Do’an valley: A historical and cultural legacy
The Do'an Valley is divided into two branches, with most towns located along the banks of the valley. The ecological diversity the valley boasts – a combination of valleys and mountains, mud brick structures and modern buildings, has rendered Do'an a popular destination, with thousands of visitors every year.
The Do'an Valley hosts archeological sites that distinguish it from the rest of Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Quza cave and the ancient Raybun oasis are among the Do'an’s treasures. The sites were unknown until 1983, when a joint Yemeni-Soviet archeological mission excavated them. Today, Al-Quza cave, which is located in a small historical village 102 km southwest of Sayun, the capital of Wadi Hadramout, is renowned for its canyons, springs, pools and historical monuments.
The cave’s origins go back one million years, an indication of Do'an's history and the length of time people have lived in the valley. "It is the first discovery in the Arabian Peninsula of its kind," an archaeologist from Hadramout, Dr. Abdulazeez bin Aqail said.
Remains of embalmed corpses and mummified camels were unearthed. After analyzing the remains, historians and archaeologists estimated that the artifacts date back to the Paleolithic-age.
The same team discovered Raybun, an oasis three kilometers away from Al-Quza cave. The oasis was covered with irrigation networks, graveyards and temples, according to a document produced in 2004 by the Russian mission. From the start of excavation, the ruins were identified as a temple dedicated to Syn, the principle god of ancient Hadramout. Mission data indicated that pottery fragments were also founded during the excavation.
The fragments date back to the eighth and ninth centuries. Fragments of inscriptions dedicated to deities found in the Raybun temples are now stored at the Sayun museum, located in the city of Sayun.
Dating back to the pre-Islamic period, the town of Al-Hugrain is known for its unique architecture. Some describe it as “The Island of Do'an” when flood waters surround it.
Al-Hugrain was built on the side of a mountain, and the mountain worked as a defense against potential invasions, making Al-Hugrain Do’an’s gatekeeper overlooking both branches of the valley.
Famous for its high, mud-brick buildings that have endured hundreds of years of climate changes, the city has become the Do’an’s main tourist attraction since it was declared a cultural and historical settlement in 2006.
On the right side of the Do’an valley is Hudon, a village considered a shrine for sheikhs and Sufis, who hold annual ceremonies in the village. It is 147 kilometers southwest of Sayun, and sheikhs and Sufis arrive from across the country and around the Gulf region to participate in special ceremonies held on the 15th of Shaban, the month preceding Ramadan in the Muslim calendar. The village is also thought to host the grave of the prophet Hadoon, the son of the prophet Huud. The alleged grave, in a corner of a mosque, is almost ten meters tall.
Agriculture and Irrigation
The Do'an is known for its agriculture and irrigation system. It is considered one of Hadramout's most fertile valleys with abundant water sources (including rainwater, springs, pools, wells) and a unique traditional irrigation system of underground water conduits.
Many lands are under a full-scale irrigation system known as Sawaqi, irrigation water conduits into which floodwater is directed, which distribute surplus water to the fields and then drain off.
The other system of irrigation is Karafan (The Arabic plural of Kareef), or dams, where water is stored until times of scarcity. A small-scale irrigation system, called Jawbi (The Arabic plural of Jabya), or pools, is one in which groundwater fills pools and then drains through a tiny hole so that farm lands can be irrigated without water waste.
In the smaller springs, where the flow is weaker, irrigation pools are dug out near the farm fields. Water is then gathered during the night and used in the irrigation system the following day. This creates enough water to fill the channel and avoid water waste. Some Shurooj, plots of land, are directly irrigated by rainwater, whereas other Shurooj are irrigated by way of the systems described above.
Local customs dictate all agricultural work, including the construction and maintenance of the Saqayya (water conduit). The water is distributed according to certain priorities: landowner-farmer relations and the resolution of disputes.
Residents have to implement the traditional agricultural practices in full. Elders and sheikhs of tribes are tasked with monitoring these practices. In an event that someone breaks the rules and refuses to abide by them, a committee is formed by sheikhs to arbitrate. However, if the committee's decisions are not followed, sheikhs intervene and make the final arbiter to which everyone should submit.
Farmers in the Do'an Valley grow wheat, corn, dates, and lemons irrigated via springs or rainwater, and tobacco irrigated via wells. Most of the Do’an Valley is covered with palm trees, and their fruit is considered to be of the highest-quality because of its distinctive taste.
Pastures are spread across the valley. However, they are not always open for livestock, and shepherds must abide by the rules regarding grazing hours. When floods irrigate the land, grazing animals on the grass of the newly irrigated lands is banned until after the harvest. If caught breaking these rules, there is a fine upwards of five hundred Rials for grazing a goat and two thousand Rials for a camel.
Lifestyle in the Do’an
Arab hospitality is ingrained and rooted in the people of Do'an. A warm reception of foreigners is a trademark of the region’s people.
The people of Do’an live very simple rural lives. Some work in agriculture as farmers and ploughmen, while others work as builders or masons building traditional mud homes.
Western-imported culture is absent from everything including food and clothes. The people of Do'an do not eat hamburgers or wear jeans. Even at weddings, they stick to traditional music, Mizmar, and dance, Shareh, swaying back and forth.
Vendors gather in the most popular Souq, or market, called Al Raboo', which means “Wednesday.” This is the day of the popular bazaar. Quaint shops and souvenir stalls cover every corner in the bazaar with their respective goods, which people from across the Wadi come to see. Tourists intermingle with shoppers and sellers, and haggle over prices.
Businessmen of Do'an
The question, "Why have Saudi businessmen of Do’ani origin become successful businessmen?" is on the tip of every tongue.
Do'ani businessmen pool resources and invest in many Asian, African and European countries. Aidh Al-Qarni, a well-known Saudi preacher and writer, wrote that he visited Hadramout to look for the secret behind the success of the businessmen of Do’an. "I found the same earth, the same land as that which one we live on," he wrote. "I really wonder," he added, unable to find out why.
The answer can be found in an interview with Mr. Abdulla Ahmed Buqshan, a successful Saudi businessman of Do’ani origin, after he was asked by an American journalist about the secret of Do’ani business success.
"Saving money for the rainy day is the method we use in business," Buqshan said.
Do’ani businessmen have been involved in charity through paving roads, building model schools and hospitals, financially supporting poor families, elderly and disabled persons, and offering scholarships to outstanding students.
Yet, the protracted turmoil that Yemen has been witnessing has led to a sharp drop in the number of tourists who would normally flow into Do'an. However, the people of Do'an have kept their fingers crossed that that a new influx of tourists will come soon.
In addition, further difficulties for Do'an may come in the lack of protection for the unique architecture in the valley, diminishing its charm and beauty. Scant new government regulation is being introduced to preserve the traditions and culture of Do'an. What's worse, archeological sites in the area are exposed to damage, with no official safeguards. If there is real intention to boost the tourist sector in Yemen, much concerted effort has to be made on this treasure of a region to maintain its prominent cultural and historical position in Yemen.