In April 1954, less than a year after his coronation, Queen Elizabeth II stepped out of the SS Gothic into the only Arab territory ever colonized by the British Empire, Aden.
Pictures from the visit show a young queen being greeted by British colonial officers in military uniform, dignitaries and hundreds of residents eager – or just curious – to see the woman now appear on their stamps.
Aden witnessed its first and last knighting ceremony, which featured a local leader, Sayyid Abubakr bin Shaikh al-Kaff, who refused to bow to the queen because of his beliefs his religion. And then, after a day that included a military parade, visits to schools and hospitals, and a garden party, the queen traveled to another royal property, Uganda.
Aden, a port in the southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula, and now part of Yemen, has been directly ruled by the British crown since 1937. It was first occupied in 1839, and ruled as part of British India.
British control extended deep into the areas surrounding the city, with large swaths of territory in what is now southern Yemen known as the ‘Protection of Aden’, a status also used to describes British control over many parts of the Gulf, including what is now. Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.
But only Aden was under the direct control of Great Britain, with no local power beside it. The city is renowned for being cosmopolitan, modern, and home to one of the busiest ports in the world, where the British once tried and maintained dominance in a region that was growing rapidly due to reserves. its oil and gas reserves.
Withdrawal and independent
However, just 13 years after Queen Elizabeth was greeted with open arms in Aden, the British fled, the last high commissioner being taken out by helicopter.
They were defeated by local independence fighters who would go on to claim the creation of the only Marxist state in the Arab world, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen). .
The uprising began in 1963, fueled by the same Arab nationalism that forced the British out of Egypt’s Suez Canal in 1956.
The image from it is perhaps more reflective of the locals’ real feelings for British colonial rule – protesters waving banners face British soldiers, Arab men forcing must lie on the ground in front of the muzzle, or be marched away.
Hundreds of residents were killed in the rebellion.
That memory is the living – and official – legacy of the British colonial period in Yemen.
As the years passed, other legacies emerged. The UK is home to a large Yemeni communitymany of them are descendants of men who joined the British navy and eventually settled in British port cities and industrial centers such as Liverpool, Sheffield and Birmingham.
Aden himself has had a tumultuous history. South Yemen could not survive the fall of its main benefactor, the Soviet Union, and united with North Yemen to form a united republic in 1990.
A civil war in 1994 and growing resentment towards the north, home of the first president of the united Yemen, led to growing separatist sentiment and the city is now de facto located. under the control of the United Arab Emirates-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC). , calling for the restoration of South Yemen.
In the context of poverty in Aden was aggravated by Yemen is still at warsome nostalgia for the British colonial period exists.
Some Adenians often compare this era to the city they see today, where roads and buildings have not been rebuilt, although battles with the Houthi rebels in northern Yemen ended in 2015. 2015.
More often than not, however, the people making the comparisons are too young to have ever lived under the colony, and aside from the statue of Queen Victoria, the clock tower (known as Little Ben), and a few landmarks other names, very little sign of British Rule remains.
If anything, the legacy of Aden’s connection to India is stronger. Thousands of Yemenis descended from Indians who came to work in the colony when it was ruled as part of British India, and Indian food has had a profound influence, including its beloved dish. Aden’s favorite, zurbian – a rice, potato and meat dish similar to biryani.
And as the memory of Queen Elizabeth and the British Empire’s visit fades in Aden, that’s what will likely remain.