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Taghribat Bani Hilal

From Academic Kids

Taghribat Bani Hilal (تغريبة بني هلال, also known as Sirat Abu Zeid Al Hilali سيرة ابي زيد الهلالي) is an Arabic epic recounting the Banu Hilal's journey from Egypt to Tunisia and conquest of the latter.

Contents

Historical background

The event of Taghribat Bani Hilal has a basis in history, when Tunisia broke away from the Fatimid empire in the 10th century.

A famine that hit Egypt for seven years. A similar famine has hit Arabia and entire tribes moved with their families and animals from there to Egypt in search for food and pasture. Since al-Mustansir, the Fatimid Caliph in Egypt did not have enough resources to re-take Tunisia, he directed the tribes from Arabia to take Tunisia on his behalf.

This way, no financial or human resources need to be put in by Egypt directly, nor would they support the Banu Hilal. If inhabitants of oases between Egypt and Tunisia got angered, their anger would not be directed to al-Mustansir.

Effects

This crude political act had two major effects, one cultural, and the other literary.

As a result of Arabic speaking tribes settling Tunisia, this region became mainly Arabic speaking, and not Berber.

Epic

An epic developed out of this event.

In it, the Hilali leader Abu Zayd al-Hilali's rival is Khalifa al-Zanati, the hero of the tribe of Zenata. The war between the Arab Banu Hilal and the Berber Zenata is the main theme for the Sirat named after Abu Zeid. Another character featured in the epic is Shehta (شحتة).

The Sirat was initially carried orally and handed down from generation to generation often in poem form via bards, and then recorded later in many variants.

The Egyptian poet and writer Abdel Rahman el-Abnoudi has done an exhaustive collection of the Sirat travelling from Egypt to Libya to Tunisia to document the variants of the epic.

The epic used to be narrated by story tellers in cafes well into the 20th century, much like the Baibars biography.


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