Last night at a dinner in DC I had a chance to pose the question of spelling v. pronunciation of Jazan/Jizan to a Saudi official. He explained to me that the name - both the town and the region - is spelled with an alif, but that local pronunciation (for reasons he didn't fully explain) is as Jizan, as if the word was spelled with a ya.

So mystery solved. Those in the Arabic press that spell it with a ya, as he said, aren't familiar with the region. My hat off to the English language press for following the local pronunciation - I often criticize their curious transliterations so it is only fair that I complement them when they get it right.

Now it is off to solve the mystery of the dead Saudis in Sa'dah.