In the field of folklore and ethnography, Shawki Abdel-Hakim is a well-known
Egyptian researcher and author.
He is a playwright and novelist of prolific creations, who depicted Egyptian and Arab
scenes through ages, and was honoured at the fifth international experimental theatre
festival held in Cairo, September 1993. He was also paid tribute to at the Arab theatre
symposium, Cairo 1995 for his contributions to the theatre.
He wrote a good number of epic stories, legends and folk tales, among which are:
"Encyclopaedia of Arab folklore and legends"
"Arab folk tales"
"Arab Folk Poetry"
"Epic of Bani Hilal"
"Sarah and Hajir"
"Aziza and Younis"
" The literature of peasants"
"al-Amira Dhat al-Himma" (the princess of high
It is the longest epic of its kind in history, consisting of 23,000 pages. The events
extend over the continental wars which raged with the advent of Islam and continued for
The most important of his novels are:
"The Sorrows of Noah"
"Blood of Jacob's Son"
"Death and Frivolity",
"Laughter and Ugliness"
"Tears at Night".
Famous plays of the author are:
"Shafika and Metwali"
"The Human Zoo"
"Cheops and the Nobles"
"An Old King and Other tragedies"
"Hassan and Naima".
Some of these plays were translated
al-Amira Dhat al-Himma
The epic begins with the most flourishing epochs of the
Umayyad Caliphate in the golden age of Abd Al-malik
lbn-marwan until Marwan Ibn-Muhammed, the last of the
Umayyad caliphs, who was pursued by Abu-Muslim Khurasani
after his escape to Egypt till he tracked him down and
assassinated him in Abu-sir in central Egypt.
The major incidents of the epic occur at the outset of the
Abbasid era during the struggle for power culminating in the
tragic end of the Barmakis , who were of Persian decent. It is a
historical biography recasting a tragic political crisis between
Arabs and Persians. The Palestinian ruling dynasty of al-Amira
Dhat al-Himma who was a leader and Combattant, played a
most important role in defending the state or the Abbasid
caliphate during its early days.
Before relating the political events and incidents of the
historical period covered by the epic starting nearly in the 8th
century AD, we must draw attention to the significance of this
monumental Arabic epic. The reader should take into account
that the real story of princess Dhat al-Himma and her son Abd
al-Wahab is still lost since it had been described by its original
author or authors as a sort of folk history, or part of Arab
Folklore, that does not have a known individual author.
The epic is recorded in volumes or chapters, whose pages
amount to 23,000 of medium size, a copy of which is kept at
the British museum in London. The original manuscript is
stored in the state library in Berlin and has not been printed
yet, hence proudly cherished by the library. it was put under
good care to protect it against destruction during the second
The work had a great influence on the whole of Byzantine
literature before the middle ages. It was translated into Persian
and Turkish after the Ottoman invasion of the middle east. It
was usually known by the name of Sayyid al-Battal, its super
hero and fighter, famous for his clever war tactics, who
enabled Dhat al-Himma, the protagonist, to achieve great
military victories, ending in capturing the roman emperor
Mikhail (Michale) and storming Constantinople. she was
crowned empress of the city for a short period.
The main purpose of this epic was to record the history of
this dynasty, its destruction, and the wars it fought Against
foreign invasion. The work depicts the main figures as warriors
defending the harbours and the coastal posts.
Al-Sihash, grandfather of princess Dhat al-Himma,
participated in the wars waged by the Umayyads against the
Byzantine roman empire, including the expedition of
Musalllama Ibn Abd al-Malik, as well as other expeditions
which followed to safeguard the borders of the newly born
The story did not overlook the siege imposed on
Constantinople for years, which led the Arab armies to
establish a huge city facing it, known as al-Mustajadda (the
This blockade, the third during the rule of Sulayman Ibn
Abd Al-Malik, saw the weakening of the popular hero Sayyid
al-Battal. he was a real historical hero, martyred during the
Arab wars against the Romans in 122 (HA). He appears in the
epic as a military commander, especially transporting and
supplying Arab armies at the war front in southern Europe, as
well as in Andalusia, and the whole of the Iberian peninsula
where the number of small states of Palestinian and Syrian
origin amounted to more than forty six.
The epic also describes in detail the war of the Palestinian
Bani Kulayb (Calbites) and their successors from the dynasty
of Dhat al-Himma against the Byzantine state through
consecutive generations. The wars were led by prince Junduba
Ibn Harith al-Kilfabi and his son al-Sihsah, known for a series
of heroic deeds, the first of which was rescuing the daughter of
the Umayyad caliph from her kidnappers.
Then upon orders of the caliph, Al-Sihsah participated in
wars against Byzantium as a commander until Dhat al-Himma
appeared on the scene of events. Her real name is Fatima Bint
Mazlum lbn Sihsah Ibn Harith Al-kilabi.
Fatima, who was known by the name or the title of Dhat
al-Himma, was born and raised in the desert. since her youth,
she had to face domestic tribal assaults by the tribes of Bani
Tayy, but she protected her honour and her tribe. Hence she
became known as Dhat al-Himma.
Her cousin Al-Harith lbn zalim who was a knight famous for
his military exploits in protection of his people, fell in love with
her. She gave birth to a son named Abd al-Wahab, whom
caliph al-Wathiq wanted to appoint as ruler of Constantinople,
but he refused.
The main goal of the epic of Dhat al-Himma is to record the
history of continuous aggressions and wars launched by the
Romans and Byzantines against the newly-born Muslim state;
the same as the epic of Amr al-Nu'man who confronted
Persian and Asian aggressions in minor, and the epic of prince
All these narratives share one atmosphere in which they all
emerge and multiply and they had one aim; to confront foreign
danger. The epic of princess Dhat al-Himma, recorded as well
domestic affairs of political significance, like the crisis of the
Persian Barmakis at the outset of the Abbasid Caliphate
mentioned as part of popular history in the course of events
covered by the epic, which took place in the 9th century AD,
when caliph Harun al-Rashid assassinated his Prime Minister
Ja'far Ibn Yahya al-Barmaki.
The epic mentions the reconstruction and rehabilitation of
cities, like Maltiyya and Baghdad that caliph al-Ma'mun built
on the river Tigris. He liked the site and named it after a monk
who inhabited it called "Baghdad". The epic also refers to so
many names of Palestinian ports and cities, such as Gaza,
Haifa, Java, in addition to Malta, which was the first defence
post on the Phoenician coast - whether Palestinian, Syrian, or
Lebanese - throughout eras, particularly in the middle ages.
The development of weapons and arms starting with
explosives which the narrative calls "the Greek Fire" are also
mentioned; describing in detail the ethnographic account of
cities, churches and cathedrals. especially aye Sofia, plus the
lifestyles of European people since the outset of the ninth
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