The twilight has fallen
On 21 April, Egyptians were grieved to learn of the loss of one of the most prominent figures on the poetry arena, Abdel-Rahman al-Abnoudi, after a long struggle with illness.
Abnoudi was born in April 1939 in the village of Abnoud in the southern province of Qena, Upper Egypt, some 600km south of Cairo. From a simple village boy he rose to be a creative, innovative poet whose works resonated with the raw feelings and inner sentiments of Egyptians.
Abnoudi was famous for his poetry in Upper Egyptian vernacular Arabic as opposed to the writings of most modern poets in classical Arabic. The public used to tremendously enjoy his recitation of his works, which he used to do in his rich, coarse voice and typical Saeedi, Upper Egyptian, accent. The vernacular he used lent his poetry well to music; many of his poems became much-loved songs.
Among his most prominent works is the volume Al-Mout alal-Asphalt (Death on the Asphalt).
But perhaps the best known is his Adda al-Nahar (The Day Has Passed) which was put to music and sung by the beloved singer of the 1950s – 1970s Abdel-Halim Hafez. The poem was written after 1967 when the national psyche in Egypt was pained and humiliated because of the defeat at the hands of Israel, in the Six-Day War. To this day it generates feelings of poignancy especially among the generation that lived through these years.
“The day has passed
And the twilight is falling,
Peeping from between the trees.
And, as though to make sure we lose our way,
It has removed the moon from our evening.
Baladnais sitting on the Nile bank
Washing her hair.
Her suitor, the Day, was unable to pay her dowry.
Can it be that the long, dark Night,
Father of the wilting stars,
The sleepless, grieved and depressed,
The tired and oppressed,
Could make her forget the Day?
Baladna is for the Day.
Baladna loves the ballad of the Day
And the warm sun rays
That sprinkle tenderness.”
The term ‘baladna’ in Egyptian incorporates the meanings: our country (the literal translation), our village, our place, our home. It denotes a close attachment, belonging, and being an integral part of the place, the people, the climate, the characteristics. Numerous Egyptian names attribute the person to the place he comes from, like Assiuti (from Assiut), Iskandarani (from Alexandria), Fayoumi, Dumiati, Rashidi, Minyawi, Tantawi….and on and on. Abnoudi himself carried a name which denoted that he came from Abnoud. The mere mention of the place conjures up a mental image that involves the main characteristics of a person, dictated by the balad he comes from.
Abnoudi leaves behind his wife, Nihal Kamal, a TV anchoress; and two daughters Nour and Aya.
Culture Minister Abdel-Wahed al-Nabawi announced that, to commemorate Abnoudi, the ministry is setting up a museum for his belongings and acquisitions in his native Abnoud, as well as cultural centres that will hold his name in his home village and in the Suez Canal town of Ismailiya which the poet loved and in which he spent many years of his life. The ministry is also printing copies of his poetry works in affordable editions.
13 May 2015