The Yemeni well known island of Socotra is not, and will never be, just the habitat of rare trees, birds, amazing land and marine life, and exciting imaginative landscapes. Socotra is globally important for biodiversity conservation because of its exceptionally rich and distinct flora and fauna. Besides, it is an ancient homeland, a long-standing heritage, and its people are as old as history. It contains a lot of evidence of this, but this aspect is still ambiguous and characterized by some ambiguity due to the state’s lack of interest in preserving and documenting the island’s antiquities and history. Through this article, we will try to shed light on some of these clues about the island’s ancient history.
One of the most important archaeological monuments that illustrate the past and heritage of Socotra is the settlement of Hujra. This settlement is located on the banks of Wadi Shaq, which empties into the coast next to the village of Shaq, which is the ancient capital of Socotra. The settlement is about two kilometers south of Shaq, the ancient capital. It is approximately 10 kilometers away from the center of the capital, Hadibo.
This settlement consists of the remains of buildings and rooms located inside a rectangular building, and a wall surrounding the settlement, as well as dozens of non-Islamic graves located to the east of the settlement.
In 2008, a Russian mission specialized in drilling, excavation, and surveying visited the settlement. They surveyed and excavated the settlement, and found many diverse archaeological discoveries, including broken household utensils. Most of these finds were made locally, and a few of them were imported from outside Socotra.
Researchers confirm that the settlement was an important commercial center, where local goods and products were exchanged. In ancient periods, Socotra was famous for its important local products at the time, such as frankincense, which was imported for use in temples and churches in Africa, India, Egypt, and other countries of the world.
In addition, the island was famous for producing and exporting Dracaena cinnabari (Dragon's Blood Tree) — endemic to Socotra island, ghee, honey, wool, and more. The Socotris would bring these products to the commercial center located in (Hajara), where these products would be displayed and exported across the sea, while the Socotris would obtain the food, clothing, and other materials they needed in exchange for the price of those exports (barter sales).
It is of utmost importance to preserve what remains of this great cultural heritage, through which we read the deeply rooted history of Socotra, by constructing a cement wall around the settlement and its graves to protect them from the encroachment of buildings and from the careless hands that affected everything beautiful in it.
What proves that this settlement was a commercial center is that sea water used to enter the valley (Hujra) from the coast of (Shaq), and ships passed through the valley to dock next to the settlement. It is said that there were remains of anchors where ships were moored, and the remains of those anchors still exist until recently.
Some people believe that it was a temple for ancient religions that reached Socotra, and on the other hand, others believe that it was the seat of government.
Historians mentioned that this settlement flourished in pre-Christian times, and its prosperity continued until the 15th and 16th centuries AD. This gives us a clear indication of the antiquity of that settlement, and from it we can discern the antiquity of Socotri man and the historic significance of his civilization, and we also understand that that settlement was in use for a long period of time.
It is truly unfortunate that only some foundation stones remain of this important historical settlement, and that a large part of the settlement has been buried by the modern buildings that surrounded the settlement, especially on the northeastern side of it. Its remaining landmarks are still at risk, as it is decreasing day by day due to neglect and urban sprawl. Some residents are also taking from its remaining stones and clay as the buildings are creeping towards it.
Moreover, it is of utmost significant to preserve the remains of this great civilizational witness, through which we read the deeply rooted history of Socotra, by fencing off the settlement and its graves to protect them from encroaching buildings, as well as the careless hands of the citizens that affected everything beautiful in it.
It is worth noting that it is important to bring in geological experts in order to excavate and reveal more secrets about this important settlement. As the Russian mission’s excavation was in a small part of the settlement, it was not comprehensive and therefore the findings were not sufficient.