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The Aden Yemen Historic Collections Exhibition
Aden (pronounced /ˈeɪdən/; Arabic: عدن ʻAdan, pronounced [ˈʕɑdæn]) is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea (the Gulf of Aden), some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden’s ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a low isthmus. This harbour, Front Bay, was first used by the ancient Kingdom of Awsan between the 5th and 7th centuries BC. The modern harbour is on the other side of the peninsula.
Aden consists of a number of distinct sub-centers: Crater, the original port city; Ma’alla, the modern port; Tawahi, known as “Steamer Point” in colonial days; and the resorts of Gold Mohur. Khormaksar, located on the isthmus that connects Aden proper with the mainland, includes the city’s diplomatic missions, the main offices of Aden University, and Aden International Airport (the former British Air Force base RAF Khormaksar), Yemen’s second biggest airport. On the mainland are the sub-centres of Sheikh Othman, a former oasis area; Al-Mansura, a town planned by the British; and Madinat ash-Sha’b (formerly Madinat al-Itihad), the site designated as the capital of the South Arabian Federation and now home to a large power/desalinization facility and additional faculties of Aden University.
Aden encloses the eastern side of a vast, natural harbor that comprises the modern port. The volcanic peninsula of Little Aden forms a near-mirror image, enclosing the harbor and port on the western side. Little Aden became the site of the oil refinery and tanker port. Both were established and operated by British Petroleum until they were turned over to Yemeni government ownership and control in 1977.
Aden was the capital of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen until that country’s unification with the Yemen Arab Republic. On that occasion, the city was declared a free trade zone. Aden gives its name to the Gulf of Aden.
A local legend in Yemen states that Aden may be as old as human history itself. Some also believe that Cain and Abel are buried somewhere in the city.
The port’s convenient position on the sea route between India and Europe has made Aden desirable to rulers who sought to possess it at various times throughout history. Known as Arabian Eudaemon in the 1st century BC, it was a transshipping point for the Red Sea trade, but fell on hard times when new shipping practices by-passed it and made the daring direct crossing to India in the 1st century AD, according to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. The same work describes Aden as ‘a village by the shore’, which would well describe the town of Crater while it was still little-developed. There is no mention of fortification but at this stage, Aden was more an island than a peninsula as the isthmus (a tombolo) was not then so developed as it is today
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