Two Masters of Egyptian Ammiyya Poetry

When the young Maysara El-Din made his first attempts at walking as a poet in the late 1990s, he hesitated briefly: Should he write in Standard Arabic? Or rather in Egyptian? First he tried standard Arabic. But soon he finally decided to only write his poems in Egyptian. There are now three volumes of poetry and two lyrical dramas by him. He is convinced that Egyptian can be considered a separate language, with certain grammatical rules and terminology. Above all, in his opinion, Egyptian is a living language that is constantly evolving.

The young poet knows very well that Egyptian goes back to standard Arabic. But in his opinion, the differences are now very large. You can also divide Egyptian into different dialects, depending on whether the speaker comes from Cairo, Alexandria, Aswan or Qina. These dialects differ slightly from one another, but not so much that they cause communication difficulties, says Maysara Salah El-Din.

The most important thing for Maysara Salah El-Din is the liveliness of Egyptian: He is directly involved in the development of the language, which produces new structures and expressions every day. You can literally feel the liveliness of Egyptian.

The liveliness of Egyptian also consists in the fact that people talk Egyptian to one another on a daily basis, on the street, at home, at work, in the media: “I don’t speak standard Arabic with my fellow men any more than I speak English with them I speak. My everyday language is Egyptian. So why shouldn’t I write in Egyptian? “

Clashes in Mohamed-Mahmoud-Strasse in Cairo in November 2011, photo: dpa
With a sharp pen for the revolution: When trying to write a poem about the serious clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street in November 2011, Maysara Salah El-Din realized that everything he put on paper would sound like chants chanted .
Maysara Salah El-Din has spent most of his life in Alexandria and currently lives there. Nevertheless, when writing, he always ensures that the Egyptian he uses does not have any excessive local peculiarities, but is understood throughout Egypt.

A kind of “intellectual Egyptian”

According to Maysara Salah El-Din, this language can also be called “intellectual Egyptian”, a language of poets that has been continuously developed since the 1960s, especially by the poet Fouad Kaoud (1963-2006).

Maysara Salah El-Din has been writing poetry for over ten years. His first volume of poetry with the title “I am a lover, not a fighter” was published in 2002 by the “Organization for Science, Art and Literature” in Alexandria. His third volume of poetry, “Secret Numbers,” which was published by Sefsafa in 2010, received a prize from the Egyptian cultural organization GOCP (General Organization for Cultural Palaces).

When the revolution broke out in 2011, Maysara Salah El-Din was enthusiastic about it from the start. Every success made him euphoric. Every setback saddened him deeply. Of course, he says, all of this has left its mark on his work as a poet: in the course of the revolution, he felt completely new about the Egyptian people and his homeland. And when the situation on the political stage worsened after the revolution, he felt that the traditional means of expression in poetry would soon no longer suffice to write about the events.

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