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Friday, 10 July 2020

Folk love stories 2: Aziza and Younis

The second installment in a series of folk love stories, the first of which was published in celebration of Valentine's Day 2012

National Folklore Archive , Wednesday 22 Feb 2012
Folk
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This is one of the best known poems in Al-Sira Al-Hilaliya, recounting the amorous liaison between Younis Al-Hilali and Aziza, the daughter of Al-Wahidi Mebed, a Zanati prince.

Aziza falls in love with Younis when she learns about his exceptional beauty from a former female slave of his. Younis has just arrived in Tunis, accompanied by his uncle Abu Zeid and his brothers Yehya and Marei. They run out of money and decide to sell a necklace belonging to their mother, Shamma. Younis takes the necklace to the market, where an old woman uses subterfuge to take him to Aziza's palace, promising him that he will be able to sell the necklace there.

In her palace, Aziza is being held captive by a father determined to keep her away from men; and the captivity makes her wild. Aziza wastes no time in trying to seduce Younis, but he keeps objecting. Every time he objects, she refutes his argument. They are now at the ninth stairwell, having their ninth argument:

The ninth is made of silver

Younis bends down and hands her a jar

He says: Girl, give me (water) to wash

It's prayer time and I have to pray

She says: No need for prayers or religion

Leave the prayers of the All Merciful alone

Stay with me and don't drift away

This is not a mosque, if you know what I mean

Younis, come on, let's have fun

I will be a boat and you'll be the pilot

Let's sail in our own sea

Let's see how your body fits with mine

She says: Younis, this is fate

Think of me getting dressed up everyday

Think of my breasts, ripping through my robe

I am pleading with you, my master

Younis is hesitant and reminds her of the Day of Reckoning:

He says to her: Daughter of the Sultan

We are descendants of the Prophet himself

Let me tell you, Daughter of the Sultan

One day we'll answer to the Lord

On the Day of Reckoning

What shall we say?

This story of seduction is reminiscent of the Quranic tale of Joseph with the wife of the Egyptian governor, which explains its added popularity.

Aziza, having failed to seduce Younis, conspires to keep him and his brothers captive until his uncle, Abu Zeid, pays the blood money for the slaves he killed. This sets the stage for the Beni Helal epic of exodus.

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