When Melodies Gather: Oral Art of the Mahra

The Purloined Slaves

Exchanged reǧzīt couplets related to Sam Liebhaber by Suhayl Zaʿbenōt in a conversation, July 2008. No recording available.

These couplets were exchanged between ʿAlī bir Erabḫ, muqaddam of the Zaʿbenōt tribe, and ʿAmr bir ‘Āmrōten, muqaddam of the Ǧeydeḥ/Jidḥī tribe in Qishn. As related by Suhayl Zaʿbenōt, a few young men of the Zaʿbenōt tribe visited a suburb of Qishn called Yentūf and, while staying there, “helped themselves” to a few things. In addition to taking some paltry items, they also stole slaves belonging to the Ǧeydeḥ tribe. When the young men returned to Ḥabarūt with their loot, ʿAlī bir Erabḫ—their muqaddam—ordered them to return everything to their rightful owners in Qishn and went himself to apologize to ʿAmr bir ‘Āmrōten. ʿAlī bir Erabḫ begins his apology with the following couplet:
ʿAlī bir Erabḫ:Translation
1a) ḥsōbī l-yentūf // w-yednut ṣedḥeyt // ḏ-ḥībes yeṭmūmI’m headed for Yentūf // and the glimmering white wadi of Yednūt, // that whose flash flood surges
2a) we-ḫṭā ḏ-ber ǧrōh // bēh ḳźā men ǧsēd // w-kel fēśel yetmūmThe mistake that happened // [we’ll pay] the price of it from [our] body // so that every issue will be settled.
ʿAmr bir ‘Āmrōten:Translation
1b) bir ǧawn wsāʾ beh // men ediḳḳ ḏ-hārkōn // tē mtellī beh ālūmThe massive camel is broad enough for it // [even] from blows to its columns [legs] // except for the last one [which] was grievous (i.e., stealing the slaves)
2b) hāṭlōḳ sebyōt // we-ḏbūr meḫdōm // ʾāfrīhem we-ǧsūm[Erabḫ] let them wander freely [like animals] // [into] gardens that were guarded // which [the farmers] had ploughed and worked into furrows.

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