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The Monk's Daughter and Her Suitor: An Egyptian Shadow Play of Interfaith Romance and Insanity.


The shadow play is a theatrical art form with a rich history. In the nineteenth century, Western travelers and adventurers to Egypt reported on their experiences attending "shadow play shows"; but what they saw was actually karagoz, an imported genre performed in Turkish. (1) Scholars, on the other hand, began to notice the indigenous Arabic shadow play known as khayal al-zill. At the turn of the twentieth century, with Georg Jacob (d. 1937) and Paul Kahle (d. 1964) at the helm, (2) German orientalists conducted fieldwork--discovering manuscripts, attending performances, and documenting them. While their research prioritized Ibn Daniyal's (d. 1310) work, the earliest surviving testimony to this art form, (3) attention was paid to later development as well. In 1903 Friedrich Kern (d. 1921) saw a shadow play titled Lib al-bayt (Play of the House) about the saga of a Coptic monk whose daughter falls in love with a Muslim merchant. He published a synopsis, based on memory. (4) When Curt Prufer (d. 1959) came to Cairo for doctoral research shortly afterward, he too set sights on this play. Priifer made contact with the performer, Darwlsh al-Qashshash, a shadow master in Cairo's old town, and gained access to his notebooks. He presented a transcribed script, which he titled Li'b ed-der (Play of the Monastery), accompanied by his own line drawings, and submitted it as his thesis at Erlangen, where Jacob taught. (5)

I thank the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) for funding my research in Cairo in the summer of 2015. Special thanks go to Raouf Hilal, the Director of the Egyptian National Library (Dar al-Kutub), for granting me permission to examine and digitize a key codex whose microfilm was missing when the building that housed the Microfilm Collection (Bab al-Khalq) was damaged by a bombing in 2014. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the friendly and able staff at both branches of the Department of Manuscripts, Papyrus, and Numismatic Collections (Corniche and Bab al-Khalq) and in the Periodicals Reading Room. Peri Bearman and two anonymous reviewers for JAOS offered sharp critique, insightful comments, and valuable suggestions for the improvement of this essay. Marlis Saleh and Ekin Enacar, of the University of Chicago, helped me with Coptic and Turkish names. Francesca Bellino, formerly of the University of Turin, kindly shared with me her work on the Paul Kahle Fonds and facilitated my research into the material there. I am grateful to them all. All errors that remain are mine.

Regarding his source material, Priifer wrote that in 1905 he saw several manuscripts at the shadow master's place, but was only allowed to view them for a short time. (6) Judging from the content, the primary codex upon which he based his edition is not among the eight surviving manuscripts described below. By all indications, Priifer's manuscript, which contains poems not found elsewhere (more on this below) and dialogue that is entirely missing from all the eight known manuscripts, is unaccounted for today. (7)

During his stay in Cairo Paul Kahle obtained a manuscript of zajal poems for shadow plays from the same master. This Diwan kedes (kuds, kadas) is attributed to several poets. (8) Among them is Dawud al-Munawi, himself a shadow master, who once performed for the Ottoman sultan and wrote a poem about it. (9) Kahle also hunted down rare shadow play artifacts. Among the eighty-plus flat puppet figures he acquired in the Nile Delta village of al-Manzala, three depict the main characters of the play under discussion: the Monk, his daughter, and her suitor. (10)

German orientalists' work caught the attention of the Egyptian bibliophile, Ahmad Taymur (d. 1931)," who started his own acquisition in earnest: the well-known Taymur Manuscripts and Rare Books Collection of the Egyptian National Library has six Ottoman and early modern shadow play manuscripts, three of which were owned by the aforementioned performer al-Qashshash. (12) It is apparent that the resourceful shadow master al-Qashshash

After the initial discovery, the remarkable theatrical work of the Coptic monk and his daughter seems to have slipped into oblivion. Taymur did not publish anything further, and while Kahle evidently planned to carry on, his research notes remain unfinished. In his 1993 encyclopedia of shadow plays, Khayal al-iill al-'arabi, Faruq Sa'd reintroduced the work to Arab readership, using two Taymur manuscripts, as he had no access to Kahle's unpublished material. (13) Recently I was able to examine all six Taymur manuscripts in Cairo and gain access to Kahle's papers in Turin. It is now time to move forward.

In what follows, I track the trajectory of the play from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century, detailing all known textual and visual testimonies. I document all the elements identified as that of the shadow play, mapping out the various layers of the composite core text. Through a comparison of the "working script" (via Prufer's transcript, which only covers a fraction of the contents documented by the manuscripts) with the other texts, I discuss the transformations that shed light not only on the play itself, but also on the state of Egyptian shadow theatre in Ottoman and early modern times in general.


(1.) (Tl) Taymur shi'r, no. 785: Kitab al-Rawd al-waddah fi tahani al-afrah al-musamma bi-ijtima al-shaml fi fann khayal al-iill (The Luminous Garden of Joyful Songs, Known as Selected Lyrics from Shadow Plays)

The title(s) make clear that this was a book of poems for performers of shadow plays with special reference to selected scenes. The names of both Hasan and Darwlsh al-Qashshash, father and son, appear frequently. The randomly arranged verses belong to six plays, chief among them 'Alam wa-Ta ddir, after the two protagonists. (14) The manuscript is paginated. Consisting of 300 pages, it is made up of two volumes (sg. kitab), in different hands and on various types of paper. The parts that cover 'Alam wa-Ta adir are pp. 1-155 and 165-282, written in one hand. Long song-cycles are often marked with a phrase, or refrains, serving as heading. Loosely arranged in terms of the order of the overall narrative line, volume one deals with events before the protagonist's madness and volume two continues from there to the finale. Volume two also includes additional songs.

In addition to 'Alam wa-Ta adir, the other shadow plays in the manuscript are Abu Ja far, about the farcical rivalry between two countrymen; Li'b al-mandr (The Play of the Lighthouse [of Alexandria]), the townspeople's fights against the Crusading naval fleets; Li'b al-timsah (The Play of the Crocodile), about a fisherman's life; Shaykh Sumaysim, a Sufi master's dealings with a landowning woman; and al-Hajjiyya (The Pilgrimage Tale), a comic take on the treacherous journey. (15)

(2.) (T2) Taymur shi r, no. 970: al-Sirmata fi azjal khayal al-zill (A Collection of Shadow Play Songs)

Ahmad Taymur had remarked that zajal songs from shadow plays were collected in anthologies known as sirmata (surmata), of which he possessed several. (16) The songs in this collection can be linked to five shadow plays, chief among them 'Alam wa-Ta adir. Different hands are witnessed, as the clusters are arranged randomly. The opening song introduces the presenter (muqaddim) as "Hasan Qashshash and his son Darwish Qashshash." The manuscript, paginated, has headings that highlight the scenes. The play is divided into four clusters: pp. 1-31; 66-122; 164-81; and 187-203. The clusters are not arranged in any particular order, for the first and second overlap in content. Compared with T1, this codex is much leaner; yet it offers elements not witnessed in the former. Noteworthy is the second cluster, which offers the most detailed headings for the songs and is in essence a condensed version of the complete work.

Other shadow plays found in the manuscript are Shaykh Sumaysim, Li'b al-timsah, Li'b al-shuni (The Play of the Boating), about a disastrous ride by a raucous group crossing the Nile, (17) and Abu Ja far.

3. (T3) Taymur shi r, no. 666: Majmu (Songbook)

On the corner of the title page is a note by Taymur that the shadow master al-Qashshash was also a poet (nazim) of the anthology, "whose home was at the corner of the Amir al-Juyush marketplace," a stone's throw from the Khan al-Khalili bazaar. The table of contents lists sixty-six zajal poems, by al-Shaykh Su ud, Ali al-Nahla, and Dawud al-Munawi al-'Attar, showcasing a wide range: love songs and panegyrics (religious and political) for weddings, festivals, and other public celebrations. The manuscript has folio numbers. Three song-cycles from the play, under the rubric "The Sane and the Insane," are included on fols. 94r-104r; 138v-41v; and 150v-52v respectively.

4. (T4) Taymur shi'r, no. 776: Safinat zajal madh fi al-nabi (A Collection of zajal Songs in Praise of the Prophet)

Both title page and colophon identify the manuscript as safinat zajal, namely, a songbook in oblong format, like a ship (safina), with the lines running horizontal to the spine. The colophon contains a date of completion: 13 Muharram 1301 (15 November 1883), and the name of the scribe and owner, Muhammad Jad [ibn] Musa. Among the sixty-six song-cycles contained herein, two are from "The Sane and the Insane" (pp. 57-60, 173-87). The manuscript is paginated, written in a disciplined and diligent hand.

5. (T5) Taymur shi'r, no. 667: Majmu (Songbook)

In light of the similarities of this codex with T4 and T6, the provenance could be traced to Muhammad Jad. The anthology consists of mostly devotional, and some didactic, poems. Of the sixty-four song-cycles featured, two were used for 'Alam wa-Ta adir: one from "The Sane and the Insane" (pp. 103-27; two missing pages were later inserted between pp. 126 and 127) and one from "Ta (c)adlr and the Devil {Hfrit)" (pp. 214-28). The manuscript is paginated, written in a very elegant hand, with detailed headings.

(T6) Taymur shi'r, no. 668: Majmu' azjal qadima (Songbook of Old zajal Poems) The colophon states that copying was completed in 1300h (1882) by Muhammad Jad ibn Musa, the same copyist and owner of T4 and probably T5. Composed of 105 folios, written in the same naskh hand throughout, it contains one song-sequence from "The Sane and the Insane" (pp. 48-53).

7. (Kl) Kahle MSB 12: 'Alam wa-Ta'adir "A"

A collection of zajal poems by three shadow players of the seventeenth century, al-Shaykh Su ud, A1I al-Nahla, and Dawud al-MunawI al-'Attar, who compiled the anthology. A note on the manuscript dated the completion of its copying in 111% (1707). This ought to be the original Diwan kedes. The manuscript was broken up into several incomplete clusters, with non-successive pagination. 'Alam wa-Ta adir is the longest of the various plays (comprising 171 out of 215 folios).

8. (K2) Kahle, multiple manuscript fragments of 'Alam wa-Ta'adir (18)

Loose manuscript leaves related to 'Alam wa-Ta'adir, which (or some of them) should be from the fragments Kahle acquired in al-Manzala, kept in various folders. (1) MSB 16: Twenty-six leaves, kept inside a blue cardboard envelope, bearing the title (as written by Kahle) al-juz' al-khamis min riwdyat 'Alam wa-Ta'adir; (2) MSB 15: Eight leaves in different hands and sizes of paper, kept inside a blue cardboard folder, bearing the title al-juz' al-sddis min riwdyat 'Alam wa-Ta'adir; (3) MSB17: Twenty folios in two quires that contain parts of the play, as stated on a paper band (by Kahle). Leaves are approximately of the same size, but the text was written by different hands; (4) MSB30: Twenty-four folios containing parts of the play.

Thus, of the eight surviving manuscripts, four (Tl, T2, Kl, K2) deal with shadow plays exclusively and four (T3, T4, T5, T6) are general anthologies of zajal poetry. Here we witness a shift in the ways of preservation that reflect the changing times and new needs. Altogether, these songbooks were multi-functional: they could be consulted for shadow theatre as well as for other forms of performance in ritual and didactic settings--wedding celebrations, street variety shows, and Sufi audition sessions.

This is also where the Ottoman and the Mamluk practices diverge, exemplified by Ibn Daniyal's tomes, which contain complete literary texts, in both verse and rhymed prose. Likewise, the older term for shadow play, baba, was no longer used in the post-Mamluk era. In its stead are terms such as li'b ("play") or fasl ("act") under the general heading of khayal al-zill or fann al-khayal ("shadow play"), as recorded on title pages and colophons of the manuscripts examined. It remains to be seen to what extent the change in terminology reflected the changing mechanism in composing and preserving shadow plays. The above observations do point to a trend of "stockpiling," with multiple-authorship, in text production. While the original playwright might be Dawud al-MunawI of the seventeenth century, credit must also be given to other poet-cum-shadow masters, Ali al-Nahla, al-Shaykh Su ud, all the way down to Hasan al-Qashshash and his son Darwlsh of the twentieth century.

The new approach stemmed perhaps from needs on the ground. Ahmad Taymur recalls that 'Alam wa-Ta adir "was performed at coffee houses in Cairo and could stretch to seven nights. A shortened version could also be done for one evening's entertainment." (19) Creating shadow plays in Ottoman times had become a dynamic on-going process of material being added over time and on demand. It is perhaps safe to say that there were no finished plays or "scripts" in the form of a complete text with a single author, as is the case with Ibn Daniyal and his babas.


To begin with a brief plot summary: Ta adir, (20) a merchant of Turk origin and a heavy drinker, tries to buy wine at a Coptic monastery, and is confronted by the monk Munajja. (21) When a fight breaks out, the monk's daughter, 'Alam, (22) rushes out to intervene. Smitten, Ta adlr begins to pursue her relentlessly, in various disguises. She toys with him yet remains elusive. He builds a garden opposite the monastery and then sets it on fire out of frustration. For that he is jailed and then sent to a mental hospital, where he stays for seven years until a doctor from Baghdad cures him of madness and his heavy drinking. Ta adir goes back to his beloved only to find that the monk has died. 'Alam converts to Islam and the couple goes on pilgrimage. On the site of the monastery (now in ruins) a mansion is built and the couple settles there with celebratory fanfare and 'Alam's lavish trousseau (jihaz).

Of the eight manuscripts examined, five (Tl, T2, T3, Kl, K2) came from, or were associated with, the Qashshash family, and three (T4, T5, T6) originally belonged to Muhammad Jad. They contain substantial elements from 'Alam wa-Ta adir, attesting to its prominence in the repertory, but as mentioned, none can claim to be complete they are either collections of shadow play songs (Kl, K2), exclusively shadow play songbooks (Tl, T2), or general anthologies of zajal poetry (T3, T4, T5, T6), which could also be sung. None of these manuscripts contains dialogue. Verses (songs) arranged in loose order serve as a narrative vehicle to tell stories.

With a few exceptions, all verses are of the zajal form. Each stanza (dawr, pl. adwar) consists of five lines, with the rhyming scheme of aaabb. There are other non-classical vernacular forms such as bullayq (balliq) and mawaliya. (23.) As a rule, a dawr is not to be treated as a single "song." Rather, several form a unit, and are performed as solos, duets, and occasionally group singing. A song--more accurately, a song-cycle--is thus made up of a handful of adwar; the longest consists of fifty. These song-cycles, called jumal zajal in the manuscripts, form the building blocks. Narrative units are designated by headings marked on the manuscripts. These headings, or subtitles, indicate the theme, scene, and moral of a given song-cycle.

A typical song-cycle is composed of an opening (mafia', a couplet), the main content (adwar, multiple stanzas), and a closing, the last-mentioned usually including praise (madih), supplication (istighfar), and the poet's signature (istishhad). A scene is often made up of several song-cycles, introduced by a solo general opening (istiqbala, or istiqbala qabliyya) or, on occasion, a joint opening in duet (istiqbala mushtaraka). (24) Variations occur in different manuscripts, and also in different clusters within one manuscript, which is most often made up of several notebooks loosely bound together. Often, songs are numbered within each song-cycle. A few notebooks offer more detailed subtitles (as stage instructions) than others, and some contain minor alternatives, for example, Dawr hazl wa-dawr jidd (The Teasing and the Serious) replacing the more common Dawr al-'aqil wa-dawr al-majnun (The Sane and the Insane).

As mentioned above, the poet's name is embedded within the text, usually at the end in al-istishhdd, "[the poet's] signature witness." In light of this textual convention and taking into account other evidence, I am able to establish various layers of the composite text. In the documentation that has come down to us, the three primary building blocks of the entire play are given headings in the manuscripts of Awsaf al-qa a (Descriptions of House [and Garden of the Monastery]), al-Sakran wa-l-sakra (The Drunk and the Drunkenness), and al-'(c)Aqil wa-l-majnun (The Sane and the Insane). Attributed to three poets--Dawud al-Munawi al-'Attar, 'Ali al-Nahla, and al-Shaykh Su ud--they form the base, or earliest layer, of the play. Additional songs by later contributors, including father and son al-Qashshash, are clustered around these three base blocks.

According to Qashshash family lore, 'Alam wa-Ta adir had a Syrian-Palestinian genesis. The opening song refers to the original playwright as one '"All Sa d, a shadow master (rayyis) from Syria, now calling Cairo home." It also mentions that "this play had not been seen in Egypt (infaqada min Misr hadha al-khayal) for many years" before "[Hasan al-]Qashshash picked it up (jabahu)." Taymur was informed, most likely by Darwlsh al-Qashshash, that the protagonist was named Umar in "the old play." (25) At one point, the protagonist refers to himself as having "hailed from Jerusalem (al-Quds), my real hometown." (26) The change from an Arab named 'Umar to a Turk named Ta'adir made perfect sense if the targeted audience of Cairo was Ottoman. It is therefore very likely that the original text already featured the basic storylines, possibly with the songs composed in the seventeenth century. A further subtle touch is reflected in the lovesick and drunken Turk being cured by a physician-cum-wise man (hakim) from Baghdad--the geo-cultural gravity of Iraq, the cradle of classical Arabo-Islamic learning, now geared toward a Turko-Arab Ottoman Cairo. In this connection, it is just another smart element in the overall entertaining-cum-didactic grand design for the play as a whole.

The central role of the songs is characterized, in the opening statement, as "in this play, men of letters (ahl al-adab) tell a story through zajal [poems]." (27) I have identified more than twenty poets who contributed to the making of the text, in three chronological layers:

First layer, 1600-1700: Dawud al-Munawl al-Attar; Ali al-Nahla; al-Shaykh Su ud.

Second layer, 1800-1900: Bal utl; All al-Nazim; Abu 1-Khadam; Abd al-Rahman Nizami; Salah al-Din al-Harir; Rajab; All al-Najjar; Siyam; Ali b. al-Fallah; a blind poet named Hammad; Ibn Ajwa; Ibrahim; Ahmad (Ahmad Muhammad); Uthman Maddukh (Muwad-dakh?); (28) Hasan al-Qashshash.

Final touch, 1900s: Darwlsh al-Qashshash.

Dates for two of the poets--Ibn Hassan (Hassan), shadow master, (29) and Affan--are unknown.

The first layer was responsible for the songs of the framing stories, al-Sakran wa-l-sakra and al-'Aqil wa-l-majnun, along with Awsaf al-qa a. The later layers add the songs of a section I am calling Wonders of Cairo, in accordance with genre convention, and various new ones to each thematic block, to which I turn.


By design, the three major blocks of songs underline the three intertwined tropes of the play--interfaith romance, illicit drinking, and insane love--playing out in three main loci: inside the monastery, at the door of the monastery, and in the mental hospital. The three tropes hang on a common thread, that of borderline transgressions, to be cured or redeemed. While drinking and insane love are stock themes in classical Arabic literature, interfaith romance is less common.

The first layer of the text, traced to a set of poems made for shadow plays by three seventeenth-century poets, was added to over time. Each later version offers a vantage point from which to examine the presentation of interfaith relations in popular literature and culture at a particular juncture in history. While the protagonists' redemptive trajectory carries the overarching theme of Islamic triumph (with the formulaic pilgrimage-as-a-cure-for-all trope), it is the Coptic propensity for building, making, and appreciating fine things in life that constitutes the main attractions of the play, in which the beautiful facade, interior, garden, and, above all, the young lady behind the curtains become the object of the admiring gaze, and infatuation, from outside. Much can be said about this theme and its presentation once a solid textual foundation is established.

In preparation for a critical edition, the layout of the song-cycles below is aimed at piecing together the main narrative structure of the play and documenting variations found in the manuscripts. Since each song-cycle was meant to be envisioned as a scene on the screen, the frequency of its textual appearance is therefore an indicator of the overall importance of a given scene (see the appendix, below, for the distribution of song-cycles among the manuscripts). Since the two Kahle codices are accessible, (30) I confine myself to the six Taymur manuscripts. A total of some fifty-five song-cycles are identified as belonging to 'Alam wa-Ta adir. Most are from T1, with a few exclusively from T2 (marked with an * below). The order of songs in each manuscript is loose, but not totally arbitrary. In light of the original headings (primarily in Tl; noticeable variations will be marked as they occur), I group the songs into five clusters: "The Monastery," "The Drunk and the Drunkenness," "The Sane and the Insane," to be bookended by Prelude and Epilogue. I assigned letters to each rubric cluster and numbers to each song-cycle, with a second number indicating a sub-cycle, or individual songs.

A. Prelude (madih)

A.l. The Presenter (muqaddim) (31) opens his show (kalam al-muqaddim fi ibtida, shughlihi) by elucidating the moral and didactic values of the shadow play.

A.2. The Presenter salutes the audience (madlh). Narjis (Narcissus), Ta adir's son, promises a love story about his parents. The Presenter's sidekick, al-Rikhm, (32) and his associates, Abu Hirdan and Abu Qarmit, join in. (33)

A.3. "Wonders of Cairo," songs on landmarks. This added cluster of songs highlights the ziyara motif, namely, "visitation to sites associated with Muslim saints." One (A.3.2) was actually used as the protagonist's opening song in Prufer's version (see below) instead of the generic ones.

A.3.1. Opening song with Ramadan celebrations (istiqbalat luzum shahr ramadan). (34)

A.3.2. "Praising the Best Two [Prophet's grandsons]"; the shrine of al-Husayn.

A.3.3. "Praising al-Sayyida Zaynab"; the eponymous shrine.

A.3.4. "The Miracles (karamdt) of Abu 1-Ila"; the saint for whom the neighborhood of Bulaq Abu l-'Ila' is known and who is buried in the eponymous mosque there known by the name of Sultan Abu al-'Ila'.

A.4. "Love," songs on love and lovesickness.

A.4.1. "The Bliss of Love."

A.4.2. "Advice on Ideal Behavior," duets between the doctor and the lovesick one.

A.5. Opening, various monologues and duets.

A.5.1. The Presenter's opening I: the story and the genesis of the play.

A.5.2. Ta adir's opening (istiqbala min al-'arls).

A.5.3. The Presenter's opening II: general panegyric (qaslda).

A.5.4. The Presenter greets Ta'adir.

A.5.5. The Presenter's opening III.

B. The Monastery (dayr)

B.l. Monk's opening (al-istiqbala al-masihiyya): "O Jesus, the apostle of God..." B.2. Ta'adir knocks on the door of the monastery and is confronted by the Monk.

B.2.1. Opening duets I (al-istiqbala al-mushtaraka); al-Rikhm joins in.

B.2.2.* Opening duets II: Ta'adir and the Monk argue over wine prices.

B.2.3.* Ta'adir's opening, asking for God's forgiveness.

B.2.4. Ta'adir comes back, demanding wine I.

B.2.5.* Ta'adir demands wine II.

B.3. House and Garden. Ta'adir marvels at what he sees inside the opulent monastery and the lush garden. Each dawr-stanza describes one of the following: door; inside the door; daises (lawdwln); curtains; carpet; wall; roof; garret windows (qamarl); stone masonry; looking through the windows (garden view); garden (bustan); hazelnuts; fragrant flowers; herbs; trees; and birds.

C. The Drunk and the Drunkenness (al-sakran wa-l-sakra)

C.l. Falling in love, 'Alam (Drunkenness) and Ta'adir (Drunk).

C.l.l. Drunk to Drunkenness.

C.l.2. Drunk's song.

C.l .3. Description of 'Alam I (mawaliya).

C.l.4. Description of 'Alam II (qaslda).

C.1.5.* Description of 'Alam III. C.2. Confessing love, Ta'adir to 'Alam (various verse genres).

C.2.1. At the door of the monastery.

C.2.2. Confesses love.

C.2.3. Yearns for the absent beloved (takhmis).

C.2.4. Laments the pain of separation I (various rhyming schemes).

C.2.5. Laments the pain of separation II.

C.2.6.* Monologue ("My heart is full of love").

C.3. Love duets (tadallul).

C.3.1. Love duets.

C.3.2. 'Alam to Ta'adir.

C.3.3.* Love duets ("My heart is burning"). C.4. Chasing I: Showing off.

C.4.1. To lure 'Alam, Ta'adir envisions the house he plans to build and the presents he will buy: tablecloths, bedding, mirrors, jewelry. He then boasts about his talents in crafts, medicine, tailoring, writing, and furnishing.

C.4.2. Among his skills are languages. Ta'adir tries on "seven languages" to impress: Turkish, Albanian (arnawuti), Persian, Abyssinian, Berber, Byzantine Greek (rumi), and Syriac.

C.5. Chasing II: The "trick" (hila). Frustrated, Ta'adir has turned to more drastic means. In disguises, he peddles in front of the monastery and flirts with 'Alam, who continues to toy with him, taking all his wares for free. A Moroccan, another staple of devil's advocate in Egyptian shadow plays, and al-Rikhm, the clown, offer him advice how to pull off the tricks.

C.5.1. Ta'adir chases after 'Alam (tarda).

C.5.2. Ta'adir in front of the monastery, peddling.

C.5.3. 'Alam teases the "peddler" about his goose.

C.5.4. Ta'adir describes lamps and pottery.

C.5.5. The Moroccan's tricks (zajal and bullayq).

C.5.6. 'Alam and Ta'adir argue over chicken and milk.

C.5.7. Al-Rikhm lends Ta'adir a helping hand.

C.5.8. Ta'adir lures 'Alam to come out.

C.6. Marriage proposal.

C.6.1. Ta'adir contemplates the pros and cons of marriage (ft dhamm al-zawaj).

C.6.2. The Presenter advises the groom on the eve of the wedding. (35)

D. The Sane and the Insane (al-'aqil wa-l-majnun)

A series of songs, attributed to multiple poets, are lumped together under this heading and depict various scenes. This cluster of songs is found in all of the manuscripts, including the non-shadow play anthologies.

D.l. Ta'adir is in despair, contemplating his lovesickness and drinking problems. (36)

D.2. Paradise lost.

D.2.1. Ta'adir builds a garden (janina), a paradise vs. the garden (bustan) in the monastery.

D.2.2. 'Alam calls on Ta'adir to join her in the garden (bullayq).

D.2.3. Ta'adir describes his garden, especially the fruits in it (vs. the garden in the monastery, with flowers and trees).

D.2.4. Ta'adir describes birds in his garden.

D.3. Madness. Ta'adir expresses his despair over his "incurable illness," alcoholism and lovesickness.

D.3.1. Verging on insanity. (37)

D.3.2. Madly in unfulfilled love, he sets the garden on fire.

D.3.3. Love and repent.

D.4. In Jail. Ta'adir is put in jail, "chained in iron rod, naked." A warden, Arfatha, refers him to Dr. Kamil (Dr. Perfect) from Baghdad. In his speech, Ta'adir switches between two voices, one sane, the other insane. D.5. In Mental Hospital.

D.5.1. Ta'adir wakes up, looking for deliverance.

D.5.2. He insists that he is sane, rather has gone mad from love. The doctor responds, "If you are in your right mind, then count the days and months on the calendar for me; and show me all the things you know, regarding learning ('ulum), knowledge (ma'rifa), and wisdom (hikma)." Ta'adir is tipped into a burst of maniac erudition, showing off his encyclopedic knowledge. The song-cycle, with fifty adwar, covers a wide range of topics (note the order): Calendar (weekdays; Arab, Copt, and "Byzantine" months); Faith (iman, Islam in general, "The Five Pillars"; law; the four law schools; ritual purifications); Hadith (collections, transmitters); Quran (chapters; commentaries); Philology (grammar and rhetoric, poetry and the Maqamat); Magic and Astrology; Love and Lovesickness (medicine); Sports and Leisure. The therapy-through-speech sessions finally cure him.

E. Epilogue

E.1.* "Ghosts talk"; trios among Ta'adir, Demon (al-'Ifrlt), and Genie.


As the documentation above shows, the surviving manuscripts demonstrate a broad tradition of a body of material, loosely organized into song-cycles, that displays a great amount of diversity and variety over time. (38) At its base is a seventeenth-century story that appears to be dark (addiction, madness), fatalistic (the ghosts of the past and hereafter), and semi-scholastic (lengthy segments on encyclopedic knowledge, discourse of insanity). How did this kind of material entertain the audience in a theatre? In this regard, Priifer's transcript--or more accurately, Darwlsh's script--may offer some answers.

Two salient features of this transcript are to be noted. First is the dialogue, which is absent from all known manuscripts. Second is a structural streamlining. While the basic storyline remained intact, the entire sub-plot of "The Sane and the Insane" and the "ghosts" (the son, Genie, and Demon) were omitted. In their stead is an elaborate love story, leading to the triumphal finale. In this version, substantial new elements--melodramatic scenes ridden with comic banter and ridiculous farce--were incorporated into the old framework. Since it has never been analyzed in detail, and Priifer's German translation is not readily available, I present the transcript with my own translation of the Arabic text, highlighting selected passages of dialogue. I divide the text into five scenes.

1. The Presenter vs. the Monk: Building a Monastery

The Presenter (al-muqaddim; almeqaddim CP) welcomes the audience and meets the Monk. After exchanging greetings (A.5.3), (39) they get into a dispute over a building project:
Presenter: What do you want from me?
Monk: I've heard there is a meqaddim [also, "dealer [in goods]"]. (40)
Presenter: What about him?
Monk: I want him to show me a piece of land, so I can build a monastery
in the area.
Presenter: Build a monastery next to Muslims' houses?
Monk: Why not? Doesn't money buy everything? (41)

They argue over the means to fetch the landlord who lives at a distance: by camel, horse, or horse carriage? "Not fast enough," the Presenter declares. Far from being a meqaddim (here, "advancer"), he is rather a mu'akhkhir ("slacker"; me'ahhirCP), he admits. He decides on an ox, to which the Monk winces: "Oh yeah, an ox ride is such a feat--one step forward and a hundred back." The zingers and put-downs hint at the mutual mistrust: one is eager to build the monastery and the other reluctant to comply.

When the Presenter comes to the newly built monastery to collect commissions owed him, the Monk and his son, Paul (Bulus), refuse. The Monk ridicules the Presenter, who "claims to be a meqaddim (here, "provider"), yet charges fees!" The Presenter threatens legal action. The Monk's mother suggests payment in kind--a dog. The Presenter leaves and uses the dog to "pay" for beverages, food, and clothing at various establishments. Unleashed, the dog runs away.

2. Ta'adir vs. the Monk: Selling Wine

The Presenter introduces Ta'adir, who in turn sings about the virtues of the Husayn shrine in downtown Cairo (A.3.2), and then proceeds to reveal what really brings him here: booze. Bent on revenge against the monastery, the Presenter encourages Ta'adir to get wine there "with tricks." The young Turk finds himself confronting a hostile camp:
People in the Monastery: Who is this, knocking on the door?
Ta'adir: Hi, brothers! Some said there is a monk; but this place is
such a dungeon, full of scumbags.
Paul: Alas, father, looks like the devil wearing a fez is here!
Ta'adir: Oh no, boy! I only come here to get a jar of wine from you
Monk: Who told you we have wine?

Ta'adir: Your customers, who get drunk every night at your place. I asked around, and they led me to this monastery.

Monk: Oh, no, no. Get your wine at the Jewish Quarter, or the Yellow Lane! (42)

After some back-and-forth, they start another round of bickering, over prices (too expensive), the quality of mezza ("nothing but mule's guts"), even the manner in which to serve wine: Ta'adir is so drunk, he can reach for the glass only while lying on the ground. Angry about the "empty glass" (he actually drank it every time it was full), Ta'adir plucks the Monk's beard. Paul watches in horror. The Presenter, hiding behind the wall, plots more revenge.

Ta'adir comes back at night. The Monk suspects that the drunk at the door resembles the one who beat him up earlier (B.2.2). Ta'adir denies this and is allowed in. He marvels at the hall and garden (B.3). The Monk recognizes Ta'adir and presses him to pay for the wine. Ta'adTr refuses. A fight breaks out again.

3. 'Alam and Ta'adir: Falling in Love

Alam, Monk's daughter, rushes out, screaming at the attacker:

'Alam: Who is beating my father up? Hey, you thug, you beat my father--you'll be struck on the arm, God willing! Monk: Gimme the money!

Ta'adir: By the Prophet, shut up! Let the young lady curse. Her cursing makes my body tremble....

Monk: Hey, you talk to me, not my daughter! (43)

However, the daughter appears to have other plans:

'Alam: Let's go, sir, we better go to your place. Ta'adir: O sister, what are we going to do in my place?

'Alam: So you may bury your head under this pretty dress tail.

Ta'adir: O lady, a man must keep his cool. (44)

Ta'adir bribes Paul to make arrangements to sneak his sister out. He confesses his love (C.2.6). Once they get to his house, Ta'adir says that his mother took the key. 'Alam urges him to jump over the wall, or smash the window; he is unable to. They turn to other ways to meet.

As planned, Ta'adir comes to the monastery in varying disguises: a repairman of household items, a baker selling sweets on camelback (and invites 'Alam for a ride), a milkman, and a chicken farmer.

Ta'adir proposes to "Alam. He starts with a warning against marriage (C.6.1), yet concludes that "It's not good for a woman to stay a virgin." To this 'Alam replies:

'Alam: Women are all alike, brother. Some of us will get married any way [we can].

Ta'adir: Well, I will marry you. But you must convert to Islam.

'Alam: You keep your faith, and I mine!

Ta'adir: Nah. We mustn't mix up Islam with other faiths.

"'Alam: In Islam, what do they say?

Ta'adir: They say: "With [my] heart and by [my] tongue, I testify that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is his messenger."

'Alam: Gosh, this is heavy on my tongue.

Ta'adir: Hey, sister! It's just that you convert to Islam so my fellow Muslims will accept you.

"'Alam: What's wrong with you, boy! I convert to Islam and abandon my father and people of the monastery? (45)

4. 'Alam vs. People of the Monastery: Confrontation and Reconciliation

'Alam argues with her father and brother over Ta'adir's marriage proposal. The Monk warns of the consequences:

Monk: 'Alam, those Muslims, their religion is wide (wasi'/wasi' CP).

'Alam: Father, better than one that's narrow (al-din al-dayyiq/eddin eddaijik CP). What does "wide" mean anyway? Monk: It means that in Islam, marriages and divorces are all okay. A man can have four wives altogether.

'Alam: I'm cool with that. What's the problem?

Monk: O, you daughter of a pig! I fear the talk in the monastery! (46)

They continue to argue:

'Alam: You are dearest to me. I would never mean to upset you.

Monk: Good, then. I will get you a husband, of our faith.

'Alam: My husband is Ta'adir. What's wrong with him?

Monk: He is a Muslim, and we are Jews (yahud/jahud CP).

'Alam: Why? I enter the faith through marriage. One is free to choose faiths.

Monk: Yes, freedom. But everybody returns to his [original] faith. (47)

The intriguing word "Jews" merits comment. It clearly cannot be taken at face value. In the ensuing argument, the Monk explains that he worries about the gossip inside (or around) the monastery regarding 'Alam marrying a Muslim, because "Jews slander us all the time." Again, it would be odd to take the word "Jews" on its face (and even so, it is baffling that Jews, of all people, would be singled out as the source of the father's anxiety). In this connection, perhaps Alam's own words offer a clue as to its meaning. Later in the story, when 'Alam pampers herself in the bathhouse in preparation for the wedding, she confides in the attendants and the lady-in-waiting her mixed feelings:

Now I am a Muslim, alone; no father, no son. (48)

A pity, all those in the faith of the Jews ('ald din al-yahudi'ala din eljahud CP), the old faith of forefathers (din abuhum al-asli wa-din al-jududldin abuhum el'asli wedin elgudud CP). (49)

Anxiety and loneliness, being cut off from family ties as a result of conversion, are compounded by her fierce defiance. By mocking her heritage, as simply some sort of forlorn family rather than one stemming from true conviction, she refers to what was believed to be the Jewish origin of Christianity. In light of the popular belief held by Muslims of Isaac and Jacob being the forebears of all Jews and Christians, the intriguing use of the term al-yahud in the play should perhaps not come as a total surprise. More research is needed to determine the frequency and agency of this blanket reference of "Jews" to Christians (and in this case, Copts) in popular culture. 'Alam wa-Ta'adir offers a few examples in this respect with special reference to Ottoman Egypt.

After lengthy and combative arguments, the Monk finally caves in, giving 'Alam his blessing. But he is not going out without a fight:

Monk: Well, we will call the monastery people and issue a marriage certificate for you.

Bring in a Muslim to witness my daughter's marriage, Ta'adir! Ta'adir: O Monk, I insist on drafting the license at a Muslim place. (50)

People in the monastery lament the departure of 'Alam, but also celebrate her engagement. They go to the bathhouse to prepare for the wedding. Inside, 'Alam is pampered by the bathhouse manager and attendants, who praise her conversion and wish her luck. 'Alam tips lavishly. 'Alam and Ta'adir sign the marriage contract. The Moroccan clerk tells 'Alam that there is one thing left to do: the pilgrimage.

(5.) 'Alam and Ta'ddir: Redemption

The Presenter reenters, asking Ta'adir how he accomplished this mission impossible. In flashbacks, Ta'adir recalls the trajectory. He invites the Presenter to the wedding. This seemingly redundant segment serves as a recapitulation, leading to the finale. The couple goes on pilgrimage. After being robbed by Bedouin, Ta'adir encourages 'Alam to stay the course. They return home safely, ready for a new life together.

What can be learned from the above reconstruction? The original loci-cum-trope-oriented conceptual framework built on song-cycles is now given shape through character-and-plot-centered scenes, with colorful figures and settings. It is refreshingly funny and lean. The seventeenth-century layer is almost untraceable insofar as the generic poems were reduced to a minimum and the verses--attributed to more contemporary poets, chief among them Hasan al-Qashshash himself--reworked. References to exotic new things add urban and "modern" pizzazz. Among the beverages the Presenter binges on, for example, are "Cognac and a beer of the Monique Dante brand." (51) Visually also, "modern" looks are on display: Priifer's drawings of the characters, with fanciful clothes and hairdos, differ drastically from the stiff and archaic-looking puppets that Kahle purchased in al-Manzala (see Fig. 1). (52)

With regard to dramaturgy, the theatrics in Priifer's script are intensified and the tensions heightened. To help the audience quickly get the point, easy-to-identify faith-based opening songs were chosen for each main character. Added farcical acts and brisk dialogue contribute greatly to the enrichment of character. In this respect, the Monk's role is significantly enlarged. He appears more frequently--for example, in the beginning scene when he tricks the Presenter and later in his arguments with 'Alam. His monkish austerity and stubbornness are exacerbated by his profound dislike of Ta'adir, fueling constant clashes of ideology and personality. If the acrimony between the two was only featured in a few songs in the manuscripts, it is now placed pointedly at the center of the play. The character of 'Alam is also greatly enhanced; she is more of a person, less a mere stereotype. The generic songs do show her flirtatious innuendoes and her resourcefulness (or cunning) under the circumstances; yet now added are episodes of her confronting the folks in the monastery, reenforcing the moral of the story with a forceful personal touch. Along with other added scenes--in the bathhouse and on the treacherous pilgrimage journey (53--)this helps reshape the play in a more coherent manner, focusing on a sole theme--interfaith romance--and moving more clearly, effectively, and entertainingly.


The Egyptian shadow play known collectively as 'Alam wa-Ta'adir enjoyed a long run. Its themes of social transgression in the form of interfaith romance, drunkenness, and being driven insane by love appear to have contributed to its enduring popularity with Egyptian audiences over at least three centuries and possibly longer. The play's longevity was also sustained by its ever-evolving dynamic transformations. I hope that the findings I have presented--a survey of earlier research, an outline of the layers of the composite text, an analysis of the building blocks (themed zajal song-cycles), and a summary of the sole published working script that features dialogue as well--will form a solid foundation for future research on this remarkable work, which in many ways is representative of Egyptian shadow plays in the post-Mamluk era. I will conclude with general preliminary observations of Egyptian shadow theatre on the eve of modernity, in particular regarding documentation, performance, and language.

Egyptian shadow plays in the Ottoman and early modern periods have mostly survived in songbooks, specialized or general anthologies. In this connection, the complete lack of dialogue in surviving manuscripts is noteworthy, yet by no means unique. (54) In all likelihood, dialogue was spoken during a shadow play performance (as Prufer's script evidences), but for the most part it was seldom documented in writing. One possible explanation for this may be attributed to common practice. From the evidence of the surviving manuscripts we can speculate that the performer would partly improvise each performance of a shadow play, picking and choosing from the material associated with the play. This phenomenon was also witnessed in other performance traditions in the Arab world (for example, the siyar epic narrative), in that a performer would learn the storylines by heart, rely on a sheet of outlines with poems, and improvise dialogue during the performance. (55)

Another factor in the prioritizing of songbooks over a full-fledged "script" perhaps lies in the rapid decline of shadow play theatre in Ottoman Egypt. (56) In this trying environment, the shadow master would have been forced to take on other forms of performance for survival, recycling the material at his disposal. As the manuscripts analyzed above can attest, especially the general songbooks (T3, T4, T5, T6), the songs cover a wide range of topics, from profound to profane, and would be suitable for various venues outside of the shadow play theatre. Finally, there is also the possible scenario of competition among the performers. A tailor-made script like the one consulted by Priifer, with exclusive material in it, might be more jealously guarded by the performer, for fear of it becoming known; in all likelihood, it was eventually lost.

In this connection, the plays Kern and Priifer saw, known to them as "The House" and "The Monastery" respectively, may shed light on the latest phase of transformation of the text. Priifer's transcript offers a case study of the dissemination of the original themed core elements into loci-centered episodic installments. It is worth noting that there were also shadow play "acts" (sg.fasl) titled al-Hammam (The Bathhouse), al-Qahwa (The Cafe), and al-Tiyatru (The Theatre) that featured the same protagonists, 'Alam and Ta'adir, and depicted the events before and after their wedding. (57) These spinoffs, each marked by a location, could be staged individually as well as be viewed as sequels to the core play.

Finally, in an apparent departure from the Mamluk mode, which retains the classical measures of saf, rhymed prose for dialogue, and qasida, formal ode for songs, the Ottoman and early modern specimens demonstrate a tendency to favor the vernacular: not only was the dialogue entirely in Egyptian colloquial (and poorly documented perhaps because of that), the songs were mostly in the non-classical zajal. A related issue is the "cleanliness" of the language--the songs and dialogue are free of the obscenity and excessive vulgarisms teeming in Ibn Daniyal, which some believe may have contributed to the rapid decline of this art form in Egypt. (58) In the present play, even insults and bickering are delivered in light-hearted and measured fashion. For an Ottoman Cairene audience, the rants from the mouth of an inebriated Turk would be as amusing as the curses of a Copt who lost his mind, and beard, over his daughter's affairs. Even with interfaith tension, the banter is more humorous than malicious, much less polemic. Taken together, this cautious new approach, in content and language, that was adopted by shadow masters in Ottoman and early modern Egypt reveals an anxiety, or impulse, to appeal to a larger audience in a challenging time.

        Tl  T2  T3  T4  T5  T6  Kl  K2  p59

A.l.    X
A.2.    X   X
A.2.1.  X
A.3.2.  X   X                   X   X   X
A.3.3.  X                       X   X
A.3.4.  X                       X
A.4.1.  X
A.4.2.  X   X                   X   X
A.5.1.  X   X                   X
A.5.2.  X                       X   X
A.5.3.  X   X                           X
A.5.4.  X
A.5.5.  X   X
B.l.    X   X                   X   X
B.2.1.  X   X                   X
B.2.2.      X                   X   X   X
B.2.3.      X
B.2.4.  X
B.2.5.      X                   X   X
B.3.    X   X                   X   X   X
C.1.1   X
C.1.2.  X
C.1.3.  X   X                   X   X
C.1.4.  X
C.1.5.      X
C.2.1.  X   X                   X   X
C.2.2.  X
C.2.3.  X   X
C.2.4.  X
C.2.5.  X
C.2.6.      X                           X
C.3.1.  X   X
C.3.2.  X                   X   X
C.3.3.      X
C.4.1.  X
C.4.2.  X
C.5.1.  X   X               X   X
C.5.2.  X
C.5.3.  X                   X   X
C.5.4.  X                   X   X
C.5.5.  X
C.5.6.  X
C.5.7.  X   X               X   X
C.5.8.  X
C.6.1.  X                           X
C.6.2.  X   X
D.l.    X
D.2.1.  X
D.2.2.  X   X
D.2.3.  X   X
D.2.4.  X
D.3.1.  X   X       X   X   X   X
D.3.2.  X               x   x   X
D.3.3.          X
D.4.    X   X   X       X   X   X
D.5.1.  X               X   X   X
D.5.2.  X   X   X   X       X   X
E 1         X           X



(1.) E. Lane, An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (Cairo, 1836; revised ed. 1860); Ch. Didier, Les nuits du Caire (Paris, 1860); for the missionary Haussmann's witness, see W. M. Muller, "Zur Geschichte des arabischen Schattenspiels in Aegypten," Orientalistische Literaturzeitung 12 (1909): 342.

(2.) Georg Jacob was instrumental in spearheading German scholarship on the Arabic shadow play in Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia, as well as on the Turkish karagoz. From 1903 to 1909, Paul Kahle served as Lutheran minister and head of the German Oriental Institute in Cairo. Their bibliographies are extensive. Kahle's archives (including some of Jacob's papers) are now in the Paul Kahle Fonds ( at the University of Turin. For consistency, the transliteration in this article follows the Modern Standard convention, rather than that of colloquial Egyptian. For dialectical elements in Prufer's script, I cite his transliteration as well (marked with CP).

(3.) L. Guo, "Ibn Daniyal," Encyclopaedia of Islam THREE (Leiden, 2016), 3: 131-33.

(4.) F. Kern, "Das egyptische Schattentheater." in Spuren griechischer Mimen im Orient, ed. J. Horovitz (Berlin, 1905), 98-104.

(5.) C. Priifer, Ein agyptisches Schattenspiel (Erlangen, 1906). Priifer left academia shortly thereafter. For his life and work, see D. M. McKale, Curt Priifer: German Diplomat from the Kaiser to Hitler (Kent, Ohio, 1987); A. Vrolijk, "From Shadow Theatre to the Empire of Shadows: The Career of Curt Priifer, Arabist and Diplomat," Zeitschrift der Deulschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft 156,2 (2006): 369-78.

(6.) Priifer, Agyptisches Schattenspiel, xviii.

(7.) Priifer made frequent corrections and left some lacunae (see pp. 32, 34, 36, 40, 48, 66, 70, 72, 74, 78, 88, 90, 92, 94, 100, 110, 112, 114, 116, 118, 120, 122, 124, 126, 134, 136, 138, and 140) without citing variations, indicating that he copied from a single source.

(8.) In the current Turin online database (above, n. 2), only a copy of the first seven folios bears the title Diwan kedes (ARC_472)--and is catalogued under diwan--whereas the original is listed in the category of "shadow play," with a different title (see below). Kahle also acquired another bundle of manuscripts. The etymology of kedes is unclear (kadasa, "to heap or pile up; press together"; kuds, "heap of herbage or grain"). Kahle rendered it as Schaltenspieldichtung. See his Zur Geschichte des arabischen Schattentheaters in Egypten (Leipzig, 1909), 4, 9-10. The term was not listed in his "Eine Zunftsprache der agyptischen Schattenspieler," Islamica 2 (1926-27): 312-22.

(9.) Kahle, Zur Geschichte (Ger. trans, and ed. of the poem on pp. 21-49). Al-Munawi remarks that he "composed al-kadas and al-manzum" (a parallelism between "piled up" [zajal pieces] and "regimented" [qasida poems]?) and performed shadow plays.

(10.) P. Kahle, "Islamische Schattenspielfiguren aus Egypten," Der Islam 2 (1911): 185-89.

(11.) Taymur recalled his discussion of the origins of the Arabic shadow play with "a researcher at the German Oriental Institute" in "Khayal al-zill," al-Majalla al-salafiyya 4 (1918): 77-81. His booklet on shadow plays and Arab visual arts was published posthumously [Khayal al-zill wa-l-lu ab wa-l-tamathil al-musawarra 'inda al-'arab [Cairo, 1957]). Taymur prepared a table of contents for each manuscript and identified poems, relying upon his intimate knowledge of Egyptian popular culture and folk arts.

(12.) In 1932 Taymur's large collection was given to the Egyptian National Library, then the Khedivial Library, whose prestigious directorship Priifer had failed to obtain in 1911 over British opposition to his "spy activities" during the Turco-Italian war; for this library incident, see McKale, Curt Priifer, 20-24; Vrolijk, "From Shadow Theatre," 374.

(13.) F. Sa'd, Khayal al-iill al-'arabi (Beirut, 1993), 344-64.

(14.) This play title, which I will use henceforth, appears in different manuscripts with slight variations. The protagonists' names are unconventional. For a discussion of their symbolism, see below. The poems (ayal) were intended to be sung and will therefore also be called songs in what follows.

(15.) Kahle published the third and second titles respectively: Das Krokodilspiel (Li'b et-timsah): Ein egyptisches Schattenspiel (Gottingen, 1915) and Das moderne Leuchtturmspiel (Stuttgart, 1928; another version is Der Leuchtturm von Alexandria: Ein arabisches Schattentheater aus dem minelalterlichen Agypten [Stuttgart, 1930]).

(16.) "Khayal al-zill," 81. The rare word sirmata is not found in any of the classical lexica. For the root meaning of s-r-m-t and the derived jargons, "writings of amulets," "book," see Kahle, "Zunftsprache," 318; C. E. Bosworth, The Medieval Islamic Underworld: The Banu Sasan in Arabic Society and Literature, 2 vols. (Leiden, 1976), 2: 250-51 (AD, v. 76).

(17.) C. Prufer, "Das Schiffsspiel: Ein Schattenspiel aus Kairo," in Munchener Beitrdge zur Kenntniss des Orients 2 (1906): 155-69.

(18.) Two manuscripts, currently catalogued as 'Alam wa-Ta'adir "B" (MSB 13) and "C" (MSB 14) respectively, were put by Kahle into folders, on which he wrote the title Qur u Qibs and the first verse of the different parts and their subdivision. My recent examination convinces me that most of the poems are from the play Abu Ja'far instead (Qibs is one of the protagonists). Only a few folios are of 'Alam wa-Ta'adir (MSB 13, five out of sixty; MSB 14, thirty out of eighty). In the current Turin database, Kahle's drafts and notes related to 'Alam wa-Ta'adir are catalogued under both 'Alam wa-Ta'adir (ARC_433, ARC_434, ARC_436; ARC_437, and ARC_438) and 'Aqil wa-Majnun (The Sane and the Insane) (ARC_441, ARC_442, and ARC_443). Caution is warranted.

(19.) Taymur, Khayal al-zitt, 23-24.

(20.) I was told by a PhD student from Turkey working on satire in Ottoman Turkish karagoz that this is not a recognizable Turkish name. In Ottoman Turkish, ta'zlr (< Ar. ta'dhir) means "a being without excuse" (Redhouse), as in "useless, good for nothing (?)." Kern spelled the protagonist's name as Taqadlr, which makes no sense either.

(21.) The name is given different vocalizations: munajja (minajja, T2; menagge, Priifer), or manja (minja, manja, Tl). Munajja (Saved One) is a genuine Arab male name, if not commonly seen.

(22.) The Arabic word 'alam ("sign, mark, banner"; pl. a lam) often denotes a "primary name." The noun alam itself is not a proper name; so she is virtually nameless. It is not a recognizable Coptic female name. (My informant was a historian of the Egyptian Coptic Church.) Generally speaking, names in Arabic popular literature are often symbolic, aimed at satire and humor. For the use of "funny names" in Mamluk shadow plays, see L. Guo, The Performing Arts in Medieval Islam: Shadow Play and Popular Poetry in Ibn Daniyal's Mamluk Cairo (Leiden, 2012),

127-30; for similar, and more elaborate, samples in Ottoman popular narratives, see Yusuf al-Shirbini, Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abu Shaduf Expounded, ed. and tr. H. Davies, 2 vols. (New York, 2016), 1: 22-29.

(23.) For recent research on non-classical, or non-canonic, Arabic poetry, see M. Larkin, "Popular Poetry in the Post-Classical Period, 1150-1850," in Arabic Literature in the Post-Classical Period, ed. R. Allen and D. S. Richards (Cambridge, 2006), 191-242; H. Ozkan, "The Drug Zajals in Ibrahim al-Mi'mar's Diwan," Mamluk Studies Review 17(2013): 212-48.

(24.) For consistency, all the Arabic terms are taken from T1. Noticeable variations from other manuscripts will be indicated as they occur.

(25.) Taymur, Khayal al-zill, 23-24.

(26.) See below, song-cycle C.4.4 (the "lamp peddler").

(27.) See below, song-cycle A.2.

(28.) The date of 1275ft (1858) is found in T3 (Table of Contents).

(29.) "Based in Damietta": Tl (Table of Contents).

(30.) See nn. 8 and 18, above. These codices are nevertheless valuable in their own right, for they contain substantial exclusive materials, albeit largely incomplete.

(31.) Following age-old tradition, an Arabic shadow play is narrated by a muqaddim, who opens the play, tells the story, and often interacts with the characters with the help of his sidekick, al-Rikhm or the like.

(32.) A physically disabled clown in Egyptian shadow plays; al-kabis in the manuscripts.

(33.) Except for the Presenter and al-Rikhm, other characters do not reenter the play. More research is needed to determine what the relation of this prelude is to the ending (E) featuring the Demon and Genie, who do not appear in the play either. Attributed to al-Munawi, these two cycles form the oldest framing story.

(34.) Presumably this song would be included in a performance during Ramadan.

(35.) The heading is after Tl (fols. 257-61). T2 (fols. 27-31) has a slightly different heading: "The hashish addict sings (to the Presenter)." Attributed to Hassan.

(36.) Attributed to Ahmad.

(37.) Attributed to 'Affan.

(38.) I have one of the JAOS reviewers to thank for this insight and verbatim sentence.

(39.) Generic songs are marked by the letters and numbers assigned above.

(40.) This is the beginning of an elaborate set of puns stemming from the root q-d-m.

(41.) Prufer, Agyptisches Schattenspiel, 12-14.

(42.) Ibid., 40-42. The Yellow Lane (al-darb al-asfar) was the commerce district in Cairo's old town, near Khan al-Khalili and Amir al-Juyush Street.

(43.) Ibid., 58-60.

(44.) Literally, "a man's weight is measured by his brain"; ibid., 62-64.

(45.) Ibid., 98.

(46.) Ibid., 100-102.

(47.) Ibid., 102.

(48.) I understand this to imply that her Copt father will disown her and her future offspring (khalaf) will not be recognized by the Church.

(49.) Ibid., 124. Note that din abuhum is correct in the colloquial language of the dialogue.

(50.) Ibid., 112.

(51.) Ibid., 24.

(52.) Priifer's drawings are of Mennage (10), Ta'adir (38), and 'Alam (58). Compare with Kahle's figures, two of which (Alam and Ta'adir) are published in "Islamische Schattenspielfiguren" (1910), 295-96, figs. 35, 36, and one ("Coptic priest," namely, Monk Munajja; Fig. 1) in 'Arabic Shadow Play in Medieval Egypt," Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society (April 1954): 85-115.

(53.) Of the nineteen song-cycles seen in this version, only six are generic songs found in manuscripts. In other words, two-thirds are "new."

(54.) The plays discovered in the 1900s (by Kern, Prufer, Kahle, and Taymur) were nearly all from the same codices examined for this study. In the 1970s, Muhammad Z. Inani published a play titled Mistarat khayai Munadamat Umm Mujbir (A Sheet from the Shadow Play "Courting Mother Pushy"), attributed to 'Abd al-Baql al-Ishaqi (d. 1660). This short play tells the story of a shadow master juggling two wives. It is based on two manuscripts, in Paris and Vienna, both anthologies of poetry with no dialogue; see M. Z. 'Inani, "Hawla khayal al-zill fi Misr (2)," Majallat al-Katib 203 (1978): 6-18.

(55.) D. Reynolds, Heroic Poets, Poetic Heroes: The Ethnography of Performance in an Arabic Oral Epic Tradition (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1995), esp. 105-35 ("breakdown" of epic into balladic and other forms; the routines of a sahra session; master singer in performance).

(56.) Around the year 1900 there was only one shadow theatre in Cairo that operated all year long, alongside several seasonal troupes that performed during the winter and holidays at coffee houses. It was also common for the performers to make house calls on demand. During his last stay in Cairo in 1903, Kern discovered a second shadow theatre "near the fish market," which presumably was that of the Qashshash's. The troupe performed during the month of Ramadan and in summer at night, and catered to wedding parties; see Kern, "Egyptische Schattentheater," 98-100; Priifer, Agyptisches Schattenspiel, v-xviii.

(57.) Taymur, Khayal al-zill, 27-28, where these three acts are briefly described. No references are given. It is likely that Taymur either saw them performed or heard about them. The Egyptian author Muhammad S. Kllanl presented a summary of the play that he either saw, or knew of, in Cairo's Azbakiyya theatre district. This much trimmed version began with the lamp seller peddling to 'Alam under her window, where her drunk suitor Taqadlr (note the spelling) picked a fight with him. Through the Moroccan fortune-teller's prediction and divine intervention, the happy ending eventually arrives. Slight changes occurred (the lamp seller is a separate character; the Moroccan is no longer a clerk), yet the songs Kllanl cited are similar to the generic poems discussed in this article. Kllanl characterized the heroine as a "pretty and loose (khali'a) girl of the Lake View (wajh al-birka)," the affluent neighborhood in which the El Markoseia El Kobra Coptic Orthodox Church was located and rich Copts, French expats, and local elites lived; see M. S. Kllanl, Fi rubu' al-Azbakiyya: Dirasa adabiyya tarikhiyya ijtima'iyya (Cairo, rev. ed. 1985), 47-49, 73-83. The author was still alive in 1985, so the show must have taken place no earlier than the 1910s.

(58.) Mamluk chronicles reported that Sultan Jaqmaq (r. 1438-53) banned the performance of shadow plays and ordered all the shadow play figures to be burned due to the "lascivious" reputation of this art form at the time; Guo, Performing Arts, 107-8.
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Author:Guo, Li
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Oct 1, 2017
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