When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra

Muṣabbiḥ bir Ḥamtōt bir Ḳamṣayt

Muṣabbiḥ bir Ḥamtōt bir Ḳamṣayt is the son of the muqaddam of Ḳamṣayt and a highly regarded poet in his own right. As of 2008, he was roughly fifty years old. Muṣabbiḥ is originally from the watershed of Wadi Mehrūt in the central inland region of al-Mahra. As indicated by his poem “Homesick in Najrān,” Muṣabbiḥ lived and worked in Saudi Arabia with his sons, Nashūr and Muḥammad. Many Mahra, particularly those from the inland bedouin districts, carry Saudi Arabian or Omani identification papers in addition to their Yemeni ones. Among an older generation of transhumant Mahra, it is not always clear where they were born and under which country’s jurisdiction. Unlike the majority of Yemenis who work in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, many Mahra actually bear citizenship in their host countries. This could have been the case for Muṣabbiḥ, although not necessarily so.

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