Sanaa, May 19 — A Hindu temple that dates back over 150 years, a market that sports an Indian name and love for Bollywood reflect the India connect of the Yemeni city of Aden.
The famous Hindu temples include the Shri Tarichmerga Temple that was built in 1862, the Shri Ram Ji Temple that was built in 1875 and the Hanuman Temple that was built in 1882.
It is estimated that Indians in Aden numbered 8,563 in 1856 and gradually increased to 15,817 in 1955. Now an estimated 100,000 people of Indian origin are concentrated in southern Yemen around Aden, Mukalla, Shihr, Lahaj, Mokha and Hodeidah. Many of them have acquired Yemeni citizenship and become part of the country’s fabric. They, however, still retain ties with their families in India.
Since 1839 and until 1932, Aden, located in the southern region of Yemen and overlooking the Arabian Sea, was administered by India’s British rulers from Bombay (now Mumbai), and during this period the influence of the Indian community in the economic and financial life was very strong.
Indian customs and traditions, whether in clothing or in food, are very evident.
Buildings with a distinct Indian character can be spotted in Aden’s old quarters like Tawahi and Crater. There is also an Indian lane in Crater.
The Alpinaan market, named after an Indian dealer, is widely known within and outside Aden.
In fact, the economic and social impact of the large Indian community so astonished French sociologist Arthur de Gobineau that he remarked about Aden in 1855: “We have seen an Indian city on Arab land.”
According to Massoud Amchosh, professor of comparative literature at the University of Aden, “in the forties of the last century, Aden gained some attributes of Indian cities that distinguish it from the rest of the cities in the Arabian Peninsula”.
Indian culture had such an impact on Aden’s society that the first band in the city in 1903 was an Indian ensemble.
Yemeni researcher Shafiqa Al-Arasea said that the Indian influence so penetrated the cultural and social life of Adeni society that Arabic songs were sung to Indian music.
Khalil Mohammad Khalil, an artist, said Indian influences impacted the personal and professional lives of many of his ilk. “Indian films have had a clear impact on my personality and art,” he added.
Khalil said that he did not miss any new Indian film.
(Hamdi Al-hosami can be contacted at [email protected])