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Her Fascinating Story, a Writer from Nazareth- May Ziadeh

posted on: Jul 3, 2020

Her Fascinating Story a Writer from Nazareth- May Ziada

By: Raneem Ghunaim/ Arab American contributing writer

Palestinians in general have many talents, they are filled with knowledge and creativity. One of those people is May Ziadeh who is a writer from Nazareth Palestine. Take a look at her fascinating story and life.

Insights on Her Early Life

Her Fascinating Story a Writer from Nazareth- May Ziada
May Ziada and Kahill Gibrab

May Elias Ziadeh was an Arab romantic poet and a feminist pioneer born in Nazareth Palestine. Although she worked for the Arabic newspapers and periodicals, her work included numerous poems and books. Ziadeh was a key figure of the Nahda in the early 20th-century Arab literary scene. She was known for being an “early feminist” and a “pioneer of Oriental feminism. Ziadeh was a prolific Arab female poet, translator, orator, essayist, and critic of Palestinian-Lebanese origin.

Although Ziadeh was never married, she was in a relationship with one of the Arab literary greats of the twentieth century, Khalil Gibran, who was a Lebanese-American writer and poet. Despite the fact that the pair never met they maintained a written correspondence until Gibran’s death in 1931.

Her Work

Fleurs de rêve (1911) was Ziadeh’s first published work. It was a volume of poetry written in French using the pen name of Isis Copia. Although Ziadeh increasingly found her literary voice in Arabic, she often wrote a lot of her work in French, English, and Italian. A lot of her work consisted of novels, volumes of free-verse poetry, and essays. Other than writing, Ziadeh also translated several European authors into Arabic. Like Arthur Conan Doyle from English, ‘Brada’ (the Italian Contessa Henriette Consuelo di Puliga) from French, and Max Müller from German. She ran the most famous literary salon of the Arab world during the twenties and thirties in Cairo.

Her Fascinating Story a Writer from Nazareth- May Ziada
Her “Al Bâhithat el-Bâdiyat (Beginning Female Researchers)” book cover

The titles of her works in Arabic (with English translation in brackets) included:

– Al Bâhithat el-Bâdiyat (Beginning Female Researchers)
– Sawâneh fatât (Platters of Crumbs)
– Zulumât wa Ichâ’ât (Humiliation and Rumors…)
– Kalimât wa Ichârât (Words and Signs)
– Al Saha’ef (The Newspapers)
– Ghayat Al-Hayât (The Meaning of Life)
– Al-Mûsawât (Equality)
– Bayna l-Jazri wa l-Madd (Between the Ebb and Flow)

Here are a few quotes from her book:

“We chant beautiful words in vain, words of freedom, and liberty. If you, men of the East, keep the core of slavery in your homes represented by your wives and daughters, will the children of slaves be free?”

“I am a woman who has spent her life between her pens, stationery, books, and research. All my thoughts have been centered around ideals. This idealistic life has made me oblivious to how malicious people can be. I have ignored the malice and certain people’s deadly poison disguised as gentleness,” as May Ziadeh described herself in her own words.

Recognition for her work- Awards

In 1999 May Ziadeh, was named “The Personage of The Year ” by the Lebanese Minister of Culture. This award is a celebration of “Beirut, the cultural capital of the Arab world”, and is held annually.

Philosophical bases

Ziadeh was one of the most influential feminists in the Arab World. She considered women to be the basic element of every human society and was deeply concerned with the emancipation of the Arab woman. A task to be affected first by tackling ignorance, and then anachronistic traditions. Ziadeh specified that female evolution towards equality did not need to be enacted at the expense of femininity, but rather that it was a parallel process. In 1921, she convened a conference under the heading, “La but de la vie” (“The goal of life”). Here, she called upon Arab women to aspire toward freedom and to be open to the Occident without forgetting their Oriental identity.

Ziadeh was successively influenced by LamartineByron, Shelley, and finally Gibran. These influences are evident in the majority of her works. She often reflected on her nostalgia for Lebanon and her fertile, vibrant, sensitive imagination is as evident as her mystery, melancholy, and despair.


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