Bayram al-Tunisi, the colloquial poet who conquered the hearts of the Egyptians and frightened the classical poets

Cairo- “I am the Egyptian, the Generous of the Elements.. I built glory between the two pyramids.. my grandfathers created the wondrous science.. and the course of the Nile is in the fertile valley.. they have thousands of years in the world.. the universe perishes while they exist.. Habib I gave my soul to him.. I will not turn to anyone else.

It was written by Bayram al-Tunisi, and sung by Sayed Darwish in the lyrical operetta “Shahrazad”, after censorship banned its first name, “Shahzozad”, in reference to the lusts of the royal family in Egypt.

Darwish wanted to present an operetta that motivates the Egyptians against English colonialism, in response to England’s argument that the Egyptians could rule themselves only under British protection.

The musician Zakaria Ahmed Sheleh founded “Ahl al-Hawa”, and Darwish and Bayram joined it, similar to the group of “Al-Harafish” founded by Naguib Mahfouz, and the condition of joining it was that the artist be a lover of his country and his art. For the man of the street and for the ruler alike, according to the documentary film “Birm Al-Tunisi” produced by Al Jazeera Documentary.

its upbringing

Mahmoud Bayram al-Tunisi was born in the Anfoushi neighborhood in Alexandria on March 23, 1893, to a Tunisian family living in Egypt. He learned in Sheikh Jadallah’s book, then left it and studied at the religious institute, and memorized the poems of Arabic literature. He lost his father at the age of fourteen, so he left the institute, and ran his father’s shop, but he did not succeed in trade.

He decided to write poetry in the colloquial language spoken by the street, and his clash with the authority came early, as he criticized the Municipal Council for imposing large taxes, saying: It has made the heart fall into sorrow and grief… Habib’s love is called the Municipal Council.

Al-Masala newspaper

He loved journalism, so he issued the Obelisk newspaper, and he used to fill its various pages himself, print and distribute them on his personal account, and clashed with the censors who tried to stop his newspaper. His ploy was to write on the top of the front page, “The obelisk.. not a newspaper or a magazine,” and sarcastically asked Al-Hakamdar to allow him to trade in hashish, because they prevent the freedom of the press and may allow hashish.

At first, he thought that his Tunisian nationality would protect him, because Tunisia is under French protection, and any order to arrest him needs to be reported to the French embassy, ​​and because France and England are at odds, he is safe.

He met Sayed Darwish, wrote songs that criticized the royal family, supported the 1919 revolution against the British, and wrote the poem “The Royal Okra and the Sultan’s Pumpkin”, which angered King Fouad I, and he issued a decree banning him to Tunisia.

Nidal in Tunisia

In his book “Bayram al-Tunisi in Exile… His Life and Effects”, Dr. Muhammad Salih al-Jabri sees that Bayram, during his stay in Tunisia, worked his pen, and cured people of colonialism with his bold political articles that dealt with direct and indirect criticism of the colonial authority and its foreign and Tunisian agents. Thus, he made boldness, courage, and struggle among the principles of writing, and among the qualities of a writer and a man of thought. He strengthened all Tunisian citizens, and declared his allegiance to the most important Tunisian national struggling party, the Free Constitutional Party.

Denial again

After a year and a half, he returned to Egypt in disguise, was arrested and exiled to France, so he wrote expressing his suffering:


The first is Egypt, they said a Tunisian and they denied me the reward of goodness and charity

And the second is Tunisia, where the parents denied me, and even others did not describe me

And the third is France and in Paris they ignored me and I was Molière in my time

his life in France

“I wish you, Juana… I didn’t go to London or Paris… this is a country of urbanization… and cleanliness, taste, kindness, and the need to anger… I can’t find a healthy, barefoot stump, and a walking barefoot is peeling.”

Thus, the Tunisian wrote about his fascination with Europe, although he worked in simple professions in France, including in a coal mine, which afflicted his lung with a disease that he continued to suffer from until his death. Paris, to address with his stinging irony the differences between the French and Egyptian peoples.

In 1938, Bayram infiltrated Egypt through the port of Port Said, and hid from public view until the director of the Royal Opera House, artist Suleiman Bey Naguib, interceded for him, and addressed King Farouk to ask for his pardon. The king agreed in exchange for Bayram to write a psalm in his praise, and Bayram reluctantly wrote it, according to BBC.

Royal pardon

The pardon came, so the doors of the artists opened to the poems of Bayram, and he met Mrs. Umm Kulthum, and together they presented her most beautiful songs in the forties and fifties, such as “Shams Al-Aseel”, “The Rose is Jameel”, “I am waiting for you”, “People of Passion, O Night”, and “Oh, good morning, who is with us, who is with us” and “the heart loves everything beautiful,” in which he described his trip to visit Mecca and perform the rites of Hajj.

Umm Kulthum succeeded in seizing the soft side of the high sentimental side of Bayram al-Tunisi, which he matured in the forties, and also preserved its revolutionary character.

He also wrote for the cinema, and his name came in the movie “Salama” as a scriptwriter, dialogue and songs writer after his star Umm Kulthum, to confirm the great stardom that Bayram enjoyed in Egypt in the mid-1940s.

July revolution

Bayram supported the revolution of July 23, 1952. Al-Tunisi wrote in his memoirs, “The July 23 revolution took place, and the army carried out the reform I was calling for. It also eliminated all the corruption I was attacking, and thank God I did not die before my hopes were fulfilled.”

Al-Tunisi praised the Free Officers Revolution, as if purifying himself of the guilt of praising King Farouk. In 1954, to celebrate the survival of President Gamal Abdel Nasser after the shooting incident in Manshiyya, he wrote his famous poem sung by Umm Kulthum, composed by Riyad Al-Sunbati:

“Oh beauty, example of patriotism.. our most beautiful Egyptian feast.. your rescue on the day of Manshiya”

At the beginning of the sixties of the last century, the Tunisian obtained Egyptian citizenship, one year before his death of asthma on January 5, 1961 in the Sayeda Zeinab neighborhood in Cairo, after spending most of his life looking for an Egyptian identity card, although his poems proved his Egyptianness until medulla;

Writer Juma Abu al-Nil comments – in his article in a newspaper Pyramids– Saying that Al-Tunisi, with his great mastery and his powerful and abundant talent that conquered the hearts of people of all classes, from intellectuals and the general public, was able to frighten and worry the classical poets, to the extent that the Prince of Poets Ahmed Shawqi said of him, “I do not fear for Arab poetry the tyranny of anyone or anything but Perm and its literature popular”.

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