Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Yemeni funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Lithuanian funeral traditions and modern-day Australian funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Traditional Yemeni Funeral
Traditionally, a Yemeni funeral involved a mummification process similar to the ancient Egyptians. They removed the organs through the stomach and filled it with an embalming fluid, such as camel oil or sulphur dioxide. Then, they wrapped the body in silk or leather shrouds. The type of shroud someone got depended on their wealth. The ancient Yemeni people believed this process lead to the resurrection of the body.
Yemeni Funeral Today
The Yemeni people no longer practice mummification, but they still cover the body with a shroud. Today, a Yemeni funeral involves a prayer time at a mosque since most Yemeni people are Muslim. About 58% of the Yemen population identifies with Sunni Islam and about 40% with Shia Islam. Muslims believe that the souls of the deceased wait for Judgment Day. On this day, they’re judged for their actions on Earth that determine whether they go to paradise or hell.
After the prayer time, there’s a funeral procession to the cemetery with pallbearers carrying the body. If possible, the burial is usually before the sun sets on the same day as the death. They bury the deceased with their feet facing Jerusalem, so when the body resurrects, they can quickly rise and bow to the city.
Some families in northern areas of Yemen visit the grave on the third day after the death. They bring substantial amounts of food, such as bread, soup, and meat, and give it to children and the poor. In return, they ask that they pray for the deceased’s soul. The children sing loud prayers while adults pray quietly.