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Omar Abu Risha and the Last Love

Syrian poet and diplomat, Abu Risha was born in Manbej(1910-1990), near Aleppo in northern Syria. He studied at  Damascus University then moved to the American University of Beirut before joining the University of Manchester. He was well read in English, American and French poetry, which left a strong influence on his work.

Abu Risha’s father tried to dissuade him from pursuing poetry, and sent him to study chemistry in England. There, Abu Risha fell deeply in love, but the young woman he wanted to marry died of typhoid. He described his pain in a poem called “the last love”, which ushered in a new era of Arabic romantic poetry

He won fame in the Arab world in the 1930s for his modern approach to poetry in which he broke with the traditions of Arab classicism, and for his nationalism in the face of French colonial rule. He went back to Aleppo in 1932 and joined the resistance against the French occupation of Syria. But after the French forces departed, Abu Risha found himself in total discord with many of the political conditions of his country. He had strong belief in the importance of Arab unity. In 1940, Abu Risha was appointed director of the National Library in Aleppo. His first book, Poetry of Umar Abu Risha, was published in 1947 at the top of his fame, and is his most popular work

In 1949, he was appointed for one year ambassador to Brazil, then to Argentina for three years, then India (1954-1959), Vienna, Washington and again India in 1965. In 1970 he resigned from diplomatic service and moved to Beirut. He died in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and was buried in Manbej, Syria.

Abu Risha’s first and only collection of poems was printed 1971. It contains most of his poetry

He was the epitome of Arab poetry at its best and most elevated form. His diplomatic career could not cripple his aspirations and love for his Arab nation. He had belief that the Arab nation was a great one whose old glories needed to be revived. Abu Risha kept glorifying the Arabs and encouraging them into action until his death on 14 June 1990

To his readers and hundreds of thousands of admirers, he was one of few poets who could use the Arabic language very accurately and with exquisite mastery. His poetry is no place for redundancy or misuse of words. He used to speak from the very depths of history, connecting the past with the present

One time he was asked about whether he had any Bedouin origins in his blood,His answer was, “I’m a Bedouin and I’ll always be proud of that".

 Nada haj Khidr


Arabs in Brazilian music

A talk should discuss Brazilian music from the 18th century to date. The event should take place in São Paulo, at the Arab-Syrian Cultural Centre.

The Arab influence on Brazilian music began with the arrival of Malê slaves in the country, in the XVIII Century. Although they were not Arab, they were Muslim and spoke the language very well. They also brought musical instruments that, in the beginning, were used to play religious music. That was just the beginning of a story that has already lasted three centuries. “The Arabs in Brazilian music”, by historian Silvia Antibas, at the Arab-Syrian Cultural Centre.
"The Arab immigrants, in turn, when they arrived, also had participation in music. Odalisques and the Arabian nights were covered by several different artists, as was the case with the Bedouins” said Silvia. Graduated in History from the Pontifical Catholic University in São Paulo, her specialisation is in Museums from the University of Avignon, in France, and she has worked as the director of the Department for Preservation of Museum Assets, connected to the Culture Secretariat of the State of São Paulo.

Among the most ancient examples of musicians of Arab origin, she mentions Nássara and David Nasser, who composed carnival tunes. She also recalls Wanderléa, from Jovem Guarda, and the Caymmi family, until reaching musicians like Waly Salomão, João Bosco, Zeca Baleiro, Almir Sater and Frejat. "Arabs have been included in all rhythms in Brazil. They naturally installed themselves in the Brazilian society and are now in Samba, Rock, Pop and instrumental” pointed out the historian.

Regarding modern Arab musicians, Silvia points out: "Currently, I believe that women are standing out, like Mariana Aydar, Bruna Caram and Marina Elali. This is a generation of women that are turning up and that are interesting. They are great singers,” he added.

Compiled by:Mayssa Wassouf


Tell Leilan, an archive of 1100 cuneiform clay tablets

Tell Leilan is an archaeological site situated near the Wadi Jarrah in the Khabur River basin in Al-Hasakah Governorate in Syria , northeastern Syria. The site has been occupied since the 5th millennium BC. During the late third millennium, the site was known as Shekhna. Around 1800 BC, the site was renamed Shubat-Enlil by the Assyrian king, Shamshi-Adad I and it became the capital of his state of northern Mesopotamia. Shubat-Enlil. was abandoned around 1700 BC

The city originated around 5000 BC as a small farming village and grew to be a large city. 2600 BC, three hundred years before the Akkadian Empire. A 3-foot layer of sediment at Tell Leilan containing no evidence of human habitation offered clues as to the cause of the demise of the Akkadian imperialized city; analysis indicated that at around 2200 BC, a three-century drought was severe enough to affect agriculture and settlement.

The conquest of the region by Shamshi-Adad I (1813–1781 BC) revived the abandoned site of Tell Leilan. Shamshi-Adad saw the great potential in the rich agricultural production of the region and made it the capital city of his empire. He renamed it from Shehna to Shubat-Enlil, or Subat-Enlil, meaning "the residence of the god Enlil" in the Akkadian language. In the city a royal palace was built and a temple acropolis to which a straight paved street led from the city gate. There was also a planned residential area and the entire city was enclosed by a wall. The city size was about 90 hectares (220 acres). Shubat-Enlil may have had a population of 20,000 people at its peak. The city prospered until the king Samsu-iluna of Babylon sacked. it in 1726 BC. Shubat-Enlil was never reoccupied

The mound of Tell Leilan is being excavated by a team of archaeologists. The excavation started in 1979. The study of the site and the region is continuing.  Among many important discoveries at Tell Leilan is an archive of 1100 cuneiform clay tablets maintained by the rulers of the city. These tablets date to the eighteenth century BC and record the dealings with other Mesopotamian states and how the city administration worked. Finds from the excavations at Tell Leilan are on display in the Deir ez-Zor Museum.

Compiled by:Nada Haj Khider

Phoenix, Myth of Immortality and Renewal


"Burnt and reborn again", is a phrase usually said to describe a mythical creature with a wide fame in the ancient folklore of many nations including the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Persians, Romans and Chinese as a symbol of renewal and immortality. This creature was called the phoenix in the European traditions or the (Rook) in the Arab heritage where it was a hero in many tales and legends such as: the “Sinbad the Sailor” and the “Fire Bird in Japan”.

According to the legend, 'Phoenix' is a giant unique bird with a long neck,  living between 500-1000 years. At the end of its life, the bird perches with ambiguity on its nest and sings sadly in a low voice for the last time in his life. When the sun rises, the bird burns and turns into ashes, from which a small larva emerges, creeps diligently closer toward a shady spot and turns quickly into a new phoenix.

In Greek mythology:

Phoenix was mentioned in the legends of the goddess of the Alps, when Prometheus revealed  the secret of fire to mankind so the great Greek god Zeus wanted to punish him. He hung Prometheus between two mountains and ordered the phoenix to devour his liver every day.


In the stories of Sinbad the Sailor:


Phoenix is also mentioned in the stories of "Sinbad the Sailor" in the name of the Rook. It is described as a giant bird having the head and wings of an eagle.  According to the stories, each wing is 20 km long and the bird is said to be very strong that it can carry a giant elephant by its claws.

In Arab heritage books:

The supernatural creature was mentioned a lot in Arab literature which describes the 'Rook ' as a large bird facing the threat of extinction in the 17th century. It is considered as member of  the eagle’s huge family. Its large eggs are found in the island of Madagascar.

The Rook was also mentioned  in the "Wonders of India" and "The Arabian Nights", as well as, in the Journey of Ibn Battuta.

Al- Demashki had hinted that a Rook’s feather was brought to Aden, stressing that this bird no longer exists and that ancestors gave it a lot of superstitious qualities.

The famous French writer, Voltaire, described the bird by saying: " Phoenix is the size of an eagle but its eyes look lighter and nicer than the savage ones of the eagle. Its beak is pink and is as beautiful as the peacock’s while the rainbow colors are represented on its neck".

 Truth or fiction

Dr. Ali  Al-Soukari from the University of Cairo, said: "we are in front of a real giant bird which was found in the China Sea Islands in the Middle Ages, but no longer exists.  Ancestors exaggerated in describing its size and abilities, especially when they mentioned that the bird’s flesh removes gray hair and restores youth".

Some researchers believe that Phoenix has a real presence in the islands of  the seas and oceans of India and China. This bird lived in remote and abandoned areas where they could fly freely as there were no natural obstacles hindering their flying. It fed on fishes and other marine animals.

 The Phoenix might be a kind of massive creature, wild dinosaur or even giant bird which appeared on the surface of the globe and continued through geologic eras.

A number of  biologists think that most of these huge creatures had become extinct because they could not be able to adapt with the environment. No one can assert whether this baffling bird is an old reality or it is just a fantasy. Science only can answer this inquiry, especially because no skeletons or fossils have so far been found to support ancient repeated claims about it.

Skeptic opinion

At the beginning of the 19th century, numerous scientific attempts have been made to know  the origin of the phoenix. Interpretations showed that ancestors had added a great deal of amplification and intimidation to the image of the eagle regarding  its size , strength and ability to carry a huge elephant and fly with it.

Some scientists believe that the legend was originated in Africa where people saw a huge ostrich , which was unable to fly, so they thought it was a small chick which has huger parents.

These beliefs were circulated through the ages. Peoples added modifications to these beliefs and deleted some of them until they knew writing, so they documented these beliefs and conveyed them to us just as we know them.


Amal Farhat


Portuguese words of Arabic origin

For nearly eight centuries the Iberian Peninsula was under the rule Arab and Berber peoples. This period, as well as other periods throughout history, brought contributions from Arabic to the Portuguese language. The Arabic contribution to Portuguese vocabulary is likely to be the greatest non-Latin influence.

The Portuguese words derived from Arabic are usually related to geography, agriculture, architecture, astronomy, mathematics, social and legal institutions, chemicals, food and clothing. Many of these words begin with "al", which is the Arabic invariable definite article. For example, Alcorão = al-quran = o Corão (the Koran). Apparently, over time the distinction between the article and the words disappeared and we ended up identifying both of them as only one word. So when we say “o Alcorão” (the Alcoran) in Portuguese we are actually repeating the article twice saying the "the Koran."

The article "al" also appears slightly modified depending on the initial letter of the following word. This way, as-sukkar became açúcar(sugar), ar-ruzz became arroz (rice) and so on. It’s possible to find several word lists with Portuguese words derived from Arabic. Here are a few words chosen to illustrate the influence of Arabic on Portuguese:

Aduana (meaning customs): from the Arabic ad-dīwān, which means “the office”. Various Arabic words in Portuguese refer to military organization and the State.

Algoz (executioner): from the Arabic al-gozz meaning a tribe from where executers where recruited.

Açafrão (saffron): from the Arabic az-za'afran, which means yellow.

Arroba (unit of weight, equivalent to 32 lb or 15 kg): from the Arabic ar-ruba'a, which means one quarter or a fourth part.

Fulano (so-and-so) : from the Arabic fula - , meaning someone, somebody, a certain person.

Xeque (check): from the Arabic xah. Used in chess it means an attack on the king.

Armazém (warehouse) from the Arabic al-mahazán, it means the attic, the warehouse.

Oxalá!: interjection that means ‘God willing!’. It comes From the Arabic in sha allah or inshallah.


Compiled by:Maysa Wassouf