Ya Banat Iskandariyya

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A very old melody, with lyrics in many languages - and completely different meanings.

Arabic version:

ya banat iskandariyya `ishqukum haram (2x)
dhab albi wa dhab jismi kullu fil-gharam (2x)


oh girls of Alexandria, your passion is forbidden (2x) my heart and body melted with love (2x)

Notes on pronunciation:

  • the ` in `ishqukum is pronounced as a kind of growl deep in the throat (` is the Arabic letter the letter ع, and it's considered the hardest sound to pronounce; here's an entire video on the topic!).
  • the dh in dhab is pronounced like th in the
  • the gh in gharam is pronounced like the French r in rue.

Rhythm (maqsum): Dum Tek iss Tek Dum iss Tek iss

version by Mohammed el Bakkar (containing some additional sections)

Orchestral version by Marcel Khalife


see film, Whose is this song?

by filmmaker Adela Peeva

and consider: does shared music create harmony or dissonance?

"In her search for the true origins of a haunting melody, the filmmaker travels to Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgaria. The trip is filled with humor, suspense, tragedy and surprise as each country's citizens passionately claim the song to be their own and can even furnish elaborate histories for its origins.

The tune emerges again and again in different forms: as a love song, a religious hymn, a revolutionary anthem, and even a military march. The powerful emotions and stubborn nationalism raised by one song seem at times comical and othertimes, eerily telling. In a region besieged by ethnic hatred and war, what begins as a light-hearted investigation ends as a sociological and historical exploration of the deep misunderstandings between the people of the Balkans."