Centuries-old pots help war-torn Arab country

Made of baked clay, the very cheap jar, kilns and pots are essential kits in every Yemeni house for surviving shelling, siege, blackouts and food shortages during wartime.

The pottery is a centuries-old technique in this war-torn Arab country, where its people have still proudly kept their ancestors’ old traditions for nearly 3,000 years.

“To manufacture pottery, firstly, we mix togather the dry, brown soil and water, then we drape the mixture in a piece of cloth, leaving it for a couple of days to ferment and become ready to handcraft water jars, food pots, clay-made cooking kilns and other goods,” Moussa Saeed told Xinhua at his workshop in the rebel-held capital Sanaa.

Saeed then put the clay objects inside a mud-brick large oven for hours to make them hard after they have been shaped.

“The people prefer this clay-made firewood cooking kiln because of the acute shortage of fuel and cooking gas. The people also prefer to keep drinking water in the jar because it chills the water, preserve its purity for very long time and keep the water cold during the heat wave in this summer,” Saeed said.

“Also, the pots are much better for firewood cooking than the iron ones…so all people buy them,” Saeed added, as he keeps working hard to produce more earthen-made tools to meet what he described as increasing demands from his customers.

The 23-year-old man says he learnt the craft from his father who inherited it from his grandfather. His family has been in this business for hundreds of years.

The Yemenis have resorted to earthen jars to chill drinking water and preserve its purity for months during the ongoing civil war. They also use the earthen pots for cooking food by firewood. The Yemenis refer the earthen objects as high priority survival kit in the time of war.

The civil war pits Saudi-backed exiled government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi against Iran-allied Shiite Houthi rebels.

Now grinding into its fifth year, the war has killed tens of thousands, mostly civilians, displaced other 3 million and pushed over 28 million population into the brink of famine.

Labeled by the United Nations as the world’s ever worst humanitarian crisis in the modern age, the war has forced an all-out commercial blockade, salary cutoff, constant blackouts, and severe shortages of clean water, food medicines and fuel.

The conflict has disabled much of the infrastructure for clean water and sanitation, leaving some 9.2 million Yemeni children without proper access to safe water. Fuel availability is fluctuating, limiting the pumping of sewage and garbage collection, leaving many parts of Yemen a breeding ground for infectious and water borne diseases such as cholera.

The cholera in Yemen has set the world’s highest record with the infection of 1 million people and over 2,000 have been confirmed dead since 2017, according to World Health Organization.

Fouad Zubairi, a resident of Sanaa, said that the ongoing war has pushed Yemenis to use pottery-made tools to survive the crisis.

“The people suffer from the cooking gas shortages crisis. To deal with it, the people resort to use the clay-made kilns to make beads using firewoods,” Zubairi said.

In the market, the sellers complain of the sharp deterioration of local currency, saying that they no longer make any high profits.

“Before the war our business were in good condition when foreign tourists flooded the Yemeni markets and bought traditional pottery objects,” seller Ahmed Kayed recalled. “Now the situation has collapsed,” he added.