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3 romantic epics that shaped Arab literature

Every culture has its Romeo and Juliet, and the Arab world is no exception. These fables exert a powerful cultural influence that shapes the way people perceive their love affairs. Here are 4 love stories that have marked the folklore and literature of the Arab world.

Layla and Majnun

In the annals of stories from the Arab world, one name resonates through the ages: Layla. Her love story with Qays ibn al-Mulawwah, engraved in the minds of countless romantics, embodies the depths of an unapproved passion. Against a backdrop of family rivalry, Layla and Qays’ love blossomed, only to be crushed by social barriers. Qays, consumed by desire, sank into madness, earning him the title of Majnun, which means “madman” in Arabic. Qays then spent his last days wandering the desert, grief-stricken at not being able to rejoin his beloved, until he was no more.


Antar and Abla

In the sandy expanses of ancient Arabia, the legend of Antar and Abla bears witness to the indomitable power of love. Antar, a poet and warrior bound by the chains of slavery, falls deeply in love with Abla, a woman of unparalleled beauty and virtue. Driven by his ardor, Antar performs acts of bravery to prove his worth and win the heart of his beloved. Their story transgresses societal norms, igniting a spark of hope in the hearts of those who dare to dream of a love that crosses the line.


Antar Ibn Chaddad

Jamil and Buthayna

AlUla, witness to millennia of history, was also the scene of a timeless love story told by Jamil ibn Mamar.

A poet from the Bani Udhra tribe of Madinah during the Umayyad period, Jamil was one of the precursors of the ghazal poetic style, a form of Arab literature that sublimates the themes of love with great lyrical finesse. His poems recount his intense love for Buthainah bin Hayyan bin Thalabah, a beautiful young woman from the Uthrah tribe, who lived near Bani Udhra, in the Al-Qura valley in AlUla. From an early age, Jamil was smitten with her splendor and dedicated poems to her celebrating their love over the years. Jamil asked for his beloved’s hand in marriage, but was rejected because Buthainah was promised to another man, although Buthainah’s love for Jamil was sincere. Their pleas were in vain, but they continued to meet in secret in the oasis of AlUla.


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#Arab world