Mohammed Abed Elhai

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Mohammed Abed Elhai
Birth name Mohammed Abed Elhai Mahm'od
Born (1944-01-11)11 January 1944
Origin Khartoum, Sudan
Died 23 August 1989(1989-08-23) (aged 45)
Occupation(s) Lecturer in Khartoum University, head of Culture Corporation (Sudan)
Years active mid of 1960s -1980s

Mohammed Abed Elhai Mahm'od (11 January 1944 – 23 August 1989) Arabic 'محمد عبد الحي is a well-known member of the first generation of post-colonial Sudanese writers and academics. He is regarded as a pioneer of modern poetry in Sudan.

Early life[edit]

Abed Elhai was born in Khartoum on 11 January 1944. His father worked as a civil servant, a surveyor, and due to the nature of his work he visited different regions of Sudan, like the Nuba Mountains Region, El-Renk town in Upper Nile State, Blue Nile regions, Wad Medani town, Korti and Abu Hamad in Northern State.

Abed Elhai accompanied his father in his travels, giving him an understanding of the diverse and multiracial culture of Sudan. This had a great influence later in his poetry, which focuses on the dilemma of identity in Sudan.

Mohammed Abed Elhai comes from a family with a history of writing poetry: His mother was Ezeiza Ismail Fouzi (b. 1924), and her father was also a surveyor and wrote poetry, as did his son Saad.

His mother said about her son: since he was a child he was fond of reading, for example El-Sobiaan (The Kids), a Sudanese children's magazine, and other magazines from outside Sudan. He started writing poetry about life and nature at a young age. When his father discovered he was writing poetry, he stopped him, fearing it would lead Abed Elhai to fail in school.

Later his father let Mohmmed write after his friend Jamal Mohammed Ahmed, the Sudanese ambassador in Lebanon at that time, told him that many Lebanese poets asked about Abed Elhai and his poetry. He became serious about poetry when he was in secondary school in Hentoob School, close to Wad Medani.


Abed Elhai initially studied medicine, but his interestes led him to change his area of study to art. Abed Elhai entered Khartoum University in 1962.

In 1963 Abed Elhai wrote his first poem to celebrate his sister's marriage. He also wrote and recited a poem about El-Gorashy titled Areiss elmagged, or Groom of Glory. He recited this poem while El-Gorashy had been buried after Abed Elhai got a permission from his El-Gorashy's mother.

When he joined the university in 1962 he became a well-known poet, and he published in many Sudanese newspapers, like Al-Rayaam Newspaper on the page called El-jamaa'a or the university.

In 1963 he released one of his prominent and brilliant works, "Alawada alla Sennar", or "Return to Sennar", which was first published in Al-Rayaam, then in Egypt's Mejalaat Elshe'r or Poetry Magazine, and in one of the Lebanese magazine. "Alawada alla Sennar" focuses on the Sudanese identity between Islam/Arab culture on one side and African on the other side, and uses the Kingdom of Sennar as a historical symbol and how it was founded by both culture Arab and African. He also used a heritage of sufiism and mythology in Kingdom of Sennar in his poetry, and gave Sennar the view or sense of Babylon. "Alawada alla Sennar" is regarded by many critics today as a brilliant work of genius, because in addition to his literary value Abed elhai touches on the dilemma of identity in Sudan which currently lead to a mass conflict and ethnic clashes according to a point of view of many critics.

Mohammed Abed Elhai was awarded a Bachelor of Arts from Khartoum University with honour degree second upper in 1967, then appointed a teaching assistant in the English department. He then got a scholarship and was sent to England, where he was awarded a Master of Arts in English literature from Leeds University in 1970. Abed Elhai focused in his Masters research on Scottish poet Edwin Muir. Abed Elhai was awarded a PhD in English Literature from Oxford University in 1973. His PhD focuses on the influence of American and English romantic thinking on Arabic poetry. He was a Lecturer in Khartoum University and he had worked in Khartoum University as head of the English Department, and also was head of the translation department. In early 1970s Abed Elhai collaborated with Yousif Ayd'aabi to edit the culture section in Sah'afa Newspaper, which later was abolished by the government. Abed Elhai Abed Elhai was head of the Cultural Corporation from 1976 until the early 1980s. He then returned to Khartoum University as a member of the Faculty of Arts, where he founded the Addab (Art) magazine, which was published by the University, and where he stayed until his death. Abed Elhai had two daughters, Shiraz and Reel, and two sons, Waddah and Mohammed Elmoatz. Mohammed Abed Elhai died on 23 August 1989 in Soba University Hospital, Khartoum.


See also[edit]


  • Documentary research by Dr. Naja'at Mahm'od Ahmed published in [1]