Tag Archives: Yemen

Nelson DeMille’s The Panther, part one

A couple days ago I started reading The Panther by Nelson DeMille. “Yay,” I thought, “Finally another book to write about on my blog. Almost nobody writes novels with Arab villains these days.” But Mr. DeMille came through.

Rather than wait until I finish it, I’m going to start with my thoughts so far, as they are many, plus I just got to something that really tickled my funny bone.

I’ve mentioned in my previous posts about Nelson DeMille’s Arab-related novels that he really seems fascinated almost to the level of having a fetish about Arab names. The villain of two of his previous novels was named Asad Something or Other. Asad is a very common proper name and it means lion, and throughout both books the author or perhaps the narrator just couldn’t stop comparing the human being to a lion.

Arab names are a lot more likely to be words still in use in Arabic, unlike names in English, which come from all kinds of languages so that we often have no idea what their original meaning was. Nevertheless, being named Asad in the Arab world is very much like being named Mike or Jim or Dave in the US. No big deal.

Protagonist John Corey killed “The Lion” in a previous novel. His new nemesis is “The Panther.” In the case of this new guy, his given name was something else, and he actually chose to be called “the panther,” or al-numayr. (Al Numair in the novel). Numayr is a word I didn’t know, so I looked it up. I did a Google image search. I looked at over 100 image results without seeing a single picture of any kind of big cat. I saw lots and lots of pictures of Arab human beings named Numayr. (I searched on النمير, for those who wish to recreate my experience).

And what’s killing me is that John Corey can NOT think of this guy without mentally calling him “The Panther” and comparing him with a big cat. You know how you do, like when you watch golf and compare Tiger Woods to a real tiger, or listen to Charlie Parker and muse on how much like a bird he is?

Later I hope to piece together my thoughts on John Corey’s casual racism (but Arab isn’t a race!) and his Iraqi-American Muslim pal who denigrates Islam, but for now I must rush to page 208. Up to this point, John Corey has mentally or verbally referred to “The Panther” at least two dozen times (I’m estimating), and remember, the man nicknamed himself al-Numayr or Al Numair, not “The Panther”–and from what I know after 20 years of Arabic plus a lengthy google search, it is not at all a common word for panther–when he is introduced to Dr. Fahd.

Corey has nothing to say about Dr. Fahd’s name, or how much Dr. Fahd resembles any given animal. No internal musings on the prey-predator relationship or nocturnal habits or hunting ranges or anything…because John Corey doesn’t know what Fahd means. Fahd is just a man’s name.

Guess what Fahd means. “Panther.” A Google image search brings up mostly pics of cheetahs, I saw one of black leopard, and I’ve also told it can mean ‘lynx.’

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Filed under arab, arabian, arabic, books, names

Yemeni Protests and Poetry

Dr Justice posted a short piece on Yemeni poetry as it synthesizes with the protests there.


And here we see the long history of Yemeni political poetry coming brilliantly to fruition in a sort of Gesamtkunstwerk of poetry, music, dance, and fist-pumping all in one, performed recently in Taghyir Square, outside the University in San`aa. You would have to go back to the Berlin of the Weimar republic to find any comparably excellent mix of artistry and insurrection. And even that is not really comparable, since Brecht and his buddies performed in the relative safety of fashionable caberets — not in the public square, surrounded by the police.

Dr. Justice has a neat video posted, and I don’t want to steal his thunder, so watch it there.

But on a related note, here’s what I’m fairly sure is the Yemeni national anthem. But it might not be. Anyway, there’s a guy wearing traditional garb, and it’s pretty cool.

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Couple Things, One Neat, One Sad

At this other wordpress blog, Nomad Out of Time, they’ve built a gingerbread house that looks like a Yemeni house.

And the second story, here at the Jordan Times online:

AMMAN – Arab countries will be devastated by climate change, which threatens to wipe out almost half of the species in the region and transform the Levant into an “infertile crescent”, warned a report released on Sunday.

The “2009 Arab Environment: Climate Change. Impact of Climate Change on Arab Countries” report, released yesterday by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), indicated that the phenomenon will lead to fewer water resources, a rise in sea levels, damage bio-diversity and spread diseases throughout the region.

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Yemen Gamely Tries to Attract Tourists

Good for Yemen! They even successfully attracted thousands more tourists in 2009 than the year before. Story here.

DUBAI (Reuters) – Yemen lured in a few thousand more tourists in 2009 despite al Qaeda attacks but fears travel warnings will scare holidaymakers away, a senior tourist official said on Tuesday.

Deputy Minister for Tourism Development Omar Babelgheith told Reuters that the number of tourists visiting Yemen, home to centuries-old tower houses in Sanaa and the famed Socotra island archipelago, rose by up to 6,000 in 2009 to 1.1 million.

Babelgheith said reports of danger to holidaymakers, including the risk of kidnapping by disgruntled tribes or Islamist militants in the fractious country, were grossly exaggerated and Western travel warnings were posing a challenge.

They’ve taken pains to minimize risks for tourists:

Babelgheith said Yemen, strategically located next to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, had taken steps to make the country safer for tourists including adopting a system of tracking tourist vehicles, in order to keep visitors safe.

“It is computerised. You can locate the car, where is it exactly. You can know the directions of this car,” he said, adding the risk to tourists in most areas of Yemen was “zero”.

“They can travel freely. They will get advice not to move to these certain areas, only escorted. But there are certain areas, which is most of the republic, where they can move freely.”


A German family of five and a Briton are currently missing in Yemen, held by kidnappers the government believes have links to al Qaeda. Another three foreign women seized alongside them in northern Yemen in June were later found dead.

But look at the cool stuff Yemen has to look at. They definitely ought to be thriving on tourism.



and they do this there:

I think it might be required by law that I include the phrase “ancestral home of Osama bin Laden” when I write about Yemen, so here we are.

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Just Once

Just once I’d like to read a news article in the western media that talks about Yemen without including the line “…is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden.”

I know Yemen is exotic and mysterious to most Americans, but come on. How ’bout shaking it up a bit with a “…where the kingdom of Sheba was believed to be located,” or “…famous for its unique architecture”? After all, they manage to describe England without including the line, “…where Osama bin Laden’s son Omar lives.”

Yemen has some beautiful spots. If they’d make a point of attracting tourism, they could make a fortune. And as one of the world’s poorest countries, they could sure use it. A serious obstacle to that, though, is the local tradition of kidnapping people for ransom.

But just look at it! So pretty.


Filed under arab, arabist, pedantry

Arabian Leopards

I didn’t even realize there were leopards in Arabia, but there are. Not very many are left though. The Arabian Leopard is critically endangered.

Here’s 21 seconds of an Arabian Leopard in the wild in Oman:

Arabian leopards are much smaller than African leopards and have little gold or yellow in their coats. They’re mostly grey-white other than their black rosettes.


I wonder if they also come in an all-black version.



Filed under animals, arabian