A personal statement about this project, by Leyla Al-Sayadi

    When I started this project nearly 2 years ago, I was completely unaware of the journey I would be taking. Aiming to put together what has seemed an increasingly forgotten history has been an exciting and at times daunting task.

    The idea of making a website on the history of the Yemeni community has been kicked around for years but it is not something I thought I would take upon myself to do until a chance conversation where the words 'Leyla, make a website' had me saying ok and starting this entire journey.

    The content of this site is entirely made up from what has been donated to me by members of the community, what I have researched and what I have somehow been able to find.

    I have largely tried to avoid putting a narrative with material as this would be my own but where facts exist I have put them forward.

    I believe this history is something for all of South Shields and the North East of England to take pride in as for over 100 years we have shown the world that love and tolerance prevail. The integration of Yemeni seamen into South Shields was not without ups and downs and this site has not ignored that. The end result, however, is that united we have stood and in 2015 I believe this issue as a relevant as it has ever been.

    Those of you who know me, know that I am myself 3rd (and 4th) generation British-Yemeni and my daughter marks 5 generations in South Shields spanning over 100 years.

    This website would not exist at all without the kind and wonderful people who have supported it either by helping me practically run the donation days and events, by sharing their life stories and photographs with me or by donating money to get all of this work online.

    The project has been entirely funded by the South Shields community and friends of the community which has allowed it to remain independent and shows that this is a subject that touches the hearts of many.

    The characteristics which have taken this one, South Shields community from the late 1800s to 2015 include patience, strength and courage. I believe they are the foundation of the journey covered on this website which I believe we can all take pride in as ultimately, wherever we come from, we all have a path to follow.

    Leyla Al-Sayadi


    South Shields Yemeni community makes a great social and cultural contribution to our town. The first generations of merchant seamen who arrived in the 19th century were a vital part of the shipping industry that was the heart and soul of local life, and that legacy is still with us today. Our shared history is something we can all be proud of.
    People from outside the North East are often surprised to hear that South Shields was and still is home to the first settled Muslim population in the UK, as well as the first purpose-built mosque. To me it isn't a surprise; it says a lot about the successful integration of the Yemeni community and the respect and tolerance our town has for other cultures. We have always depended on visitors and traders and I think that has made us an open and welcoming community.
    The example of the Yemeni community is a fantastic demonstration of how different cultures can live together in modern Britain, with different traditions but shared goals and values. Previous generations worked and lived side by side, shared ideas, and started families together, and that process of sharing has enriched our community.

    Emma Lewell-Buck - Labour MP

    Dear Leyla, I think the project is a great idea for those who had fathers and grandfathers who came from Yemen. For me, my Grandfather was the most precious person I had in my life. He was one of the first Yemeni men to come to South Shields. He had a barbers shop and a fruit shop and was very generous with his time and money. He came from the same place as the Muckbles.

    Kenny McRitchie, South Shields - 3rd Generation Yemeni

    I think the Yemeni project is a lovely idea as I have been interested in learning more about my grandfather's native Yemen for many years. I feel the Yemeni people are amongst some of the most generous hearted in the world. It is great to share resources, especially photos and the project will help preserve a record of what has become, in South Shields a diminishing community. I am happy to support such a project!

    Michelle Hern, South Shields - 3rd generation Yemeni

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