Written By: Zaid al-Alaya’a
Article Date: Jun 14, 2008 - 3:34:25 AM
Soqotraens live and work in harmony with nature.
When Soqotra: Land of the Dragon’s Blood Tree exhibition was first held in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festival in July-August 2006, it attracted more than 50,000 visitors, including Prince Charles. The exhibition shows the natural history of the Soqotra Archipelago, and arrived in Sana’a last week to tremendous acclaim.
With its biodiversity and extraordinary natural wealth, Soqotra has drawn the attention of many foreign parties to plan a fund for the conservation of the island. The island may also attain UNESCO’s recognition as a world natural heritage site in July 2008, which the European Union has supported calling on both, UNESCO and the International Organization of Protecting Environment to count the archipelago among the world’s most precious environmental treasures.
Studies conducted by botanists suggest that more than a third of the 800 or so plant species in Soqotra are found nowhere else. Botanists rank the flora of Soqotra among the ten most endangered sets of island flora in the world. The archipelago is a site of global importance for biodiversity conservation and a possible center for ecotourism.
One of the most striking of Soqotra's plants is the dragon's blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari), a striking, umbrella-shaped tree found in scattered forests over the Soqotran landscape. Its red sap was the fabled dragon's blood of the ancients, sought after as a medicine and a dye.
Soqotra Land of the Dragon’s Blood Tree is now in the National Museum of Sana’a until August with displays of the island’s natural richness and unique lifestyles.
Soqotra is a jewel of Yemeni culture and is a living natural museum with all its unique plants and natural landscapes, said Abdul-Karim al-Eryani, political advisor to President Saleh at the inauguration of the exhibition last Wednesday.
The exhibition was organized by the British Council in Sana'a presents a vision of a sliver of land isolated for so many years but now capturing the interest of the world.
Bountiful forests of Dragon’s Blood Trees grace the island’s landscape.
Al-Eryani said that this exhibition gives only a taste of the island’s wonders and he urged people to visit and get to know Soqotra more intimately.
The Minister of Culture, Dr. Abu Bakr al-Muflhi, said that this exhibition gives a glimpse of Soqotra and the timeless relationship between man and nature on the island. "The ministry is planning to start documenting and recording ancient arts and artifacts from the island to protect its heritage, including even its music," said al-Muflhi.
Al-Muflhi then talked about a documentary that the ministry produced three months ago, which will be released in the coming days. The British ambassador to Yemen, Tim Torlot, said that this exhibition aims to promote the island, encouraged by the success of the first display in Edinburgh two years ago.
Professor Mary Gibby, director of science at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh said that they have been working in Soqotra for 15 years, and have a plan to sustain conservation work on Soqotra.
Director of the National Museum, Abdul-Aziz al-Jendari, said that this exhibition will help many researchers to discover the lives of people on the island
According to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the Soqotra Archipelago contains one of the richest and best-preserved dry tropical floras in the world. It contains over 850 flowering plant species, of which some 300 are endemic including such botanical oddities as the cucumber tree (Dendrosicyos socotranus) and the Soqotran aloe (Aloe perryi).
The Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh was established in the 17th century as a physic garden. It is now a world-renowned center for plant science and education. Its mandate is to document and conserve the world’s plant life, and explains its mission as “without plants, there would be no life on earth.”
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