Skip to Content
The English Sheik and the Yemeni Gentleman cover photo

The English Sheik and the Yemeni Gentleman 2000


Distributed by Arab Film Distribution, 10035 35th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA 98125; 206-322-0882
Produced by Bader Ben Hirsi
Director n/a
DVD, color, 88 min.

High School - General Adult
Anthropology, Biography, History, Middle Eastern Studies, Travel and Tourism

Date Entered: 06/27/2011

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Often appearing in today’s international headlines as a site of political unrest and terrorist activity, Yemen is also an early center of civilization with a culture and history that is both exotic and inexplicable to westerners. With a plan to see beyond adverse stereotypes, to reconnect with his own roots and to discover the true meaning of the land and its people in the modern world, a British-born Yemeni decides to visit his ancestral home for the first time. Recorded in 1999, the film which is part video diary and part travelogue, follows a young Ben Hirsi as he journeys to the his parents’ birthplaces in southern Yemen. From the unique architecture and alabaster windows of Sana’a, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to rugged but green mountains, to the hot and humid former British port city of Aden on the Red Sea, this is a country of unexpected geographical and cultural surprises.

Accompanied by Tim Makintosh-Smith, a British expatriate writer for whom Yemen is home, Ben Hirsi is introduced to the custom of chewing gat leaf and eating local delicacies. An interesting twist to the classic travel story is the reversal of roles, with Makintosh-Smith far more comfortable with the language, culture and people of Yemen than Ben Hirsi. The cinematography and original musical score are outstanding contributions to the overall quality of the film. Bonus features include a small gallery of photographic stills, movie trailers for similar feature films, and information about the director. For providing a glimpse of the land and people in a part of the world that remains forever mysterious despite its appearance in the nightly news, the film is recommended.