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  • Adam Mestyan

This article revisits the official culture of the early khedivate through a microhistory of the first modern Egyptian theater in Arabic. Based on archival research, it aims at a recalibration of recent scholarship by showing khedivial culture as a complex framework of competing patriotisms. It analyzes the discourse about theater in the Arabic press, including the journalist Muhammad Unsi's call for performances in Arabic in 1870. It shows that the realization of this idea was the theater group led by James Sanua between 1871 and 1872, which also performed ʿAbd al-Fattah al-Misri's tragedy. But the troupe was not an expression of subversive nationalism, as has been claimed by scholars. My historical reconstruction and my analysis of the content of Sanua's comedies show loyalism toward the Khedive Ismail. Yet his form of contemporary satire was incompatible with elite cultural patriotism, which employed historicization as its dominant technique. This revision throws new light on a crucial moment of social change in the history of modern Egypt, when the ruler was expected to preside over the plural cultural bodies of the nation.

Corresponding author
Adam Mestyan is a Junior Fellow at the Society of Fellows, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; e-mail:
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Author's note: The first version of this article was written when I was a 2011/2012 Fellow of the “Europe in the Middle East—The Middle East in Europe” program of the Wissenschaftskoleg zu Berlin hosted by the Zentrum Moderner Orient. I am grateful for the directors of this program; for the suggestions of Lale Can, Eliane Ettmüller, Mohamed-Salah Omri, and Abhishek Kaicker; for the English corrections of George Taylor; and for the critical comments of four anonymous reviewers and the IJMES editors, Beth Baron and Sara Pursley. I alone am responsible for all remaining mistakes.

1 Since the publication of Sadgrove, Philip's The Egyptian Theatre in the Nineteenth Century 1799–1882 (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2007 [1996]), Sayyid ʿAli Ismaʿil has focused on 19th-century Egyptian theater history. See Ismaʿil, Sayyid ʿAli, Taʾrikh al-Masrah fi Misr fi al-Qarn al-Tasiʿ ʿAshar (Cairo: Maktabat al-Usra, 2005 [1997]); Taʾrikh al-Masrah fi al-ʿAlam al-ʿArabi (al-Qarn al-Tasiʿ ʿAshar) (Kuwait: Muʾassasat al-Marjah, 1998); and Muhakamat Masrah Yaʿqub Sanuʿ (Cairo: al-Hayʾa al-Misriyya al-ʿAmma li-l-Kitab, 2001). Most reviews of Ismaʿil's books are accessible on his website (, and the introduction of Muhakamat also contains references to his reception in the Kuwaiti press. Najm, Muhammad Yusuf's main works in theater history are al-Masrahiyya fi al-Adab al-ʿArabi al-Hadith, 1847–1914, 2nd ed. (Beirut: Dar al-Thaqafa, 1967), and a number of text editions, including Sanua's eight plays in Yaʿqub Sannuʿ - Abu Naddara (al-Masrah al-ʿArabi–Dirasat wa-l-Nusus 3) (Beirut: Dar al-Thaqafa, 1963). Najm challenged Ismaʿil in “Riyadat Sanuʿ li-l-Masrah Haqiqa . . . wa-hadhihi hiya al-Adilla,” al-Ahram al-Masaʾi (5 March 2001). Ismaʿil replied in “Muhakamat Masrah Sanuʿ . . . ma Zalat Mustamirra,” al-Ahram al-Masaʾi (12 March 2001). Najm also published his critique in Akhbar al-Adab (25 March 2001), to which Ismaʿil replied in the same journal (8 April 2001). This heated debate continued for a time; in 2001 and 2002, poets, journalists, and playwrights contributed to it in the Kuwaiti al-Watan and the Egyptian al-Muhit, al-Akhbar, and al-Ahram al-Masaʾi. A later contribution is al-Musaylihi, Muhsin, Suʾali: Man Kataba Masrahiyyat Yaʿqub Sanuʿ? (Cairo: Akadimiyyat al-Funun, 2005). Najm's last word was probably the republication of al-Misri's, Muhammad ʿAbd al-Fattah play Nuzhat al-Adab fi Shajaʿat al-ʿArab al-Mubhija li-l-Aʿyun al-Zakiyya fi Hadiqat al-Azbakiyya as Luʿbat Layla (Beirut: Dar Sadir, 2002 [1872]), discovered and analyzed by Sadgrove, Philip, “Leyla - The First Egyptian Tragedy,” Osmanlı Araştırmaları 7–8 (1988): 161–76.

2 See his series of articles in al-Jumhuriyya during 2010–2011: for example, “Tahwid al-Masrah al-ʿArabi” (The Judaization of Arab Theater), 31 October 2010.

3 Ziad Fahmy, “Francophone Egyptian Nationalists, Anti-British Discourse, and European Public Opinion, 1885–1910: The Case of Kamil, Mustafa and Sannuʿ, Yaʿqub,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 28 (2008): 170–83, esp. 176.

4 ʿAbduh, Ibrahim, Abu Nazzara–Imam al-Sihafa al-Fukahiyya al-Musawwara wa-Zaʿim al-Masrah fi Misr, 1839–1912 (Cairo: Maktabat al-Adab bi-Darb al-Jamamiz, 1953), 17.

5 Gendzier, Irene L., “James Sanua and Egyptian Nationalism,” Middle East Journal 15 (1961): 1628, esp. 17.

6 Lisa Lital Levy, “Jewish Writers in the Arab East—Literature, History, and the Politics of Enlightenment, 1863–1914” (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2007), 142, 166.

7 Landau, Jacob M., “Abu Naddara, an Egyptian-Jewish Nationalist,” The Journal of Jewish Studies 3 (1952): 3044; idem, Jews in Nineteenth-Century Egypt (New York: New York University Press, 1969), 12.

8 ʿAbduh, Abu Nazzara, 26.

9 Gendzier, “James Sanua and Egyptian Nationalism,” 20.

10 Moreh, Shmuel and Sadgrove, Philip, Jewish Contributions to Nineteenth-Century Arabic Theatre (Journal of Semitic Studies Supplement 6) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 21.

11 Fahmy, Ziad, Ordinary Egyptians: Creating the Modern Nation through Popular Culture (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2011), 45.

12 Ghunaym, ʿAbd al-Hamid, Sanuʿ-Raʾid al-Masrah al-Misri (Cairo: Dar al-Qawmiyya li-l-Tibaʿa wa-l-Nashr, 1966), unpaginated (p. 5).

13 ʿAbduh, Abu Nazzara, 26–27; Fahmy, Ordinary Egyptians, 46.

14 Gendzier, Irene L., The Practical Visions of Yaʿqub Sanuʿ (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966), 3.

15 Luqa, Anwar, “Masrah Yaʿqub Sanuaʿ,” al-Majalla, 5 (1961): 5171; Moosa, Matti, “Yaʿqub Sanuʿ and the Rise of Arab Drama in Egypt,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 4 (1974): 401–33; ʿAnus, Najwa Ibrahim Fuʾad, Masrah Yaʿqub Sanuʿ (Cairo: al-Hayʾa al-Misriyya al-ʿAmma li-l-Kitab, 1984); Badawi, Muhammad Mustafa, “The Father of the Modern Egyptian Theatre: Yaʿqub Sannuʿ,” Journal of Arabic Literature 16 (1985): 132–45, esp. 134; Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 89–124. Contemporaries already called attention to Sanua's self-aggrandizing personality: “On remarquera peut-ètre que le Molière égyptien se taille un rôle qui ne brille pas précisement par la modestie.” de Baignieres, Paul, Album d'Abou Naddara (Paris: Imprimerie Lefebvre, 1886), 16.

16 Luqa, “Masrah Yaʿqub Sanuaʿ,” 52.

17 Moosa, “Yaʿqub Sanuʿ,” 408.

18 Schölch, Alexander, Egypt for the Egyptians! The Socio-political Crisis in Egypt, 1878–1882 (London: Ithaca Press, 1981), 107108, 121.

19 In addition to the works cited above, see Hamdan, Masʾud, Poetics, Politics and Protest in Arab Theater: The Bitter Cup and the Holy Rain (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2006); Garfi, Mohamed, Musique et spectacle: le théâtre lyrique arabe. Esquisse d'un itinéraire (1847–1975) (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2009); Khuri-Makdisi, Ilham, The Eastern Mediterranean and the Making of Global Radicalism (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2010); Carmen M. K. Gitre, “Performing Modernity: Theater and Political Culture in Egypt, 1869–1923” (PhD diss., Rutgers University, 2011); Adam Mestyan, “‘A Garden with Mellow Fruits of Refinement’: Music Theatres and Cultural Politics in Cairo and Istanbul, 1867–1892” (PhD diss., Central European University, 2011); and Ettmüller, Eliane Ursula, The Construct of Egypt's Nation-Self in James Sanua's Early Satire and Caricature (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 2012).

20 Fahmy, Ordinary Egyptians, 7.

21 I use the Turkish spellings of names of the Ottoman–Egyptian ruling elite.

22 Bassiouney, Reem (Arabic Sociolinguistics [Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009], 1419) and Ziad Fahmy (Ordinary Egyptians, 5–11) argue that the Arabic linguistic situation cannot be reduced to a simple case of diglossia containing a high and a low language. However, I do not provide further distinctions, since the argument of this essay is not linguistic.

23 İhsanoğlu, Ekmeleddin, The Turks in Egypt and Their Cultural Legacy, trans. Davis, Humphrey (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2012), 3979.

24 There is an urban legend that Abbas liked “Arabs” because his mother was an Egyptian (Arab). John Ninet, “Origin of the National Party in Egypt,” The Nineteenth Century (1883): 117–34. This is incorrect; Abbas was the son of Tusun Pasha and Penbe Hanım, a Turkic woman. For his Arabic language skills, see Murray to Walne, 20 September 1850, FO 78/841, appendix in Rivlin, Helen Anne B., “The Railway Question in the Ottoman-Egyptian Crisis of 1850–1852,” Middle East Journal 15 (1961): 365–88.

25 Hamzah, Dyala, “Nineteenth-Century Egypt as Dynastic Locus of Universality: The History of Muhammad ʿAli by Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Rajabi,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 27 (2007): 6282.

26 Abkariyus, Iskandar, al-Manaqib al-Ibrahimiyya wa-l-Maʾathir al-Khidiwiyya (Homs: Matbaʿat Hims, 1910), 8791.

27 Hadiqat al-Akhbar, 17 Dhu al-Qaʿda 1275 (18 June 1859), 3.

28 Moreh, Shmuel, Modern Arabic Poetry (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1976), 1819.

29 Sabry, Mohammed, La genèse de l'esprit national égyptien (Paris: [Libraire Picart], 1924), 98.

30 For popular colloquial poetry, see Cachia, Pierre, Popular Narrative Ballads of Modern Egypt (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989); Booth, Marilyn, “Colloquial Arabic Poetry, Politics, and the Press in Modern Egypt,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 24 (1992): 419–40; and Larkin, Margaret, “Popular Poetry in the Post-Classical Period, 1150–1850,” in The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature, vol. 6, ed. Allen, Roger and Richards, D.S. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 191242.

31 Al-Bagdadi, Nadia, Vorgestellte Öffentlichkeit (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2010).

32 Bereson, Ruth, The Operatic State: Cultural Policy and the Opera House (London: Routledge, 2002).

33 Said, Edward W., Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), 129.

34 Toledano, Ehud, State and Society in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 231–33.

35 Lane, Edward William, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (The Hague and London: East-West Publications, 1978), 384–85.

36 Mubarak, ʿAli Pasha, ʿAlam al-Din, 2 vols. (Alexandria: al-Mahrusa, 1882), 2:403404; Philipp, Thomas, Ğurği Zaidan—His Life and Thought (Beirut: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1979), 142–43.

37 Moosa, Matti, “Naqqash and the Rise of the Native Arab Theater in Syria,” Journal of Arabic Literature 3 (1972): 106–17; Sadgrove, Philip C., “The Syrian Arab Theatre after Marun Naqqash (the 1850s and the 1860s),” Archív Orientálni 55 (1987): 271–83.

38 Niqula Naqqash, ed., Arzat Lubnan (Beirut: al-Matbaʿa al-ʿUmumiyya, 1869), 4–28; for an analysis of Marun and Salim Naqqash's ideas about theater as a social instrument, see Khuri-Makdisi, The Eastern Mediterranean, 63–67. See also al-Tahtawi, Rifaʿa Rafiʿ, al-Diwan al-Nafis fi Iwan Baris, aw Takhlis al-Ibriz fi Talkhis Bariz (Beirut: al-Muʾassasa al-ʿArabiyya li-l-Dirasat wa-l-Nashr, 2002 [1834]), 139–41. In general, see al-Khatib, Muhammad Kamil, ed., Nazariyyat al-Masrah (Damascus: Manshurat Wizarat al-Thaqafa, 1994); and Schulze, Reinhard, “Schauspiel oder Nachahmung? Zum Theaterbegriff Arabischer Reiseschriftsteller im 19. Jahrhundert,” Die Welt des Islams 34 (1994): 6784.

39 Levant Herald, 5 April 1869, 2.

40 Letter dated 14 January 1870, Draneht to “la Daira des affaires particuliers de Son Altesse le Khédive,” Carton 80, Collection ʿAhd Ismaʿil (old system), Dar al-Wathaʾiq al-Qawmiyya (Egyptian National Archives, hereafter DWQ).

41 Khuri-Makdisi quotes a Theater Regulation (Nizam al-Masrah) from 1874 (The Eastern Mediterranean, 76), based on Najm, al-Masrahiyya, 21–22. The 1874 date is a printing mistake in Najm. The original Italian text is dated 1847, issued by Artin Bey. The original is in DWQ; it was first published by Tagher, Jeanette (“Les débuts du théâtre modern en Égypte,” Cahiers d'Histoire Égyptienne 1 [1948]: 192207, esp. 197), then as Appendix 1 in Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre. Khuri-Makdisi draws unjustified conclusions; this text regulated one specific theater in Alexandria during Mehmet Ali's rule. There might have been a written regulation for the theaters of Ismail Pasha but Draneht personally controlled all of the theaters’ affairs.

42 Letter dated 29 December 1869, Antoine Banucci to the Khedive, 5013-003022, Usrat Muhammad ʿAli (new system), DWQ. Nicole Lablache was at this moment the administrative director of the Opera House, La Revue musicale de Paris, 23 May 1869, 174.

43 Letter dated 11 January 1871, Agent X to M. Nardi, Inspecteur de Police au Caire, 5013–003022, Usrat Muhammad ʿAli (new system), DWQ.

44 Letter dated 27 January 1871, Agent Z to M. Nardi, 5013–003022, Usrat Muhammad ʿAli (new system), DWQ. Hector Horeau (1801–1872), a French architect invited to the Suez Canal Opening Ceremony, gave a lecture in Hotel d'Orient on 7 March 1870. This was advertised in Arabic in Wadi al-Nil, 4 March 1870 (1869 is wrongly printed on the title page), 1347–48 and again, 7 March 1870 (1869 is wrongly printed on the title page), 1363–64.

45 Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 48.

46 For example, Aida was translated into Turkish from Arabic, Letter dated 20 December 1871 from Draneht to Rassik Effendi. The original letter was published in Saleh Abdoun, ed., Genesi dell’ ‘Aida’, con documentazione inedita, Quaderni dell'Istituto di Studi Verdiani 4 (1971), 101, and its English translation in Busch, Hans, Verdi's Aida—The History of an Opera in Letters and Documents (Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press, 1978), 266. A bilingual Italian–French edition of the libretto was also printed: Aida—Opera in 4 atti e 7 quadri, parole di A. Ghislanzoni, musica del Comm. G. Verdi, scritta per comissione Sua Altezza Il Khedive per il Teatro dell'Opera del Cairo e rappresentata per la prima volta su queste scene nei mese di Decembre 1871 (Cairo: Tipografia francese Delbos-Demouret, 1871).

47 Muhammad Unsi, “Malʿab al-Ubira bi-Misr al-Qahira,” Wadi al-Nil, 28 Dhu al-Qaʿda 1286 (28 February 1870; 1869 is wrongly printed on the title page), 1332.

48 Ibrahim al-Muwaylihi's press, al-Matbaʿa al-Wahbiyya, was established in 1868, according to Ibrahim El Mouelhy Pacha, “Les Mouelhy en Égypte,” Cahiers d'Histoire Egyptienne (1949/50): 313–28, esp. 319; however, there are books available in library catalogs printed in this press earlier, from hijri year 1281 (1864–65).

49 Wadi al-Nil, 20 Shaʿban 1287 (15 November 1870), 2–3. Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 58–59, accepts that the translator was ʿUthman Jalal and calls Tartuffe and Le Malade imaginaire “operatic libretti” (The Egyptian Theatre, 100). However, these are not operas (although Le Malade imaginaire contains musical intersections). Carol Bardenstein rejects the idea of Jalal translating libretti, in Translation and Transformation in Modern Arabic Literature: The Indigenous Assertions of Muhammad ʿUthman Jalal (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005), 36.

50 Since Jalal in his autobiography describes his difficulties with finding a publisher in the 1850s and somehow vaguely relates that he printed the translation of La Fontaine on his own expense, it has been commonly thought that it was published for the first time in 1870. Moreh and Sadgrove, Jewish Contributions, 20; Bardenstein, Translation and Transformation, 32, n. 20. But the book was first printed in August 1858 (Dhu al-Hijja 1274) (Cairo: Matbaʿat al-Hajar, 1858); copies could even be bought in Beirut: see Hadiqat al-Akhbar, 12 Muharram 1276 (11 August 1859), 4.

51 Al-Jawaʾib, 22 February 1871, 2.

52 Al-Jawaʾib, 12 April 1871, 2.

53 Al-Jinan as quoted in al-Jawaʾib, 10 May 1871, 2.

54 Quoted in Bardenstein, Translation and Transformation, 105.

55 L’Égypte, 9 July 1871, and L'Avvenire d'Egitto, as quoted in Tagher, “Les débuts,” 206. Al-Jawaʾib only later reports on the “first night” of the theater, in its issue of 16 August 1871, 2. We can only guess which plays were sent from Beirut; those already in print included plays by Tannus al-Hurr (1863), al-Sayyid Salam Ramadan (1867), Ibrahim al-Ahdab (1868, 1870), Marun Naqqash (plays in Arzat Lubnan, 1869), Saʿd Allah al-Bustani (1870) (years indicate the dates of the published texts).

56 Wadi al-Nil, quoted in al-Jawaʾib, 27 August 1871, 3; Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 98.

57 L'Avvenire d'Egitto, 10 October 1871, quoted in Tagher, “Les débuts,” 206.

58 L'Avvenire d'Egitto, 4 January 1872, quoted in Tagher, “Les débuts,” 206.

59 Al-Jawaʾib, 28 March 1872, 2.

60 Al-Jawaʾib, 11 April 1872, 2.

61 Al-Jawaʾib, 17 April 1872, 2.

62 Al-Waqaʾiʿ al-Misriyya, 7 May 1872, as translated in Sadgrove, “Leyla—The First Egyptian Tragedy,” 167–68; this article was also reprinted in Najm's introduction to ʿAbd al-Fattah al-Misri, Luʿbat Layla, 1.

63 ʿAbd al-Fattah al-Misri, Luʿbat Layla, 3; Sadgrove, “Leyla—The First Egyptian Tragedy,” 164; idem, The Egyptian Theatre, 107–108.

64 Sadgrove, “Leyla—The First Egyptian Tragedy,” 168; Goldziher, Ignaz, “Jugend- und Strassenpoesie in Kairo,” Zeitschriften der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 33 (1879): 608–30, esp. 609, n. 3.

65 Le Nil, 9 July 1872, quoted in Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 108.

66 Somewhat later texts that refer to this theater as James Sanua's include: an article from Le Nil (1873), quoted in Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 117; Jacques Chelley, “Le Moliére Egyptien,” L'Abou Naddara, 1 August 1906, 2–3, who quotes an article from the journal Ezbekié (publisher: Jules Barbier) of 1873 and an issue of the journal Karagöz (publisher: Jablin) of 6 May 1876; and Jerrold, Blanchard, Egypt under Ismail Pacha (London: Samuel Tinsley, 1879), 216.

67 Wadi al-Nil, quoted in al-Jawaʾib, 27 August 1871, 3.

68 First published as appendix 3 to Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 186–95. It is in Carton 80, ʿAhd Ismaʿil (old system), DWQ.

69 Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 97, believes that the author of the plays mentioned in al-Jawaʾib (16 August 1871, 2) was indeed an Englishman.

70 Al-Jawaʾib, 29 May 1872, 2. See also Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 107.

71 Ettmüller, The Construct, 63–64.

72 Sanua, James, L'arabo anziano (Cairo: Nouva Tipografia di P. Cumbo, 1869).

73 Quoted in Sadgrove, “Leyla—The First Egyptian Tragedy,” 166.

74 Published by Jules Barbier, quoted in Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theater, 119; ʿAbduh, Abu Nazzara, 214.

75 Abu Naddara Zarqaʾ, no. 1 (25 March 1878): 4. He also authored an Egyptian Arabic phrase book for travelers in 1876 in which he transliterated his name as “Gems Sanua.” James Sanua, Petit souvenir de James Sanua aux voyageurs Européens en Egypte (Cairo: J. Barbier, 1876), 14.

76 Al-Sadaqa, in Najm, Yaʿqub Sannuʿ, 134.

77 Sanua signed a letter in 1881 as Abū Naẓẓāra Bayḍāʾ, published in Moreh, Shmuel, “Yaʿqub Sanuʿ: His Religious Identity and Work in the Theater and Journalism, According to the Family Archive,” in The Jews of Egypt: A Mediterranean Society in Modern Times, ed. Shamir, Shimon (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1987), 111–29, and Appendix C, “The Correspondence of Sanua,” 244–64, esp. 244. In this correspondence, Ibrahim al-Muwaylihi calls him James; Mahmud Zaki addresses him as al-Shaykh Abū Naẓẓāra; and Philip de Tarrazi in 1911 writes Shaykh. De Baigniers, despite often using his name as Abou Naddara in French, also employs James Sanua, for instance, in Album d'Abou Naddara, 9. Jamal al-Din al-Afghani dedicated a photo to al-Shaykh Jams Abū Naẓẓāra, printed in ʿAbduh, Abu Nazzara, 13. Sanua introduces himself in English to Wilfrid Blunt as “your most humble servant James Sanua, surnamed Abou-Naddara Zarka.” Letter dated 11 April 1883, from Sanua to Blunt, Box 54, Blunt Collection, West Sussex Record Office, Chichester.

78 “An Arabic Punch,” The Saturday Review, 26 July 1879, 112; “Abou Naddarah,” The Academy, 30 August 1879, 158.

79 Ninet, “Origin of the National Party in Egypt,” 127; and Ninet, John, Au Pays des Khédives: Plaquettes Égyptiennes (Genève: Imprimerie Schira, 1890), 32.

80 Moreh, Shmuel, “New Light on Yaʿqūb Sanua's Life and Editorial Work through His Paris Archive,” in Writer, Culture, Text: Studies in Modern Arabic Literature, ed. Elad, Ami (Fredericton: York Press, 1993), 101–15, esp. 102.

81 di Tarrazi (Philip de Tarrazi), Filib, Taʾrikh al-Sihafa al-ʿArabiyya, 4 parts in 2 vols. (Beirut: al-Matbaʿa al-Adabiyya, 1913, 1914, 1933), vol. 1, part 2, 282–86. In the entry Jarāʾid Abī Naẓẓāra, Tarrazi uses Yaʿqūb Ṣanūʿ (Jams Sānuwā) al-maʿrūf bi-Abī Naẓẓāra, vol. 1, part 2, 254. Sanua was in contact with Tarrazi in early 1911 about his biographical entry in this book. Tarrazi's letter and Sanua's answer are printed in Moreh, “Yaʿqub Sanuʿ: His Religious Identity and Work,” Appendix C, 259–262; and Moreh, “New Light on Yaʿqub Sanua's Life,” 104–105.

82 In Arabic script, ʿAbduh calls him Yaʿqūb bin Ṣanūʿ, for instance, Abu Nazzara, 17; Najm uses Yaʿqūb Ṣannūʿ in al-Masrahiyya, 77; Luqa prefers Yaʿqūb Ṣanūaʿ in Arabic (and “James Sanua” in French, in Louca, Anouar, Voyageurs et écrivains égyptiens en France au XIXe siècle [Paris: Didier, 1970], 153–78); ʿAnus uses Yaʿqūb Ṣanūʿ. In English, Gendzier calls him “Yaʿqub Sanuʿ,” Badawi, Moosa, and Levy use the fully transliterated Yaʿqūb Ṣanūʿ; Fahmy uses Yaʿqub Sannuʿ. In contrast, El Saïd Atia Abul Naga in French (Les sources françaises du théâtre égyptien [Algiers: Société Nationale d'Edition et de Diffusion, 1972], 75–107) and Sadgrove and Ettmüller in English mention him only as James Sanua.

83 Sanuʿ, Yaʿqub, Mulyir Misr wa-ma Yuqasihi (Beirut: al-Matbaʿa al-Adabiyya, 1912).

84 This was part of his signature in Abu Naddara Zarqaʾ, 25 March 1878, 4.

85 Le Cheikh J. Sanua Abou Naddara Chaër-el-Mulk, “Ma vie en vers et mon théâtre en prose” (a lecture held in 1902, published in 1912), republished in part as appendix 2, in Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 172–85, esp. 184.

86 Moosa asserts that Sanua came perhaps the closest to this claim in his play Mulyir Misr. Moosa, “Yaʿqub Sanuʿ,” 404, n. 5.

87 Sanua, “Ma vie,” in Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 173. Khuri-Makdisi, The Eastern Mediterranean, 67, based on Gendzier, The Practical Visions, 31, who gives no source for this information, states that Jamal al-Din al-Afghani advised Sanua on establishing the theater troupe as a means of “promoting radical ideas.” Al-Afghani during his first forty-day visit to Cairo in 1869 possibly did not meet Sanua. Keddie, Nikki R., Sayyid Jamal Ad-Din Al-Afghani: A Political Biography (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1972), 81. When al-Afghani arrived for the second time in Egypt, in March 1871, he received a monthly salary of 1000 ghurush based on the support of Riyad Pasha; see Pasha, Amin Sami, Taqwim al-Nil, 3 parts in 6 vols., the 3rd part is in 3 vols (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub wa-l-Wathaʾiq al-Qawmiyya, 2003–2004 [1936]), 3rd part, vol. 2, 913; and Keddie, Sayyid Jamal Ad-Din Al-Afghani, 81–82, n. 1. Thus, at least in his first months, it is not probable that al-Afghani was openly against the khedive. Khuri-Makdisi also claims that al-Afghani saw “the establishment of an Egyptian theater as the most effective way of promoting radical ideas,” and that his “influence on the development of the theater was continued by two of his most active disciples, Salim Naqqash and Adib Ishaq” (The Eastern Mediterranean, 198, n. 36). Exactly the contrary occured: Naqqash and Ishaq arrived in Egypt in 1876 as theater artists, but due to the influence of al-Afghani both left the theater for journalism, just as Sanua did. There is no evidence so far that al-Afghani had any influence on the origins of Sanua's theater.

88 Sanua, “Ma vie,” in Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 173. If “mes élèves” refers to his official job, then the students should be from the Muhandiskhane, L’École Polytechnique in Cairo, where he was a teacher. Moosa, “Yaʿqub Sanuʿ,” 405. In Mulyir Misr the actors have mostly Christian Arab or foreign names (Mitri, Habib, Istifan, Ilyas, Butrus, Matilda, Liza) with the exception of ʿAbd al-Haliq. Perhaps some of them were street entertainers. Theater historians have made attempts to identify Sanua's theater as an example of Egyptian street entertainment. Most recently, al-Musaylihi, in Suʾali, 57–60, argues that the actors and Sanua were awlād rābiya.

89 Sanua, L'arabo anziano, 3–4. Sanua's relation to Morpurgo is obscure.

90 Gendzier mentions two additional early Italian works of Sanua: Amore e disincanno (Cairo, 1865; perhaps Amore e disinganno); and La musa egizia di James Sanua (Cairo, 1873). Gendzier, The Practical Visions, 143. I could not locate these books.

91 For example, see the anonymous poem “La notte e il giorno - imitazione dell’ arabo moderno,” Lo Spettatore Egiziano, 13 October 1855, 4.

92 Sanua, L'arabo anziano, 35–36, 41–42.

93 Landau claims that Sanua wrote Italian plays before Arabic ones; Sadgrove maintains the opposite. Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 124, n. 121. L'Arabo anziano proves that Sanua had written dialogues in Italian before 1870.

94 Konrad, Felix, Der Hof der Khediven—Herrscherhaushalt, Hofgesellschaft und Hofhaltung, 1840–1880 (Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 2008), 125–27, and the table on 220.

95 Sanua, “Ma vie,” in Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 174.

96 Letter dated 27 May 1871 and letter dated 2 June 1871, both from Riaz to Barillet, Carton 62, ʿAhd Ismaʿil (old system), DWQ. The final inauguration of the Garden took place in 1872. Limido, Luisa, L'art des jardins sous le Second Empire: Jean-Pierre Barillet-Deschamps (1824–1873) (Seyssel: Champs Vallon, 2002), 209.

97 Letter dated 3 April 1871, from Levasseur, Carton 62, ʿAhd Ismaʿil (old system), DWQ.

98 Draneht left for Milan on 29 April 1871 and arrived back in Cairo around 10 October. Letter dated 28 April 1871, Draneht to Mariette, and letter dated 12 October 1871, Draneht to Mariette, cited in Busch, Verdi's Aida, 154, 236.

99 Letters dated 31 May 1871, Rosenboom to Grand, and 1 June 1871, Grand to Riaz Pasha, Carton 80, ʿAhd Ismaʿil (old system), DWQ.

100 It is impossible to fully reconstruct the repertoire of the Arabic troupe even in its short one-year existence. It certainly performed comedies by Sanua, a play entitled al-Jawharji by a young Egyptian, Layla by ʿAbd al-Fattah al-Misri, and probably al-Bakhil by Marun Naqqash. (Arzat Lubnan, which contained Naqqash's al-Bakhil, was available in 1870 in Cairo.) It has been often suggested that some of Muhammad ʿUthman Jalal's translations were also performed but nothing confirms this assumption. Bardenstein, Translation and Transformation, 146.

101 Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London: Verso Books, 2006), 30, 198.

102 ʿAbd al-Fattah al-Misri, Luʿbat Layla, 33.

103 Ibid., 44.

104 Ibid., 4.

105 This is similar to the number given by ʿAbd al-Fattah, who wrote that his friend composed “more than twelve plays.” ʿAbd al-Fattah al-Misri, Luʿbat Layla, 3; Sadgrove, “Leyla—The First Egyptian Tragedy,” 164. An often mentioned lost play is Patrie et Liberté or al-Watan wa-l-Hurriyya (for instance, Moosa, “Yaʿqub Sanuʿ,” 408; and Moreh and Sadgrove, Jewish Contributions, 23) but so far nothing affirms its existence or performance. The play Mulyir Misr (1912) must be excluded from the performed works in 1871–72. Badawi, “The Father of the Modern Egyptian Theater,” 143; Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 113; Levy, “Jewish Writers,” 161. Because of the absence of publication, it is not certain that all of Sanua's works in manuscript were performed and vice versa. The printed works include Mulyir Misr and six comedies with one short dialogue (manuscripts discovered by Luqa, published by Najm, 1963). A number of theatrical texts appeared in Sanua's various journals; Najwa Ibrahim ʿAnus collected these in Yaʿqub Sanuʿ, al-Luʿbat al-Tiyatriyya (Cairo: al-Hayʾa al-Misriyya al-ʿAmma li-l-Kitab, 1987); see Ettmüller, The Construct, 101.

106 Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 114, repeats Moosa, “Yaʿqub Sanuʿ,” 430.

107 Al-Sadaqa, in Najm, Yaʿqub Sannuʿ, 128.

108 Al-Amira al-Iskandaraniyya, in Najm, Yaʿqub Sannuʿ, 154, 167.

109 Moreh and Sadgrove, Jewish Contributions, 22.

110 Moosa, “Yaʿqub Sanuʿ,” 418; Fahmy, Ordinary Egyptians, 46.

111 Wadi al-Nil, quoted in al-Jawaʾib, 27 August 1871, 3. In Sadgrove's translation (The Egyptian Theatre, 98) the difference between dārija and adabiyya is the difference between colloquial and literary Arabic. I slightly modified the translation.

112 For example, Moosa, “Yaʿqub Sanuʿ,” 406; and Fahmy, Ordinary Egyptians, 46.

113 Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 111. He bases this explanation on Jerrold's report about the promised financial support and on Mulyir Misr, in which the actors constantly ask for payment. Louis Awad hypothesized that Khedive Ismail denied financial aid because of Sanua's support of his uncle Abdülhalim. Louis Awad, The Literature of Ideas in Egypt, Part 1 (Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press, 1986), 71. Although after 1878 Sanua indeed favored Abdülhalim, there is no evidence for this in those early years.

114 Abu Nazzara Zarqa, 1 July 1879, 2.

115 Sanua, “Ma vie,” in Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 178.

116 Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 109.

117 The Levant Times and Shipping Gazette, 26 June 1872, 2.

118 Sadgrove, The Egyptian Theatre, 137–38.

119 Ettmüller, The Construct, 86.

120 Abu Nazzara Zarqa, 1 July 1879, 2.

121 Nadim, ʿAbd al-Fattah, ed., Sulafat al-Nadim fi al-Muntakhabat al-Sayyid ʿAbd Allah al-Nadim, 2 vols. (Cairo: Matbaʿa Hindiyya, 1914), 1:37.

122 Weaver, William, Verdi: A Documentary Study (London: Thames and Hudson, 1977), 225.

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
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