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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

Qamar Kilani, A Heritage Of Literary Works


Syrian writer Qamar  Kilani  is well known as one of the most prominent writers in Arabic literature.

Kilani, famous for her short stories, novels and researches, was a member of the Executive office of the Arab Writers Union and was Editor in Chief of the magazine "Al Aadab Al Ajnabiyah" (Foreign Literatures). Moreover, she was a member of the Syrian National Commission for UNESCO.
Kilani was born in Damascus in 1928, where she received her school and college education. She graduated from the Arabic Department, University of Damascus in 1954. Kilani later earned a Diploma in Education from the same university and taught at the Teachers Institute in Damascus.Most of her literary researches  had been studied in famous Arab and Foreign universities.  She also wrote articles in three Syrian journals "Al Baath","Tishreen" and "Al Thawra".

 In 1962, Kilani embarked on her writing career, and began writing about the phenomenon of Islamic Sufism. She monitored many literary and poetic phenomena in Arab history and highlighted the achievements of leading Arab thinkers and men of letters.
Kilani was an avid champion of the women's cause; especially in the field of creativity, and stated early on that women's literature is characterized by delicatness, transparency, and deep feelings. Kilani's literary writings are characterized by their intensity. In the field of studies she published: "Islamic Sufism", "Usama Ibn Munkith" and "Imro' Al Qais". Her short story collections include: "A World without Boundaries", "Hunters and the Game of Death", "A Woman Made of Fear", "Confessions of a Little Woman", "The Station", and "Travelling Papers". Furthermore, she wrote a number of novels including:" Moroccan Days", "The Howdah", "The Cherry Garden"," The Fire Bird", "The Ghosts", "The Vortex", and" Love and War". Qamar Kilani  was chosen  to be a part of "Who's Who Amongst Arab Women" because of her  endless efforts  to spread knowledge with her writings .She is a distinguished  example for the future journalists and writers of Arab women all over the Arab region and worldwide.

Her name was listed in a number of Arabic and International Encyclopedias especially the encyclopedia of  the most famous writers in 20th century.

Syrian writer Qamar Kilani has passed away on Friday, December 2, 2011, after a long struggle with illness.


Maysa Wassouf

Raqqa : Euphrates and Literature

 Najah Ibrahim, novelist and Chairperson of Raqqa’s Arab Writers Association’s branch talked to Syria Times on her Career and literature life in Raqaa city.

Can you tell our readers little about your life and interest in literature?

My literature interests began when I was in the Eighth Class; I participated in many schools activities and literature nights in my area. I began in reading the fame and well-known Arab and Syrian writers. I remembered my first novel was  ‘ Basma among tears’ written by Dr. Abdulsalam al-Ojely, who is from Raqqa city,  works for Jibran Khalil Jibran and others. I continued my literature readings and school study. I chose to study the Arab Literature and continued the post-graduate studies. I issued my first stories volume ‘Glory in the Black Bag’ in 1992 and keep issuing till today. My works were translated to Turkish, Kurdish and English languages, my novel ‘Immar’ is currently being translated into English in Egypt. I have eleven printed works and three draft works. I participated in literature activities and festivals in Turkey, Kuwait, Libya and Lebanon. I was elected to be the chairperson of the Arab Writers Association’s Raqqa Branch to serve the literature and writers in my province and achieve what I believe in.

What is the importance of Raqqa’s literature life in general and short story in particular in Syria and Arab world?

Although Raqqa is a small province but it produced well-known writers, researchers and novelists who play key role in the Syrian and Arab cultural arena. The city’s writers could reach their works to the Arab states and attract many well-known Arab and international writers to visit the city and participate in its literature activities. Raqqa’s writers have special participation in the short story and novel works. A Syrian famous writer said that Raqqa is the country’s capital of short story. Its writers are very professional  in choosing ideas, themes and poetic language with local accents and terms.

Would  you tell readers about  the most famous novelists and short stories’ writers in Raqqa?

I said before that there are many writers and novelists in Raqqa. I can mention some of them but cannot count all of them. the most well-known story  writer in Syria and the Arab world is Dr. Abdulsalam al-Ojely, who was born and lived in the city of Raqqa. If I want to describe Raqqa , I can say there are two Euphrates , one is the river and the second is Ojely who describes  the hard life and details of the city in his most works. Ojely’s works are translated in many languages and gave international fame to the city. There are other writers such as Khalil Jassim Hamidi, Ibrahim Khalil, Sami Hamza, Subhi Dousoqi, Omar al-Hamoud, Ibrahim al-A’aloush and others.

How the desert environment and Euphrates River affect the literature works?

If any reader reads works written by Raqqa’s writers, he will feel the affect of the Euphrates and desert and Bedouin life between lines. Each writer reflects  his/her  background in an  indirect  or direct way on his works and Raqqa’s writers are very loyal to their social background, women life and tribal traditions. The sunshine and colourful nature also are reflected in their novels, stories and paintings. 


Obaida Mohamad




Al-Zahyria Library

Considered as one of the oldest libraries in Damascus and the most important Arab libraries, Al-Zahyria Library  was founded by Zahir Baybars in 676 AH . It is located in Bab-Al-Bareed near the Umayyad Mosque in the heart of Old Damascus.

It contains best references and a large number of  books.

 being  as a  school at the beginning of its establishment, the library contains manuscripts and references, other libraries' contents  were garnished al -Zahyria's shelves.


To maintain and preserve  the contents of the library, manuscripts and library references were transferred to Al-Assad National Library which is considered as the most important one among libraries in the Middle East.

Hanan Shamout