Beni Hushaish: The Valley Of Grapes and Raisins in Yemen
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Beni Hushaish: The Valley Of Grapes and Raisins in Yemen

Sanaa : Yemen | Aug 30, 2012 at 10:53 PM PDT
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Beni Hushaish - grape gardens

Drive North east from Sana`a for about an hour and the contrast in scenery is amazing. The Beni Hushaish area, up the wadi Sirr and Rajam where in season there is an abundance of grapes, raisins, but also wheat, barley and millet, all irrigated by well water. Beyond, the landscape changes into mountains and dry wadies.

The mountains are testament to some previous geological age, when they were pushed up, folded and subsequently heavily eroded by wind and water. Further east still, they give a way to a broad plain dotted with volcanic crater and crisscrossed with more dry wadi beds and dusty trucks. You would not believe that the Beni Hushaish valley is actually en route to one of the most famous agricultural areas in antiquity.

The cold was deep now, the wind singing, and sun was sky. The mountains of Sirr and Rajam were drawing themselves up, away from the desolation of their feet. Stone houses build out of imagination, to be lived in retain a warmth and softness inside.

Thousands of grapes were drying on the flat roofs and near bye gardens.

The Earth, the Water: Dark grape leaves were once again splayed like dropping combs on the monsoon sky. Heaven opened and the water hammered down, reviving the reluctant old wells. The grape gardens looked wet green and pleased. Fine rain from a thick cloud poured down like a summer shower. Wet grape leaves shimmered like beaten metal.

Countless grape gardens were once more full of delicious grapes.

Though you can see the Beni Hushaish valley from any house in the valley, the Beni Hushaish valley is full of whisper and lives. Raisins were pressed upon us, but also almonds and nuts. Fresh grapes, and raisin juice. Raisins in all forms, shapes and colors, red white and dark blue or black, small, medium or large.

Raisins as appetizers and for farewell.

Raisins from Beni Hushaish have no respect for political boundaries or other man made boundaries. From the souks of Sanaa, bazaars of Jeddah and Riyadh, Dubai - they are there. They star in poetry and tales. Raisins for love, hope, sadness, regrets an peace.

They reveal what words do not.

Raisins and grapes in Bani Hushaish are a staff of life. A day without them is unthinkable. They are part of every day meal day after day, year after year. They have meaning and importance in their lives which has nothing to do with monotony.

During the afternoons visiting begins, confirming once more ties that bind and bonds of trust. Incense burners release fragrant whisper of smoke. Sun is about to burst behind Rajam Mountain.

Which is there more of, land or the sea is being asked. The sea comes the reply.

No. It is the land, for the sea itself is set upon the land, is told.

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Beni Hushaish - Valley of Grapes
The cold was deep now, the wind singing, and sun was sky. The mountains of Sirr and Rajam were drawing themselves up, away from the desolation of their feet. Stone houses build out of imagination, to be lived in retain a warmth and softness inside.
Irena Knehtl is based in Sanā, Hadramaut, Yemen, and is a Reporter for Allvoices.
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