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A Thousand and One Nights: The Merchant of Art

Supplementary media for the UCLA course: A Thousand and One Nights Alf Layla wa-Layla, taught by Prof. Susan Slyomovics.

Awadallah Abd al-Jalil Ali is the "merchant of art," a professional epic singer. The son and grandson of itinerant illiterate poets who have for generations recited the cycle of Arabic heroic tales called Sirat Bani Hilal. Awadallah narrates the epic and other tales in his repertoire in the marketplace, local small cafes, and at saints’ pilgrimage sites. He is also commissioned to perform at certain festive occasions, such as weddings, circumcisions, Ramadan breaking the fasts, and welcome parties to celebrate the return of pilgrims from the hajj to Mecca. Accompanying himself on the tar, the large Nubian frame drum, he sings rhymed quatrains in Sa’idi Arabic dialect. Filmed in 1986 in Awadallah’s home village of Mahamid, Aswan Governorate, Egypt. For more information, see Susan Slyomovics, The Merchant of Art: An Egyptian Hilali Oral Epic Poet in Performance. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.

Supplementary media for the UCLA course: A Thousand and One Nights Alf Layla wa-Layla (ARABIC M110/COM LIT M110), taught by Prof. Susan Slyomovics.

Made possible by a grant from the UCLA Office of Instructional Development (OID). Under the auspices of the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies.

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