Al Zajal is an entertaining, generally improvised Levantine poetry battle that takes place in public, usually over a mezza (a Lebanese meal with lots of small appetizers). Two rival “teams” of poets (“zajjalin”) square off against each other and make up clever verses that the audience often repeats, competing to see which becomes more popular with the crowd. In Lebanon Zajals are spoken/sung in colloquial Arabic and generally deemed an artform of the rural population or working class Christians, Druze and Shiites.

Zajjalin may be professionals, traveling from event to event. The most accomplished zajjalin rise to considerable fame in Lebanon and Palestine, two places where Al Zajal parties are still popular. Everyone wants to party with those guys.

In class we’re going to break into teams of zajjalin and try to out-poetry each other, ideally working ourselves into a zajal-rific frenzy.

More information:
AlZajal.com | Wikipedia on the Zajal | A zajal isn’t much to look at, but it’s a great listen | A black and white zajal | “ZAJAL-WALID SARKISS VS ABOU NADER (LEBANON VS SYRIA)” |

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