This oral poem, also known as the Hilali epic, recounts the saga of the Bani Hilal Bedouin tribe and its migration from the Arabian Peninsula to North Africa in the tenth century. This tribe held sway over a vast territory in central North Africa for more than a century before being annihilated by Moroccan rivals. As one of the major epic poems that developed within the Arabic folk tradition, The biography of Abi Zaid Al-Hilali, the common local term in Egypt, and it is the biography of a group of heroes of the Bani Hilal t the Hilali is the only epic still performed in its integral musical form. Moreover, once widespread throughout the Middle East, it has disappeared from everywhere except Egypt.

Since the fourteenth century, the Hilali epic has been performed by poets who sing the verses while playing a percussion instrument or a two-string spike fiddle (rabab). Performances take place at weddings, circumcision ceremonies and private gatherings, and may last for days. In the past, practitioners were trained within family circles and performed the epic as their only means of income by performing in the local cafes. These professional poets began their ten-year apprenticeships at the age of five. To this day, students undergo special training to develop memory skills and to master their instruments. Nowadays, they must also learn to inject improvisational commentary in order to render plots more relevant to contemporary audiences. The poets of the Sirha (narrators) divided it into four sections: the births of heroes, the second “leadership the third “alienation”, and the fourth, “the orphans”.It is noted that the birth of Abi Zaid Al-Hilali is the hero of the Crescent heroes. Sirah also refers to the love stories that spread between Aziza (daughter of Al-Wahidi Ma’bad) and Younis (one of the youth of Al-Hilaliya), and b Yen Saada (daughter of Al-Zanati Khalifa) and Marei brother of Younis). There are many narrative forms for Sirah to compose almost three narrations, one of which is in Upper Egypt, and is based on a popular poetic form known as the square, and the second is the Delta, in addition to another form that was popular in Cairo in the nineteenth century.  (The number of performers of the Hilali Sirah is dwindling due to competition from contemporary media and to the decreasing number of young people able to commit to the rigorous training process. Pressured by the lucrative Egyptian tourist industry, poets tend to forsake the full Hilali repertory in favour of brief passages performed as part of folklore shows.

Shawki Abd El Hakim, Sirahat Bani Helal, Dar El Hendawy, Cairo 2017.
Abd El Rahmman El Abnoudy, El Sirah El Helalia, Akhbar El Youm, Cairo 1988.
Qadorah El Ageny, El Sirah El Helaliah, a folk narration in the Egyptian Bedouin society, Dar El Gendy, Cairo, 2016.