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History of Arab Play

History of the play in the Arab Mashreq

Researchers of the History of Arab Theater agree that the first text set to be performed on stage was the "The Miser" written in 1847 by playwright Maroun Al-Naqqash (1817 - 1855). Scenes of the play were performed by the writer’s own family members on a stage set up in front of the writer’s house.

Some critics believe  that Al-Naqqash had either translated the play or he had been inspired by Moliere’s  "Scrooge" (Miser in English). Some others say that the play was his own writing, but Moliere’s “Scrooge” events were echoed in it.  The play was written in Arabic poetry which lacked rhythm and sometimes contained colloquial Lebanese phrases.

In 1849, Al-Naqqash wrote his second play "Abo al-Hassan, the Fool ", which was inspired by one of the "Arabian Nights" tales. His third play "The Sharp-Tongued Envious "  was  a moral comedy written in1851. Characters of al-Naqqash plays were well-created and well-developed compared to the then development of theatrical work, but the writer, sometimes, didn’t implement certain rules that should be followed in the art of playwriting.

Abu Khalil al- Qabbani (1833-1903) was Damascus’ second playwright and composer with good knowledge of the basics of Arabic music and singing. He wrote his plays to be sung on stage, so he was considered as the pioneer of Arabic lyrical play that fitted the then Arab taste.

 Qabbani had resorted to the storytelling heritage of "The Arabian Nights" to write his lyrical plays. Some critics consider him as the pioneer of originality of the Arab play as he kept his writings away from the effect of the Western theater which appeared in Maroun  Al-Naqqash’s plays.

 "Prince Mahmud, the Persians Shah's Son”, "Ungrateful", "Harun al-Rashid with Prince Ghanem" and  "Qoot al-Qoloub", were among al-Qabbani’s plays, which aimed at entertainment, but contained important advices.

Egyptian playwright and journalist Yakoub  Sannou’ (1839 – 1912),  was the third Arab playwright.

Critics say that Yakoub Sannou’ developed  the Arab play and rid it of the idea of moral purpose, which overwhelmed all events, and placed it within  the framework of social realistic work, which criticized and combated social injustice. In his plays, Yakoub Sannou’ attacked the complex of imitating the Europeans which clearly appeared among the people of the upper and middle classes. He also attacked ignorance, inactivity and bribery. Colloquial Egyptian was the language of Sannou’ plays.

Researchers of Arab drama say that Yakoub Sannou’ wrote 32 plays most famous of which were "The Two Fellow wives", "Helwan", "Alexandrian Princess" and " the Molière of Egypt".

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Egypt witnessed the writing of purely Egyptian plays tackling the situation in this African country. These plays focused on social problems, so they paved the way for introducing the purely Arab social play. Farah Anton's "Modern Egypt and Ancient Egypt" (1913), "Saladin in the Kingdom of Jerusalem" (1914), Mohamed Timor’s "Abdul-Sattar Effendi" (1918), "The Abyss" (1921) and some plays of Tawfiq al-Hakim, are good examples of such type of playwriting.

Ahmed Shawki's poetic drama was a turning point in the history of Arab theater. Shawki returned to playwriting after a long stop following his first play " Ali Beak the Great" (1893) which he wrote when he was a student in France. He returned with the "Demise of Cleopatra" in 1927, later he wrote "Leila's  Demented" , "Cambyses" and "Antara", between 1927 and 1932 then he rewrote "Princess of Andalusia". All these plays presented historical personalities and eras. The "Demise of Cleopatra" and "Cambyses" presented the Pharaonic history. Leila's Demented and Antara are from the Arabic heritage, while "Ali Beak the Great" was inspired by the Turkish history.

 Many critics viewed Shawki's plays as having laid the first brick to use the sober poetry as a language of the Arab play. Later, his plays became a guide to a number of poets in writing poetic theater. Most prominent poets were Aziz Abaza  and Ali Ahmad Bakthir.


On the other hand, Tawfiq Hakim was a pioneer of theatrical prose writing. Some of the plays, which he wrote between 1920 and 1950, were classified as society theater and some other as mental theater. He focused in his social plays on the problems the Egyptian society suffered from at that time. His mental plays dealt with intellectual philosophical themes based on dialogue which focused on the ideas more than the characters.
The Revolution of 1952 produced a new generation of playwrights who tackled their people’s problems. Characters were pure Egyptian and the language was often colloquial Egyptian.

Critics say playwright Nou'man Ashour’s  "The People Who are Under",  which was performed on stage in 1956, was the beginning of a new phase in the history of Arab playwriting since it replaced the classical language with the colloquial one and the purely mental dialogue with the realistic and spontaneous one and the dramatic traditional complex with people’s social problems and normal life. Thanks to this generation of writers, playwriting moved from the classical stage to the realistic one.

Beside Noman Ashour, the pioneer playwrights of this stage were: Saad Eddin Wahba, Alfred Farag, Youssef Idris, Rashad Rushdi and Lutfi Kholi.
In the 1960s, a new trend of playwriting had emerged in which playwrights adopted the trochee poetry as a language. Themes like the revolution and the refusing of the wrong were the basis of theatrical ideas. Such a trend was clearly represented in Abdul Rahman al-Sharqawi and Salah Abdel Sabour’s works.

Some critics consider the plays of Salah Abdel Sabour as an era in the history of the Arab play as they contained an extraordinary ability to overcome the problem of pairing between drama and poetry. Among the most prominent poets in this era were Suleiman Essa and Farouk Juweideh.

The era, which followed, was characterized by the direct effect of the different  types of European playwriting. A number of epic plays appeared during this stage such as "Lumumba "by Saad Roav, "Ah Ya Leil Ya Amar" by Naguib Surur and "Baladi Ya Baladi" by Rashad Rushdie. Then appeared the theatre of the absurd in "You Climb the Tree" play by Tawfiq al-Hakim (1962) and "The Newcomer" (1966) by Mikhail Roman.
Most of today's Arab plays are comedies written to commercial theaters and designed to attract audience through vulgar laughing caused by verbal humor or exaggerated movements. Therefore, these plays are mostly suffering disintegrated dramatic structure, superficial treatment of issues and poor construction of characters.

Playwrights claimed that they tried in these plays to highlight  moral objectives and adopt noble values so as to cover the trivial goal of the audience.

History of the Arab play in the Arab Maghreb:


Researchers of Arab theater say that the Arab Maghreb knew Arab theatre after the band of Souleiman Alqirdahi had come to Tunisia from Egypt in 1908. After it stayed there, the band visited Algeria but did not reach the Far Maghreb because of the then political situation.  Other bands, like Salama Hegazi’s also visited Algeria to present their performances.

The beginning of playwriting in Arab Maghreb was similar to that in the Arab Mashreq. Playwrights followed the steps of those of the Mashreq particularly in translation and adaption from the European theater, especially the French because of the mandate imposed by France on the Arab Maghreb countries where it was keen to impose its language. Translations and adaptations focused on Moliere’s theater due to the distinguished human characteristics of his characters.

On the other hand, the French occupation’s concentration on obliterating the Arab identity of the Maghreb produced a strong reaction by the peoples of this region aiming at preserving the Arab identity. This reaction was embodied in playwriting through early awareness about the importance of originality in the texts of the Maghreb playwrights, who did their best to avoid imitating European theatrical heritage or applying its rules in order to contribute to maintaining the Arab cultural identity.

This trend continues until Moroccan playwright Abdul Karim Bershid came out with an integrated theory in which he preferred to name theatrical performance as ceremonial art.
Among the most prominent playwrights of the Arab Maghreb were Ahmed Tayeb al-Alj , Al-Tayieb Siddiqi and Abdol-Karim Barshid.

Amal Farhat

Photo Exhibition in Moscow in Solidarity with Syria

A photo exhibition on Syria was recently held in Moscow in expression of solidarity with the Syrian people. The event was organized by the Russian committee for Solidarity with Syrian people and the Russian Journalists' Union Photo Centre

Sergi Baburin, Chairman of the Russian Committee for Solidarity with the Syrian People said he is deeply concerned over the critical situation in Syria due to the war waged by foreign-backed armed terrorists groups against the country.

He pointed out that holding the exhibition came to express Russia's solidarity with the Syrian people and with the journalists who confront the armed terrorists groups' savage acts with their writings.

For his part, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Committee for Solidarity with the Syrian people Oleig Fermin said the situation in Syria is very worrying, necessitating more solidarity to enable Syria to withstand the current crisis and protect innocent Syrians.

He called for activating efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the friendly people of Syria to help them confront the unjust economic siege and sanctions imposed by the West on their country.

The Deputy Chairman referred to the serious damages, destruction and losses caused to the country's schools, hospitals, factories and holy places, because of the terrorists' attacks.

For his part, Dr, Riad Hadadd, the Syrian Ambassador to Russia, said holding the exhibition in Moscow consolidates the strong and deep relation of cooperation and coordination between the two friendly countries.

Haddad, who thanked the exhibition's organizing parties for holding this event, pointed out that the exhibition depicts the secure and stable situation which prevailed in Syria before the current circumstances.

He condemned the terrorists' acts of killing, destruction and kidnapping in addition to the crimes of assassinating journalists.

Director of the Russian journalists Union Photo Centre Valeri Ivanovit condemned the threats made by the terrorists against the Russian, Ukrainian and Iranian citizens in Syria, adding that the displayed photos depict Syria' beautiful geographical and social nature on the one hand, and the hostile acts perpetrated by the terrorists groups against this wonderful country on the other.

Rawaa Ghanam

Prestigious prize for cartoonist Khalil in Beirut



Syrian cartoonist Raed Khalil has clinched a World Prize in the 1st Lebanon International caricature Festival which was recently held in Beirut .

The event was held under the title"Poor and Rich".

A large number from 30 countries took part in the said event.

Khalil was born in Salamyain 1973.

Khalil annually organises Syria's Internatiional Cartoon Festival.He took part in arbitration in a number of festivals in Turkey,Iran,Brazil,China,Germany,Azerbaijan,India and other countries.

Khalil also has a prestigious contributions in the Damascus-based papers Tishreen,al-Baath and al-Nour.

Maysa Wassouf

Syrian actors’ distinguished roles

As usual, distinguished Syrian actor Abdul Munem Amayri takes part in important TV roles that unveil his distinguished manner and reflect his prodigious skill and rich culture.

The year 2012 was very prolific for Amayri. He appeared as Mahdi, Samer and Akil in Eye Blink, Naked Spirits and The Hours of Embers respectively moving between three different worlds. Mahdi was the unlucky brother for a sister called Hadiya, (played by distinguished Syrian actress Amal Arafeh). Mahdi falls in a trap following another in his search for money which is quickly spent because he is a gambler. However, he is a simple hearted man who does not know malice.

     In “Naked Spirits”, we found him malicious but misled character who is greatly involved in love, suspicion and revenge.

In “The Hours of Embers”, he appeared as Akil, a character teeming with humanitarian aspects which vanish when he feels injustice and tries to prove that his friend Allam was guiltless. 

Other successful roles for Amayri was in Spotlight  which reflected the great talents of the actor through playing various characters in panels that deal with the people’s social, economic and political aspirations in a daring approach. He also played important roles in “Our Tale Hasn’t Finished Yet” and “The Key” by director Hisham Sharbatji.

Qusay Khuli is another outstanding actor who starred in “Naked Spirits” through the character of Salah, a barber who falls in love by accident with a woman who betrayed her husband.

In “The Hours of Embers”, he played Jaber , the character who focuses on the negative aspects and social illnesses  of the Arab society and means of uprooting them.

Since her role in Khan al-Harir (silk caravansary), Syrian actress Shukran Murtaja has achieved strong presence in many TV series. In 2012, she played a distinguished role in “The Hours of Embers”; she appeared as Um Zein who is a lovely character despite her evil behaviour and search for problems. Another important role she played was Um Abdoh, the miser character who lives on parsley and mint she took from the land of her husband in order to avoid spending any penny.
Syrian actor As’ad Fidda has taken part in a TV series titled “The Blue Lamps”, which he considered a masterpiece of art that sheds light on an important period in the history of Syrian coast. The script was written by Husein Abdul Karim based on a novel written by famous Syrian writer Hanna Minah.


K. Q.

“Syria, Targeting and Conspiracy”

“Syria, Targeting and Conspiracy” is a new book recently published by writer Hussein Juma’a, who stressed that anyone who observed the Syrian crisis since its beginning, would immediately realise that it was a conspiracy that aimed to change Syria’s resistant role in confrontation of the imperialist and Zionist plots hatched against the Arab region with the aim of passing the Zionist project, advocating divisions among Arab states and igniting sectarian wars that serve Israel and its allies.

Dr. Juma’a views that the West and the US, in particular, have been seeking to control the Arab region through sinister plans at all political, economic and cultural levels. At the same time, these projects aim to support the Zionist entity in advocating a colonialist settlement policy in the region.

The current conspiracy against the Arab region came as a development of the previous colonialist projects which are no more convincing to Israel and its allies. So, they invented more malignant and wicked plans to guarantee their domination of the Arab region politically and economically.


Dr. Juma’a said that creative chaos came as a reshaping of the Great Middle East, the New Middle East or the direct military invasion with the aim of re-drawing the map of the region in a way that serves the US and Israel.

One chapter of the book was devoted to deal with the successive US administrations’ policies towards the Arab Homeland. He said that the US administrations have found a good opportunity to achieve their interests in the region through the so-called civil society organizations or internal and external oppositions capitalizing on international differences and social and political turmoil in the Arab societies.

The writer disclosed the US and Western plans in exploiting peoples and plundering their resources under the pretext of combating terrorism. He said,” it is they who create terrorism, violence and killing and call for achieving freedom, but at the same time they restrict the freedom of others in service of their interests as was the case in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Somalia. The US claims that it did not want to arm the Syrian opposition, but it ordered its regional allies, especially Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to offer all kinds of military aid to it.

In another chapter, Dr. Juma’a tackles the nature of the conspiracy which targets the whole region through creating seditions, divisions and plundering of resources.

Golan, the Key of Peace and War was the title of another chapter in which the writer talked about the strategic importance of Golan, its historical and geographic position which made it the target  of the Zionist greed. He also explained the Israeli measures of annexing Golan and wiping out its genuine Arab identity, highlighting the Syrian people’s complete rejection of the Israeli measures and their insistence to liberate Golan and return it to its motherland Syria.

The writer also addressed the means used by West to carry out its conspiracy against Syria, referring that part of the conspiracy was a fierce media campaign of instigation and misleading implemented through certain channels.

Concluding his book, Dr. Juma’a said that the Syrians will be able to overcome the crisis and emerge stronger thanks to their national belonging and strong belief in tolerance and peaceful co-existence.