The Philatelic Middle East
Copyright 9 July 1956
2) As the letters handed in (habitually in smaller-than-standard-size covers) usually have the address written in such a way across the face that there us no room for the stamp without obliterating part of the address, the adhesives are logically affixed to the back, usually as a seal to the flap.
3) Postal employees are so notoriously underpaid in Yemen that they have had to resort to numerous sharp practices to make both ends meet. One such trick was for the Postmaster of A to include in the mail sack to the Postmaster at B approximately 100 letters from which the stamps had ostensibly fallen off in transit.
Actually, the cancel had been applied to the stampless envelopes partly over a little slip of paper the size of a stamp, the 4 bogash or higher fee pocketed, and no record of these 100 covers, or of any corresponding stamp sales, being entered in the books.
When postal inspectors found out about this they directed that whenever the gum was insufficient, glue should be applied to hold the stamp on the cover. They held each Postmaster personally responsible and made spot checks on mail sacks to see that the practice was discontinued. It was, and we collectors have inherited the glue as a souvenir of this charming bit of Yemenite postal history.
4) Date stamps still carry the Turkish civil solar version of the lunar Moslem calendar based on the date of Mohammed's flight from Mecca (the Hijra) which is now three years behind the Moslem year date (1372 instead of 1375) and has been long abandoned elsewhere even by Turkey itself.
In most cases the date rollers have run out of the latest possible date combination, and as the parsimonious Minister of Communications will not authorize purchase of new cancellers until the old ones literally fall to pieces (as that of Mokha did, in the hands of the writer, in 1953), local postmasters have to make hand-made repairs on the rollers, and the results are usually illegible.
There is also a new crop of entirely new hand-made local cancellers which remind one of our 19th Century U.S. Postmasters' hand-carved cork "killers", with absolutely fascinating versions of supposedly English town names beneath the Arabic ones.
5) There are no collectors or regular dealers in Yemen, only a few merchant-accumulators and a part-time dealer (Dossa, of Hodeida), and there is a chronic paper shortage. This means that most covers are reused by recipients for other purposes and that the ones recovered by accumulators for philatelic export abroad are gathered from waste paper. To insist on special care for these particular papers would immediately inflate their value in the eyes of philatelically-uninitiated holders and render them unprofitable to collect for export at reasonable prices. This accounts for their truly waste-paper aspect. The same applies to used stamps, which have usually been subjected to such rough treatment that even their covers could not be salvaged.
This means, of course, that nice, clean Yemen covers, with stamps on the face of the envelope, are uncommon, and habitually command fancy premiums. Of course, we are excluding philatelic covers, which are usually unobjectionable from the aesthetic angle but do not usually carry any known postal rate and are thus not considered legitimate items by old-fashioned philatelic standards.
Inquiries and correspondence about Middle East philatelic matters can be sent to my attention care of Linn's Weekly Stamp News. In case a reply is wanted (10c surface mail and 25c airmail) postage should be enclosed in the form of international reply coupons, or mint U.S. commems.