Mawal is a type of folk poetry that spreads in Egypt and in many parts of the Arab world. There are multiple accounts of the Mawal’s origins, and despite their differences, they all associated it with sad circumstances. It is almost sure, though not confirmed, that it has Iraqi origin.

Sometimes Mawal is recited as poetry, while others it is sung. The accompanying musical instruments include Rababa, Mizmar, Nay, Duff (Tambourine), and Tabla (Drum).

The older form of Mawal consists of two lines each with two hemistiches. The first two parts have the same ending, and the second two have another. At times, it has a fifth line and is called in Egypt “Al-A’rag”, and other times it has seven lines and is called “Al-No’many”, which is quite popular among traditional singers as “Al-Sab’awy”.

Sometimes the Mawals are described using colours. The red Mawal refers to one that speaks of glory, the green speaks of love. There is a kind of Mawal that tells a story, which corresponds to the European Ballad, and is usually sung in “Sab’awy” form. Other topics include the complaint about fate, courtship, and fascination about nature. A folk singer that excels in performing al-Mawal, would be known as Rais al-Fan (Master of the art).

One of the most famous Egyptian Mawals that became popular in the twentieth century is the Mawal of “Adham al-Sharqawi”, which tells a story about the heroism of a man, who takes revenge for his uncle from his killers. He escapes from prison to intimidate the government for a long period of time, until a friend betrays him.

There is also Mawal Shafiqa and Metwally, which shows an Egyptian custom rooted in Upper Egypt, which is to preserve the honor of the girl. And there is a third Mawal, Hassan and Naima, which tells a love story that rose between a popular singer and the daughter of a rich man who admired him, but the Mawal ends in a tragic end with the murder of Hassan the singer.


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Tariq Yusuf Ali. Different methods of performing the mawwal template for some of the great performers / supervised by Ratiba Al-Hefny, Alia Shukry. - Thesis (Master) - Academy of Arts, Higher Institute of Arabic Music.
Safwat Kamal. Among the Arts of Egyptian Folk Singing: Mawawil and Folk Songs. Cairo: The Egyptian General Book Organization, 1994.
Shaimaa Salah, Music of the people, Dar Hypatia for publishing, 2011.