Saturday, 15 April 2017

M is for ... Ma'alish! ...Music ...and ...Mashrabiya



is for
Ma'alish! 



You will get on pretty intimate terms with this word if you come to Egypt. :) Literally it means ‘never mind’ but it can mean ‘it’s not my fault!’ and ‘forget it lady, you’re not getting me to do that,’ and ‘today? is that even a word?’ and 'deal with it,' depending on the immediate context. It's one of those one-size-fits-all-disasters type of thingies. The best response is to smile, embrace the situation as an exercise in zen calm, and then go pour yourself a stiff one :)


Music


in which the Arabs have a super rich tradition - both in terms of traditional and popular/alternative.  Just a random and teeny tiny selection of indie alternative presented here


Moga  





Also Massar Egbari (Mandatory Detour)  and Mashrou' Leila (Project Leila) - two alternative bands from Egypt and Lebanon respectively.  















Mashrabiya

- a type of latticework oriel window, which allows people inside the house to look out without being seen – a device for privacy in the women’s quarters.  The latticework screens are made up of thousands of small pieces of turned wood slotted into each other without any nails. The skill required is immense, the results are invariably exquisite.


Painting of Mashrabiya window by Dia Aziz Dia,
well-known Saudi artist. There are many 
mashrabiyas in Old Jeddah.


Mashrabiya windows have been a special feature of Arab urban architecture, from medieval ages to the 20th century, particularly in the Hejaz, Iraq, Egypt and the Levant. The earliest appearance of mashrabiya windows can be dated to the 12th century in Basra.  


View of courtyard and upper stories of Beit al Suheimy, 
old Cairo. Mashrabiya windows present on upper floors only.


The name mashrabiya comes from the Arabic root word sh-r-b, which means to drink.  Originally these beautiful screens were built to create a shaded nook where terracotta water pitchers could stand. The latticework meant that air could circulate freely around the pots and the combined effect of the shade and draught cooled the terracotta pitchers of water.  Later they were widely used for windows as well.


A place to cool drinking water. Mashrabiya screens illustrating
original use and etymology of term. Beit al-Kritliya, Cairo.


Normally, mashrabiya windows are built first floor up, the ground floor windows being open wooden grills, like this


Window on ground floor. Old Cairo merchant 
residence.



Mashrabiya from a Mashrabiya.  Wikala al Ghuri,
first floor. Cairo.




Calligraphy and decorative panels worked into a Mashrabiya
window. Beit al Suheimy, Cairo.

Detail of Mashrabiya panel. Beit al Suheimy, an old merchant
residence from the Ottoman era. Cairo.


Tightly worked Mashrabiya panel used for privacy in 
the women's quarters. Beit al Suheimy. Cairo.
The skills involved are mind-boggling – a large mashrabiya can contain thousands upon thousands of turned, tiny pieces of wood, each joined to its neighbours by slotting into them without nails.  One tiny error and the screen will not hold together, will not be aligned true.  The whole mustn’t warp even in the extreme heat of desert summers, exposed to the harshest suns.


There are several 18th/19th century residences in Cairo where these beautiful old handcrafted windows have been restored and can be viewed by the public. Here's a clip from an old James Bond film shot in one of them, Beit al-Kritliya (the Cretan lady’s house), where the mashrabiyas are also stars!





Sadly there are other houses, where the windows are falling to pieces.  In Cairo, and elsewhere. 

Derelict Mashrabiya windows. Mohammed Ali Street, Cairo.


Nowadays, mashrabiyas are no longer used for their original purposes - modern style windows in glass or wood have replaced these handcrafted beauties. However, the work has been revived and is in demand as part of furniture, partitions, picture/mirror frames, even as wall-art on their own.


Artisan working on furniture with small inserts

of mashrabiya. Khan el Khalili. Cairo.


Do you know of any other well-known films shot in the Middle East? What impression did the setting leave on you? Do you think films have any influence on how our travel wishlist develops?







Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2017 

53 comments:

  1. I am a big fan of 'portmanteau' words where the meaning depends on context, inflection, user. And when I think about it, some of our swear words are used that way where the same word can express amazement, disgust, glee...
    Love the mashrabiyas and am in awe at the craftsmanship involved. As I was at so many buildings when in India decades ago.

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    1. PS: I didn't mean in any way that Ma'alish is comparable to a swear word, except in that it is a multi-purpose word.

      Delete
    2. I know you didn't, EC. :) And Ma'alish isn't a swear word, but it can make you want to respond with some choice ones of your own, also depending on context :D At least that's the way I felt sometimes!

      Though now that I come to think of it, don't know any in Arabic yet, must find out!

      Delete
  2. I used the word Malish a lot in Saudi Arabia - the only other words that I probably more were Mafi Mushkila which is a similar meaning. Love all the lattice work which we saw on all the old buildings in Taif and Jeddah.

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    1. I've used a lot more Mafi Mushkila than Ma'lish! Though in the Egyptian dialect it's Mish Mushkila, and Mafi in the Gulf.

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  3. Ma'alish is now added to my vocab. I love multiple meaning words. I will also through in an Italian shrug- they say so much too

    Love those windows- very cool looking


    Omar Shariff- he was THE "foreign" actor I knew coming out of the desert in Lawrence of Arabia.
    He did open the door...
    Good M info

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Sorry, I meant throw in an Italian shrug.

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    2. I love multiple meaning gestures! And totally loved Omar Sharif too, my first encounter with him was Mackenna's Gold, and both Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif were complete heartthrobs! Watched Lawrence of Arabia much later...and have to say Omar's charm was intact through out.

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  4. Especially interesting were the latticed windows. And I thought malish meant massage!

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  5. here's my link http://mumbaionahigh.com/2017/04/madras-check-maheshwari-atozchallenge-2017.html

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Malish in Hindi and in Arabic have quite different meanings. Though there are actually many loanwords from Arabic in Hindi and Bengali.

      The latticed windows are quite gobsmacking.

      Thanks for remembering to give me the link!

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  6. Enjoyed reading about the mashrayiba. Thank you for sharing.

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  7. These mashrabiya windows are new to me. Your photographs show so many intricate designs. I also like the idea of their original use, to shade water containers and allow for air circulation.

    Musings Over Poetry
    Food For Thought

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    1. Indeed they are very intricate, and require much painstaking craftsmanship. Arabs have a great tradition of different types of woodwork including Mother of Pearl inlay, carving etc.

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  8. I thought it would do something with the Hindi word Maalish... BUt I am going to use the word Ma'alish next time i wanna say, Nevermind.


    Chaoticsoulzzz

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    1. Nope, not the same at all Hindi and Arabic meanings in this case..

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  9. I enjoyed the music, I am a great lover of all genre of music so this was particulary great to listen to.
    I recall the James Bond film which I saw on Tv. The photo's are a joy to look at also. This was as all the rest of your post wonderful to visit.
    Yvonne.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Arab music is way vaster than what I can showcase here, of course. I am a fan of their modern indie and pop, except for Fairouz. She can sing multiplication tables for all I care and she'd still have me spellbound. :) Truly a voice that transcends language and all other barriers. Glad you enjoyed the songs.

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  10. I was fascinated by the lattice windows during my trip. I never gave any thought as to their purpose, apart from providing privacy. Interesting as ever.

    Amble Bay's May Fair

    ReplyDelete
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    1. You are wise. Beauty needs no reason to exist. I should learn to enjoy things as they are instead of digging around for 'reason' and 'purpose' and 'origin.' Working towards that, but long way to go still.

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  11. Very informative take Nilan as usual. Learned a lot on the Arabs lately. Thanks

    Hank

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    1. That makes two of us! :) Only in my case the time period is a leetle bit more extended. The research for A-Z is in some ways its own reward.

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  12. I enjoyed the insight you gave into the land of Egypt. Thank you! Happy Easter! M is for Marketing Methods as you Build a Better Blog. #AtoZchallenge.

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    1. A very happy Easter to you too! Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  13. Those windows are amazing to look at! I always wonder how well they keep out dust, dirt, sand, bugs, etc. In comparison to the ugly metal screen windows (often seen in America).

    Excellent share. I hope the art of making those windows is not lost in modern times where "faster is better because it's cheaper" seems to be the motto.

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    1. They wouldn't keep any of those out, unless they had glass shutters on the inside, which I have seen on some. Though I am not sure whether the glass was part of the original window or added later during restoration. The dust storms would blow in ghastly amounts of sand, whoever did the cleaning up afterwards has my complete sympathy!

      The artform is very much alive, no longer used in windows, but in furniture. Which is a win-win. Wooden louvred windows are still in use in some buildings in Egypt, very old-world charming.

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  14. Its amazing how i learn so many things on my visits to your blog every day . Thanks for such a beautifully informative compilation of A to Z. So much , hard work ,research, creativity!
    Best wishes
    moon
    https://aslifehappens60.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
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    1. The Arabs are indeed a passionate and creative people! I enjoyed the research and writing about them, so glad you are enjoying the posts. Thanks.

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  15. My dear Mila it's with great pleasure that I am learning thanks to you about Arabic culture these days. This combination of the musical clips and the texts are a real delight.
    Th music reminds me of the popular tunes blaring from those taxi boats on the Nile
    I used to like that music played repeatedly at full blast to attract tourists and locals for a boat ride.
    Thanks so much for enriching my little knowledge of what I had grasped during our stay in Cairo of the Egyptian people and of their way of living
    Cheers

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  16. Arabic pop music has a distinctive and catchy rhythm. Glad it brought back good memories for you.

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  17. I may adopt this word. It has a world of possibilities that would allow me wiggle room if it comes out wrong. Thanks!

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    1. Yup, it's a good word to have in the vocab, as long as you're not at the receiving end of it :)

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  18. M is for marvelous and that's what this offering is. I do appreciate the addition of the extra songs. They are like a Thank You

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    1. Indeed I wish I could put in more music that I have been able to, but I am afraid that would make my posts even longer. Another from Maii Waleed, Hassafir Baeed - super catchy, edgy beat to it.
      Thanks for being here.

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  19. The lattice windows look beautiful. Nice to see they're still being made and appreciated.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

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    1. They are indeed lovely. It's awful when any skill or handicraft is lost, so pleased that this hasn't been.

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  20. Mashrabiyas look lovely. They remind me of some of the grillwork on a fancier mechitza (the divider between men and women in an Orthodox synagogue). Sometimes it's a movable or stationary screen in the middle of a room, while other times it's over a separate women's gallery.

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    1. That's very interesting! In the ME the cultures have been so intertwined that it's difficult to pinpoint the origins, the Arabs might have re-purposed the mechitza into privacy screens, or it could have been the other way around too - the latticework adapted into the mechitza. In the 13th century synagogue of Cordoba there are the eight point stars, a widely used Islamic motif, incorporated into the delicate plasterwork. Thank you for your contribution to this topic!

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  21. Wow, those lattice windows are beautiful...and such intricacy of design! I love that.

    As for the Middle East in film, the only recent examples that come to mind are the use of Middle Eastern backdrops in the latest Star Wars and Star Trek films...not really much of a cultural showcase there.

    Dubai and Abu Dhabi have popped up in Mission Impossible, Fast and the Furious and one of the Sex and the City movies (???), but again, nothing that really showcases the culture or traditional architecture. It's all about the glitzier side of the country.

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    1. Yeah, those windows are totally a treat.

      Dubai/UAE is in such a great position to market the Khaliji side of Middle Eastern history and culture, but all they seem to do is to promote the modern super blingy face. At least that's how it came across to me when I lived there almost a decade ago. From what I see and hear, that hasn't changed much in ten years. Such a pity!

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  22. Very interesting, as usual. I didn't know the origin of the mashrabiya windows, so thanks for explaining it!
    -----
    Eva - Mail Adventures

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    1. Another theory is that it originates from 'ashrafiya' to overlook or oversee. I just like the sharoob one better :)

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  23. Replies
    1. Me too. Fascinated by all handcrafted stuff.

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  24. Interesting to learn about different cultures!
    "Ma'alish!" is an expression I might use a lot!
    I think there was another James Bond movie taking place in the ME, The Living Daylights ends in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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    1. Good point re Living Daylights!! The Afghanistan scenes were actually shot in Morocco. Part of the Arab world but not ME, North Africa.

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  25. Ma'alish is a great, all-purpose word and easy to remember. ☺ I always enjoy listening to music in other languages. The examples you've presented here are pleasing to the ear. Such beautiful workmanship with the Mashrabiya windows. Sounds like the art is still thriving in other forms and that's good. Your theme is so fascinating and I'm learning a lot!

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    1. Glad you liked the music, I do like indie Arab music. Yes, mashrabiyas are still made the same way without any glue or nails, it had gone out of vogue but has been lately revived. Always terribly sad to lose handicrafts and arts. Can't say 'Ma'alish' to that ever! :-)

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  26. I'm glad that craft continues, it would be a shame for it to be lost.

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  27. I thought Maalish was an Indian term.Thanks for sharing that its origins from Egypt.
    And I loved the window pictures

    A Peice Of My Life

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    1. Ma'alish in the Indian context is a little bit different than the Egyptian :) thanks for visiting.

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