Ahmed Shawqi

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Ahmed Shawqi
أحمد شوقي
Portrait of Ahmed Shawqi.
Portrait of Ahmed Shawqi.
Born(1868-10-17)October 17, 1868
Cairo, Khedivate of Egypt
DiedOctober 14, 1932(1932-10-14) (aged 63)
Cairo, Kingdom of Egypt
OccupationPlaywright, poet

Ahmed Shawqi (also written Chawki; Arabic: أحمد شوقي‎, ALA-LC: Aḥmad Shawqī, Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [ˈʔæħmæd ˈʃæwʔi]; 1868–1932), nicknamed the Prince of Poets (Arabic: أمير الشعراءAmīr al-Shu‘arā’), was one of the greatest Arabic poets laureate,[1] an Egyptian poet and dramatist who pioneered the modern Egyptian literary movement, most notably introducing the genre of poetic epics to the Arabic literary tradition.


Raised in a wealthy family of mixed Turkish, Arab, Circassian, Kurdish, and Greek roots[2][3] his family was prominent and well-connected with the court of the Khedive of Egypt. Upon graduating from high school, he attended law school, obtaining a degree in translation. Shawqi was then offered a job in the court of the Khedive Abbas II, who was the khedive of Egypt, which he immediately accepted.

After a year working in the court of the Khedive, Shawqi was sent to continue his studies in Law at the Universities of Montpellier and Paris for three years. While in France, he was heavily influenced by the works of French playwrights, most notably Molière and Racine. He returned to Egypt in 1894, and remained a prominent member of Arab literary culture until the British forced him into exile in southern Spain, Andalusia, in 1914. Shawqi remained there until 1920, when he returned to Egypt. In 1927 he was crowned by his peers Amir al-Sho’araa’ (literally, "the Prince of Poets") in recognition of his considerable contributions to the literary field.

He used to live in ‘Karmet Ibn Hani’ or Ibn Hani’s Vineyard at Al-Matariyyah area near the palace of the Khedive Abbas II at Saray El-Qobba until he was exiled. After returning to Egypt he built a new house at Giza which he named the new Karmet Ibn Hani.[4] He met Mohammed Abdel Wahab, and introduced him for the first time to art, making him his protégé as he gave him a suite in his house. The house later on became Ahmed Shawki Museum and Mohammed Abdel Wahab became one of the most famous Egyptian composers.


Monument of Shawqi in Villa Borghese, Rome by Egyptian Sculptor Gamal El-Sagini

Shawqi’s work can be categorized into three main periods during his career. The first coincides with the period during which he occupied a position at the court of the Khedive, consisting of eulogies to the Khedive: praising him or supporting his policy. The second comprised the period of his exile in Spain. During this period, his feeling of nostalgia and sense of alienation directed his poetic talent to patriotic poems on Egypt as well as the Arab world and panarabism. The third stage occurred after his return from exile, during that period he became preoccupied with the glorious history of Ancient Egypt and Islam. This was the period during which he wrote his religious poems, in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. The maturation of his poetic style was also reflected in his plays, the most notable of which were published during this period.


Ahmed Shawki

Shawqi was the first in modern Arabic literature to write poetic plays. He wrote five tragedies:

  • Majnun Laila (literally "The Mad about Layla"), his first play.
  • The Death of Cleopatra
  • 'Antara
  • Ali bek el-Kabeer
  • Qambeez (Cambyses II), 1931

and two comedies:

  • Es-Set Huda (Madam Huda)
  • El-Bakhila (the Miser-ette)

in addition to a prose play: the Princess of Andalusia.


  • Esh-Shawqiyyat, his selected works, in four volumes, including Nahj al-Burda, a tribute to the Prophet Muhammad
  • The States of Arabs and the Great Men of Islam, A long poem about the History of Islam.
  • Poetic Stories for Children, inspired by the famous French fabulist Jean de La Fontaine.


He also wrote chapters of prose, collected under the title: The Markets of Gold.

Legacy in Egypt[edit]

  • His home was turned into Ahmed Shawki Museum
  • The street of his home in Giza was named after him.
  • Many statues were erected to honor him inside & outside Egypt.
  • Shawqi is celebrated in several parts of the world and in Egypt there is a monthly lecture series about his poetry at the Sawy Culture wheel.
  • An Egyptian postage stamp was issued in 1957 to honor his memory.
  • Google made a doodle for him on selected Arabic-speaking countries on October 16, 2010 in honor of his memory[citation needed][5]
  • Many books were written about his life.[6]
  • His Granddaughter was surrealist poet, Ikbal El-Alailly[7]


  1. ^ Egypt. "Poet Laurate". Tripadvisor.com. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  2. ^ Goldschmidt, Arthur (2013), "Shawqi, Ahmad", Historical Dictionary of Egypt, Scarecrow Press, p. 381, ISBN 978-0810880252, Distinguished Arabic poet and playwright, often called Amir al-shu'ara (Prince of Poets). He came from wealthy family of mixed Turkish, Arab, Kurdish, and Greek origin that was closely connected to the khedivial family.
  3. ^ Shahid, Irfan (2010), "Ahmad Shawqi (1868-1932)", in Allen, Roger M. A.; Lowry, Joseph Edmund; Stewart, Devin J. (eds.), Essays in Arabic Literary Biography: 1850-1950, p. 305, ISBN 978-3447061414, Shawqi was born in Cairo in 1868 to a good middle class family in whose veins ran Turkish, Kurdish, Circassian, Greek, and Arab blood.
  4. ^ My Father Shawky by Hussin Ahmed Shawky 2nd edition (in arabic) General authority of culture palaces 2006 Cairo
  5. ^ "Google & Ahmed Shawki". Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  6. ^ "Biblotica Alexandrina List of Books about Ahmed Shawki (in Arabic)" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  7. ^ Rosemont, Penelope (2001). "Dada & Surrealism". Woman's Art Journal. 22 (2): 60. doi:10.2307/1358944. ISSN 0270-7993. JSTOR 1358944.


  • Glimpses of Ahmed Shawqi’s Life and Works, Egypt Magazine, Issue No. 19-Fall 1999.

External links[edit]