in the book. The idea of "Al-Amrani’s Cruise: Knowledge and Amusement " came from what I have heard from my father in versatile and enlightening conversations. And I decided to collect everything I have heard from him and share it with people, not to keep it for myself. So I gathered about 800 pages and in order to make „The Cruise” an enjoyable and unique reading, I divided it into two seas: the sea of knowledge and the sea of amusement. Each sea has several different coasts, and at each coast there are many embankments. So every ship, and everyone who travels on this ship crosses from one sea to another, passes by many shores, stops at various harbors. And when the ship embarks at the end of the voyage, the one who has sailed on it will have acquired all that is beneficial to the spirit and thought. This division of "The Cruise" presents a degree of homogeneity and harmony between the parts of the book, giving it a kind of a thrill. Thus, the reader has the feeling of being on a discovery expedition, which he returns from after having acquired some knowledge and having experienced a delight from the amusement he has found.

- Now you are working on a new book - "Bulgaria from the Eastern Corner". How do you see our country from there?

- This book is still under preparation and its idea came from my admiration for Bulgaria and my discovery of the goodness of its people with its cultural and social proximity to the East. I have come up with the idea of looking for everything that is eastward or coming from the East to Bulgaria with the aspects of similarity between Bulgarian, Arabic and Turkish culture: the similarity of some lexical forms in the language, the similarity in some dances and costumes - Bulgarian and of the Eastern countries. In it I also describe the history of Bulgaria, its geography and tourist areas, the Arab, Islamic, and Yemeni presence in this hospitable country, and I try, as far as possible, to make the book an impetus for the Arab reader to visit Bulgaria and get acquainted with it and enjoy what it offers.

The photos is provided by the Embassy of the Republic of Yemen to the Republic of Bulgaria.

First row: Dar El-Hadjar Palace in Sana'a, the historic town of Shibam in Hadramout, Yemeni crafts, the famous "Arab coffee".

Second row: Mountain agricultural terraces, The books of the ambassador: "Al-Amrani’s Cruise: Knowledge and Amusement", "The Consular Profession: Laws and Practices in the Republic of Yemen" and  "The Yemenis in Jordan: History and Characteristics".