The Yemeni port of Aden has long been one of the major entrepôts of the Middle East. With its starkly beautiful natural harbor nestled within an extinct volcano and its access to the highlands of Yemen and its products, the city called the Eye to Yemen would already have been signi?cant. But given its location at the entrance to the Red Sea and its easy connections to the ports of East Africa, Aden has, for more than 3,000 years, attracted imperial attention. Whether it was the Sabaeans, Romans, Aksumites, Ayyubids, Ottomans, or British, this gateway to and from Arabia has always been open. Aden (Arabic, Adan) is located on the northern littoral of the Gulf of Aden near the southern entrance to the Red Sea. Close to the southwest tip of the Arabian Peninsula, the city lies on the narrow, fertile coastal strip backed by high mountains. Access to the highlands of Yemen is via Wadi Tuban and Taiz, and to the Hadramawt along the coast to the east. Sanaa is some 260 miles to the north. By sea, Aden is an ideal starting point for overseas journeys to India, given the west-east monsoon winds, or to East Africa, with the Somalia coast and Zanzibar easily accessible. Through the Bab al-Mandab awaits Egypt, Palestine, and the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal: the port authority likes to make the point that Aden lies an equal distance between Europe and the Far East. The city is located within a large crescent-shaped bay created by the crater of an extinct volcano. The arms of the crescent that enclose Bandar at-Tawahi (Aden Harbor or Crater Bay) are large hilly volcanic promontories, essentially islands, each with its own small harbors and bays but connected to the mainland by a narrow, sandy isthmus.
[...] By the late fourteenth century, for example, one quarter in the city was just for the Hindu Gujarati baniyan (merchants),while merchants from Aden lived in the ports of China, Ethiopia, Zanzibar, and Malibar. Slaves shipped from Mogadishu were sold in its slave markets: slave girls would be prepared with frankincense and perfumes, wrapped in ﬁne linen, and then paraded through the market by their owners, with the Rasulid Wali taking ﬁrst pick for the sultan in Taiz. Horses were shipped in from Berbera for the annual horse fair; there was a government monopoly on horse sales,with the sultan getting ﬁrst pick and the rest usually sold for shipment to India. [...]
[...] In 1949 and 1950, in Operation on Eagles'Wings (also called Operation Magic Carpet), Jews from all over Yemen left their homes and assembled in Aden to ﬂy out to the new State of Israel. The Jewish Agency established camps for these emigrants; at one point there were more than 3,000 people housed in camps around the city waiting for ﬂights. Over 50,000 Yemeni Jews ultimately left between June 1949 and September 1950. The exodus effectively ended the Jewish community in Aden, which dated back to the second century AD. [...]
[...] Uniﬁcation was not easy, and the city was severely damaged during the 1994 Yemeni civil war, led by secessionists from Aden: for two months, Aden was the capital of the break-away entity, only to be recaptured in July after heavy ﬁghting. Many of its older buildings survived the ﬁghting, however, and continue to grace the city. One of the oldest mosques in the city is the Aban Mosque, related to Aban ibn Uthman, a judge, scholar, and grandson of Uthman, the third caliph. [...]
[...] The growth of urbanism and political states in the highlands, particularly those of the Sabaeans, starting in the late second millennium BC, must have stimulated Aden along with it, and the city emerges into history with the early Iron Age. It is unclear when the city was actually founded. The coast of the Gulf of Aden appears to have come under control of the Awsan confederation, an early south Arabian kingdom whose center was in Wadi Markha, ca BC, and it is around this time that Old Testament records mention the city as being a trade partner to King Solomon and to the Phoenician port of Tyre. [...]
[...] It has been argued that the subequent period after the occupation of Aden by the British produced across Yemen a messianic response, with movements within all three religious communities, Sunni, Shi'i, and Jewish, appearing until the turn of the century. Attacks and violence continued into the 1850s, including murdering British ofﬁcers and civilians, ﬁring at British ships, and enduring periods when the town was cut off from the interior and no supplies arrived. Gradually, however, the British constructed a patchwork of agreements with tribal and subtribal leaders into a shaky ediﬁce of protection agreements that allowed the British Political Resident in Aden to manage the city's hinterland. [...]
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