Student Account


Workshops with Sabri

Sabri Saleem, founder of YCMES, is currently based in Germany.

As well as running the YCMES Distance Learning Programme, he is providing the following courses across Europe:

  • Cross-cultural training workshops for students with a refugee background.
  • Lectures in Middle Eastern Politics, with a focus in the war in Yemen and the current situation in the region.

Sabri has more than thirty years of experience with international students, first as regional director for the Peace Corps and then as founder and president of YCMES. He has run workshops for NGOs including Save the Children, SNV and DED, as well as for USAID and a number of international embassies in Yemen.

If you are interested in hiring Sabri, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Learn via Skype!

Great news! Despite the security situation, YCMES has a number of highly experienced instructors both in Yemen and abroad who are champing at the bit to teach some Arabic. Since the current security situation prevents us from hosting students in Sana'a we have been developing alternatives and are now proud to announce the YCMES Distance Learning Programme.

This will be the same tried and tested courses taught by the same great people, but they will be conducted over Skype.

Everyone is excited about this, and we hope you can join us. Find out more here.

Interview with Stanley


What was his experience like in Yemen? How did he feel about the current security situation? Were his expectations met? And more...


We went for a wander in Manakha.

manakha rock

It was very nice.

manakha mass breakout

Then, as is traditional, we had a massive, massive lunch (this was before Ramadan, I hasten to add) and we were made to dance. After that, the qat came out...

Dar al-Hajjar

We went to Dar al-Hajjar. The following write-up is stolen from A Little Bit Lighter, the blog of YCMES Arabic student Stan.

From the bluff, we drove down a switchbacked road, lower and lower into the wadi.  A few cars were speeding back up the cliffside, coming perilously close to our vehicles but never eliciting a single response from our stoic driver.  We also passed a motorcyclist pulling his associate’s motorcycle up the hill with a scarf tied to their two motorcycles.  I still cannot decided whether I am most impressed by the skill of the tower, the skill of the towee, or the strength of the scarf.

On the far side of the village at the bottom of Wadi Dahar looms the Dar Al-Hajar, or “House of the Rock.”  (Some translators prefer “palace.”  Good for them.)  The palace was built in the 1700′s by Ali bin Saleh Al-Amari, who was one of those Arabs you read about who was good at geometry and poetry and made up a key signature and invented cooking and also traveled to Iceland.  You know the type.  Somewhere between perfecting his tightrope dueling and breeding the leopard, he also decided he was going to build a really tall building on a rock.

It's the Eiffel Tower of Yemen, because you can climb to the top if you want to but you don't really need to.

It’s the Eiffel Tower of Yemen, because you can climb to the top if you want to but you don’t really need to.

(Thanks to these people.)

I’m a little sketchy on my history of Dar Al-Hajar, but somehow the palace (or a more modern version of the palace) became the summer retreat of Imam Yahya, the second to last ruler of the Yemeni Imamate.  Today the house is a popular destination for tourists.  You can hang out outside the entrance and eat fruit and corn to your heart’s delight, or pay 1000 riyal (~$5) to enter.

Up a sloping stone path from the gate, visitors come to a large flat courtyard in front of the house.  When we arrived, a number of Yemenis were dancing the bara’.  This wasn’t particularly suprising; Yemenis dance the bara’ all the time.  We were surprised that Yemenis (different Yemenis, I suppose) were still dancing the bara’ when we left almost two hours later.  I can only assume it’s an all-day bara’ party at the Dar Al-Hajar.

The first rule of bara' is that only 50% of the dancers at most can know exactly what's going on at any given time.

The first rule of bara’ is that only 50% of the dancers at most can know exactly what’s going on at any given time.

There will be many more posts on jambiyyahs and the bara’, but for now I’ll say that it’s an incredibly welcoming dance.  Despite our insistence that we were just spectators, jambiyyahs were thrust into our hands and we were dragged into the circle, where we did our best to keep up with every twirl, backstep, and brandish.

You'd keep playing too if the dancers all had knives.

You’d keep playing too if the dancers all had knives.

We were almost the only foreigners there, though we encountered some Koreans on the roof and a few Italians in the “winter relaxation room for men.”  (The Italians’ vehicle was parked just outside the gate when we left; two sharply dressed, alert young men stood posted on either side of the SUV, which had far more antennae than any vehicle should need.  We walked back to our pickup truck and Mercedes and didn’t know how to feel.)

Family outing to the House of the Rock.

Family outing to the House of the Rock.

The house had enough twists and turns to make exploration exciting.  Just when we thought we were done, we found the “kitchen access to ancient well (7th century), which in turn led to “burial cave” and “burial cave by ancient well.”  Despite the throngs of tourists in the main stairwells, we had “burial cave by ancient well” to ourselves for a good ten minutes until a Yemeni tourist leaned his head in and told us to leave.  We stepped out and his family piled in.  Why we couldn’t share the “burial cave by ancient well,” or why they couldn’t have been satisfied in “burial cave,” I am not sure.

We lost track of exactly what we had seen somewhere between floors four and six.  Perhaps that’s a Yemeni thing, though.  Keep your words short and your buildings tall.


Stan (USA) [2013-06-24] Here, by the way, is a picture of Stan nailing the bara':
Stan Nailing the Bara