When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra

Little Jewel Said

This playful lyric poem was the first poem written in Mahri by Ḥājj Dākōn, who previously had written only Arabic-language poetry. The poem describes a young girl, Ǧwēher (“Little Jewel”), who sets forth exorbitant wedding stipulations for her suitors. In essence, this poem is a piece of advice to her: she should not settle for anything less than a suitor of the highest calibre. This poem was the first Mahri-language poem ever broadcast for the non-Mahri audience. In 2001, Muḥammad Mushaʿjil performed it for the Yemeni TV program, ʿAbr al-qanāh al-faḍāʾiyya al-yamaniyya.

Refrain: eḥōm l-sōmā we-l-āmēr // hbātī ḳōmet w-faḫrētRefrain: I want to make listen and say [to] // those (fem. pl.) of stature and pride
1) Ǧwēher ‘āmrūt // wet ewaḳt ḏ-ketbētǦwēher said // at the time of the writing [of the engagement contract]
2) źabṭeytā tēhem lā // hēḫer we–ḏ-šeh ḥarmētI will not take them // [who are] elderly and who [already] have a wife
3) ġeyr ḏ-nūka mentəhīǧ // šēh merseds ʾābrēt[I will not marry] except for he who comes really meaning it //  [and] who has a Mercedes for a vehicle (mount)
4) ʾāymel hīs mrākeb hēt // we-bnō menḳəlēt[Who] makes six boats for her // and builds [her] a castle
5) we-frūś mṭōreḳ zell // we–ḥrīr l-māmdētThe upholstery for the hallways [not just the rooms!] are carpets // and silk for the pillows
6) we-nōbī šība yōm // dāndān w-semrētAnd wedding parties for seven days // [with] dāndān and late night fun
7) we-mhəreh leġbērem kel // men bwōdī w-reḥbētAnd [for] all the Mahra to attend // from the countryside and the villages
8) wē–ḏ-heh śnēǧ lźōt / ehdōyā w-beġwētAnd [for] the one who is kin to take [away] // gifts and his heart’s desire
9) ebōlī be-mḫawser lā/ ālf ʾamleh myētHe doesn’t mind the losses // a thousand he treats as a hundred

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