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Ali wild Zayid (Ali the son of Zayid): Eloquent sayings and proverbs

Issue 32
Ali wild Zayid (Ali the son of Zayid): Eloquent sayings and proverbs

Muhammad Ali Thamir

One of the wisest Yemenis, Ali wild Zayid was a philosopher, a legendary writer and poet, an astronomer, a psychologist, an agricultural expert and a teacher. He was a master of proverbs and of wisdom passed down through the generations. He was a man of the past, a companion in the present and a friend of the future.

I have tried to find answers to many questions: Where was he born and where did he die? Where and when did he live? To which families or tribes did he belong? My efforts have been fruitless; most of his sayings were not documented or recorded, they were preserved only in the memories of the illiterate and the learned who share the same land, farming, customs, traditions and lifestyles. Oral non-material heritage that helps to preserve folk culture, which is widespread in Yemen, may be in danger of being lost.

This wise man, remembered as Ali bin Zayed or Ali wild Zayid, is known for his poems, maxims and traditional sayings. It is said that he was born in the village of Minkth in Yarim, a district of Ibb Governorate in central Yemen. The exact dates of his birth and death are unknown. Some believe he lived between the end of the eleventh century Hijri and the beginning of the twelfth century Hijri, (in the 18th century AD). He is said to have lived in different regions, cities and villages of Yemen, some of which he named and some of which are mentioned in his sayings.

It is believed that he was married to three women, one of whom was his cousin. He lived with the three of them in his humble house, and grew very poor. One night, he went out looking for food, but he was unsuccessful. He returned home wearing a disguise, and went up to the roof of his house to contemplate the stars. While bemoaning his bad luck, he overheard his wives talking about him.

His cousin said, "I wonder where Ali bin Zayid went?".
Another wife said, "He went out to steal, but he will deny it".
The remaining wife said, "He went to commit adultery".

His cousin replied, "Be patient. You’ve forgotten all the good things that he has done and you should be ashamed of the way you’re acting".

She went to find some seeds that she had hidden in the camels’ feed, and made food from the seeds.’

People still relate this story, which has great significance and which illustrates that even those closest to you may doubt you and forget your good deeds.

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