Arabic Language Blog

Bread, Hashish and Moon Posted by on Dec 22, 2012 in Arabic Language, Culture, Grammar, Vocabulary

In this post, I want to introduce you to one of my favorite Arab poets, Nizar Qabbani (نزار قباني), and consequently some verses from one of his most famous poem called ‘ Bread, Hashish and Moon’ (خبز وحشيش وقمر) Born in Syria in 1923, Qabbani was a diplomat and poet. He was born into a middle-class merchant family and was the grandnephew of the prominent Arab playwright Abu Khalil Al Qabbani. He majored in law at the University of Damascus, where he graduated in 1945. Following his graduation, Qabbani began his career as a diplomat by serving in several Syrian embassies in Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Britain and China among other states. After his political career, Qabbani retired and relocated to Beirut, Lebanon where he founded a publishing company called Manshurat Nizar Qabbani.

After Qabbani established his publishing company, he devoted his entire time to writing poetry. He reflected on various themes, like love, patriotism, nationalism, and broader political issues. Qabbani’s poetry shifted in style, from classic form to free verse. His poetry is widely recognized for capturing the rhythms of everyday Syrian speech, better recognized as Syrian colloquial.


One of the most frequent themes in Qabbani’s poetry centers on the experiences of women in traditional Arab societies. In a previous post, I posted an excerpt from an article that portrayed the limited career opportunities for women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Qabbani was among the first poets to recognize these limitations largely due to what his late sister had experienced. His late sister was unwilling to marry a man she did not love and she viewed her only way out was by committing suicide. This tragic incident had a remarkable and tremendous effect on Qabbani’s writing. For instance in Qasaid min Nizar Qabbani (قصائد من نزار قباني)published in 1956, Qabbani voiced his resentment of male chauvinism. Also, the same work included his famous ‘Bread, Hashish and Moon,’ which was a harsh attack on the weak and impoverished nature of societies that live in a haze of fantasies.


Following a prolific writing career that was truly much advanced for the times in which Qabbani was writing, he laid down his pen and passed away in 1998. In addition to his critical viewpoints, Qabbani shared his views on love and romance and more importantly on the political grievances of impoverished people living under occupation, dictatorships and tutelage in the Middle East and North Africa.

Bread, Hashish And Moon

خبز وحشيش وقمر

When the moon is born in the east,

عندما يُولدُ في الشرقِ القَمرْ
And the white rooftops drift asleep

فالسطوحُ البيضُ تغفو…
Under the heaped-up light,

تحتَ أكداسِ الزَّهرْ
People leave their shops and march forth in groups

يتركُ الناسُ الحوانيتَ.. ويمضونَ زُمرْ
To meet the moon

لملاقاةِ القمرْ..
Carrying bread, and a radio, to the mountaintops,

يحملونَ الخبزَ، والحاكي، إلى رأسِ الجبالْ
And their narcotics.

ومعدَّاتِ الخدرْ..
There they buy and sell fantasies

ويبيعونَ، ويشترونَ.. خيالْ
And images,

And die – as the moon comes to life.

ويموتونَ إذا عاشَ القمرْ
What does that luminous disc

ما الذي يفعلهُ قرصُ ضياءْ
Do to my homeland?

The land of the prophets

وببلادِ الأنيباْ..

The land of the simple,

وبلادِ البسطاءْ..
The chewers of tobacco, the dealers in drug?

ماضغي التبغِ، وتجَّارِ الخدرْ
What does the moon do to us,

ما الذي يفعلهُ فينا القمرْ؟
That we squander our valor

فنضيعُ الكبرياءْ
And live only to beg from Heaven?

ونعيشُ لنستجدي السماءْ
What has the heaven

ما الذي عندَ السماءْ
For the lazy and the weak?

لكُسالى ضعفاءْ
When the moon comes to life they are changed to corpses,

يستحيلونَ إلى موتى.. إذا عاشَ القمرْ..
And shake the tombs of the saints,

ويهزّونَ قبور الأولياءْ

Hoping to be granted some rice, some children…

ترزقُهم رزّاً وأطفالاً..

They spread out their fine and elegant rugs,

ويمدّونَ السجاجيدَ الأنيقاتِ الطُررْ

And console themselves with an opium

يتسلّونَ بأفيونٍ..

we call fate

نسمّيهِ قدرْ..
And destiny.


Have a great day!

نهاركم سعيد

Tags: , ,
Keep learning Arabic with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: jesa

Salam everyone! Born as an American to two originally Arab parents, I have been raised and have spent most of my life in Beirut, Lebanon. I have lived my good times and my bad times in Beirut. I was but a young child when I had to learn to share my toys and food with others as we hid from bombs and fighting during the Lebanese Civil War. I feel my connection to Arabic as both a language and culture is severing and so it is with you, my readers and fellow Arabic lovers, and through you that I wish to reestablish this connection by creating one for you.


  1. almotarjem: