Perched atop a lofty hill overlooking the strategic port of Aden in southern Yemen rests a historical and iconic clock, often referred to as the sister of London’s renowned “Big Ben.”
Dubbed “Big Ben of the East” or “Big Ben” in Arabic, this clock, erected in the suburb of “Tawahi” by British occupation authorities in 1890, held crucial significance for sailors and ships navigating the bustling port of Aden for several decades. It served as a guiding beacon for maritime arrivals and facilitated the supply logistics for ships requiring coal and fuel, becoming an integral part of Aden’s maritime history.
Lawyer Akram Fahmi, reflecting on the clock’s importance, remarked, “The construction of this clock mirrored its famous counterpart in London. It was pivotal in navigating incoming ships, solidifying its status as a historical emblem within Aden.”
Symbol of British Presence
This rendition of “Big Ben,” situated north of London’s Westminster Tower, earned the moniker “Little Big Ben” from the English community in Aden, becoming an enduring symbol recounting the era of British presence from 1839 to 1967.
According to historian Mohammed Al-Arshi, “This clock in Aden’s history was essential for sailors and symbolized the city’s ties to the British crown. Its strategic placement atop a hill ensured visibility from all directions, symbolizing Aden’s connection to the global maritime trade.”
Constructed by skilled British engineers using black stones and a robust cement-water mixture, this clock, known also as “Arab Big Ben,” offered a commanding view of the sea and Tawahi port, aiding sailors and vessels in timekeeping regardless of their arrival or departure direction.
“This landmark, characterized by its rectangular structure crowned with a red granite roof resembling an equilateral triangle, remains a testament to Aden’s rich history,” Mohammed Al-Arshi added, “having witnessed notable events like Queen Elizabeth II’s honeymoon in 1954, where she was captivated by the city’s charm and woke up to the melodies of ‘Arab Big Ben.'”
Today, standing tall atop the Tawahi Mountains, this enduring clock remains an emblem of Aden’s golden age, a silent witness to a bygone era in Yemen’s history