The Enchantment of the World series is a set of books about different countries written for about middle-school aged kids. Each has a different author. Each one discusses the geography, history, government, religion, culture, holidays, plants, animals, economy, industry, education, architecture, language, heritage, music, arts, sports, and food of its specific country. Despite that long list, these books aren’t really long; they average about 150 pages, and just touch on a bit of all aspects of life. That’s why I love them so much. Most books about specific countries focus on touristy stuff or history or social/economic injustice. Instead, the Enchantment books give me a taste of everything. They’re perfect for me to glimpse a little bit of life in different places around the world. I’ve read quite a few of them in the last couple years.
I decided to read Yemen because my sister lived and taught English in Yemen for a year back in 2005-2006. She always posted these gorgeous pictures and told us all sorts of stories about her life and travel there, and I wanted to learn more about Yemen because of that. This little book taught me so much, so I’m just going to list a few of my favorite things.
- Yemen only became a country in 1990, and they’ve had the same president ever since (at least as of 2008).
- There are the same number of Yemenis under age 16 as over age 16.
- The average # of kids in Yemen is 6 per family. The country’s population is expected to double by 2030.
- In some parts of Yemen, they decorate their mud-brick buildings with gypsum, which makes them look like gingerbread houses. Gorgeous!
- The island of Socotra is one of the most unique places in the world. It has plants and animals that live no where else on earth, and the people who live there speak Soqotri, which is completely different from Arabic (which the rest of Yemen speaks).
- The largest industry in Yemen is agriculture, but because most of Yemen is a desert, it’s also a fairly poor country. Many people live on less than the equivalent of US $2/day.
- The country is ruled by Islamic law, though it is more lax than some Middle Eastern countries.
- Some of the best coffee beans in the world are from Yemen. The word Mocha comes from the port of Mocha, where Yemen ships them from. Their coffee has a chocolate-y taste.
- Silver is abundant in Yemen and there are many silver craftsmen. My sister actually brought home silver items as gifts.
- They have some of the best honey in the world.
- Men have daggers called jambiyas which are used in dance rituals and aren’t used to harm anyone. Only men are supposed to be in these dances, but my sister and a friend of hers actually got to participate in one, and she has pictures from it. I guess it was okay because they were foreigners??
- The only Yemeni author that has gained international exposure is Zayd Muti Dammaj, whose book The Hostage has been translated into English (and other languages). I’ve added it to my TBR pile.
- They race camels there! Camels can apparently run at 20 mph.
So, I’ll end this here. Really, if you like books about other countries but don’t want them to be incredibly overwhelming, the Enchantment series is very good. Not all the books are as good, informative, or interesting as others – some of their writers are great and some are just awful – but I always gain something out of them. Yemen was a particularly satisfying book.
**Note: My original review contained many pictures, including some from my sister’s travels, but these have been lost since the original posting.