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Embassy Magazine, May 20th, 2009
Yemen Needs More Canada Right Now
Prior to assuming my post as Yemen's ambassador to Canada, I was my country's minister of oil and minerals. I can personally assure you that this was not a portfolio suitable for wimps, and I would consider myself to be relatively impervious to insult. However, when I read Jim Creskey's column (RE: "Why the World Needs Less Canada Right Now," May 13), I have to admit, my feelings were hurt!
We were on the same page when he seemed to echo my opinion that perhaps Bono might concentrate more on his great talent for musical lyrics rather than the composition of political catchphrases. However, I must stress that my dismay is as a result of Mr. Creskey's substitution of "Yemen" for "Canada" into Bono's slogan as a tactic to illustrate its absurdity.
To Mr. Creskey's credit he did follow this by the rather clichéd proviso, "Not to say there aren't some wonderful things about Yemen...." Unfortunately, this just didn't offer me much solace. I do believe that it is reflection of lack of knowledge, rather than insensitivity.
Ironically, my job here as ambassador is indeed to offer Canada more Yemen, in fact, the more Yemen, the better. I know that we are a relatively unknown country, but we are a hidden jewel and I sincerely look forward to the opportunity to promote it with gusto.
Yemen was a significant centre of ancient human civilization. It was once an ancient land of flourishing kingdoms, great wealth and home to one of the best-known icons of ancient history, the Queen of Sheba. Under her reign, over 3,000 years ago, Yemen became the world's first democratic state.
Geographically it commanded the major trade crossroads of the entire ancient world, produced extremely valuable crops and the busy seaport of Aden on Yemen's southern shore is even mentioned in the Bible. As recently as the 1950s it was ranked as second in importance after New York.
Despite our successful unification of North and South Yemen in 1990, recent years have been a challenge to this once proud land and the history of our decline is also worth discussion. We have had to face the modern-day impediments of civil war, declining trade, terrorist attacks and rapid population growth due to a large refugee influx, resulting from unrest in the Horn of Africa. Circumstances have reduced this once powerful land to one of the poorest countries in the world. Our struggle is significant and to a large part, ignored and unaided.
However, out of the ashes we believe we will one day emerge. We still have many treasures from our illustrious past of outstanding value to humanity. We have a rich multi-cultural past translating into an extraordinary legacy of priceless artifacts, poetry, art, architecture and archaeological riches. Our geography is exceptionally diverse and overwhelmingly beautiful. We have made enormous strides along the road to modern democracy and have been an ally in the fight against the scourge of terrorism, having been one of its earliest victims.
We are adamant in our hope for the future. We are a land of exotic allure and mystery—truly a land that time forgot.
We have enjoyed a remarkable friendship with Canada, a country which has provided us with an exemplary role model as the definitive example of modern democracy and freedom. We have enjoyed cultural and business ties and look forward to an ever-developing relationship. We certainly need more Canada.
May 22nd marks the 19th Anniversary of National Unification, which we will celebrate Monday on May 25th at the Hilton Lac Leamy. We sincerely hope that Mr. Creskey, and indeed many of you, will join us on this auspicious occasion and permit us to demonstrate that we have far more than a few things for export—we have thousands of years of history that we wish to share with Canada and the world.
Bono was right about one thing, we are in this together, whether we like it or not. We all need each other and our global survival depends on it.