Lesson 4: The English Sheikh and the Yemeni Gentleman
About this Lesson:
In the previous lesson, students developed a theoretical understanding of culture through the iceberg model. In this lesson, students have the opportunity to apply this knowledge to Yemeni culture.
By watching and analyzing the film, The English Sheikh and the Yemeni Gentleman (UK, 2000), directed by Bader Ben Hirsi, students consider the visible elements of culture and analyze what invisible values and assumptions are driving them. Additionally, students begin to think about culture through the framework of the major themes of this curriculum: religion, ethnicity, gender, and kinship.
The English Sheikh and the Yemeni Gentleman (UK, 2000) is a British documentary directed by Bader Ben Hirsi, a British born Yemeni living in London. The film follows Hirsi as he explores and rediscovers his country with the guidance of Tim Makintosh-Smith, an Englishman living in Yemen for 16 years. The unique combination of an Englishman living in Yemen and a Yemeni living in England helps students to see nuances of culture through various lenses. As students watch the film, encourage them to think critically about the perspectives of those commenting on culture and consider what their underlying assumptions may be.
100 minutes (2 class periods)
In this lesson, students will:
- create an iceberg that represents Yemeni culture.
- Bader Ben Hirsi: Main character of English Sheikh and Yemeni Gentleman (UK 2001). Pronounced: Bah‘der Ben Her‘sey
- Sanaa: Capital of Yemen. Pronounced: Sa‘nah
- Saltah: The national dish of Yemen made with meat, fenugreek, tomatoes, and spices. Pronounced: Sel‘tah
- Gat: A plant whose leaves are chewed like tobacco, considered a drug in the West. Chewing gat in Yemen is a national pastime and common among both men and women. May also be written as khat and qat.
- The Arab world is a large and diverse region containing religious, political, geographic, ethnic, and linguistic differences.
- Art, film and literature can provide valuable insight into the values, beliefs and worldviews of another culture.
Curriculum Framing Questions
- How does culture influence our thoughts and actions?
- Who is a part of the Arab world?
- What insights can art and literature from the Arab world offer about Arab culture(s)?
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
- discuss the significance of perspective in shaping and telling history.
- identify religious, ethnic, gendered, and familial cultural interactions within Yemeni society as depicted in the film.
- apply the iceberg model to their observation and analysis of Yemeni culture as depicted in the film.
Assessment & Evaluation of Student Learning:
- Take thorough and complete notes indicating the presence of curricular themes in The English Sheikh and the Yemeni Gentleman.
- Active participation in creation of class iceberg.
Curriculum Standards Information
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
Speaking and Listening
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
Speaking and Listening
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Standard 4.2: Students demonstrate understanding of the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.
Begin class by asking students to share their homework from last night, icebergs of American culture. Ask students if they see the following themes in their own or each other icebergs: religion, ethnicity, gender, and family.
Watch The English Sheikh and the Yemeni Gentleman (75 minutes).
While it is recommended that you screen the entire film, you may show the select clips below (approx. 30 min):
- 1:00-4:16: Introduction to the main character, Bader Ben Hirsi
- 9:00-9:58: The home and family in Arab culture (narrated by Tim Mackintosh-Smith, the second main character
- 10:13-13:37: A tour through the old suq
- What comes to mind when you think of the Arab world?
- 14:06-16:47: Friendship in Yemeni culture
- 18:45-10:05: Eating Yemeni food
- 28:00-33:00: Culture in Hajara (music and dance, chewing gat, politics)
- 52:52-1:01:20: Family and kinship in Yemen (students should pay attention to the greetings and the culture of hospitality)
- 1:03:40-end: Conclusion of the film (not necessary if short on time)
After viewing the film, instruct student to complete the second part of the English Sheikh and Yemeni Gentleman Handout. They should review their notes from the film and place their observations in the chart, distinguishing between visible and invisible elements of culture. Come together and create a class iceberg representing Yemeni culture. Use these questions to help students in their task:
- What are the limitations of our observations?
- How must we proceed so as not to misinterpret our observations?
- What steps can we take to begin understanding and growing our awareness of the invisible aspects of Arab culture?
The purpose of the iceberg metaphor is to identify features of a culture and try to understand where they come from. Remind your students that this activity focuses on making observations and not passing judgement.