Alfu Lela Ulela: The Swahili Version of the Thousand and One Nights


Alfu Lela Ulela: The Swahili Version of the Thousand and One Nights

Alfu Lela Ulela is a Swahili translation of the famous Arabic collection of stories known as the Thousand and One Nights or Alf Layla wa-Layla. The stories are narrated by Shahrazad, a clever and courageous woman who tells tales to her husband, King Shahriyar, every night to postpone her execution. The stories are full of magic, adventure, romance, humor and wisdom.

The Swahili version of Alfu Lela Ulela was first published in 1929 by Edward Steere, an Anglican missionary and bishop who translated the stories from an English edition based on an Arabic manuscript. Steere’s translation was part of the colonial project of introducing world literature to the Swahili-speaking people of East Africa. However, his translation was not faithful to the original Arabic text and omitted many stories and details that he considered inappropriate or irrelevant for his audience.

In 1996, a new project of translating Alfu Lela Ulela into Swahili was initiated by Hassan Adam, a Tanzanian scholar and writer who has command of three languages: German, English and Arabic. Adam’s translation is based on the most complete and authentic Arabic edition of the Thousand and One Nights, edited by Muhsin Mahdi. Adam’s translation aims to preserve the richness and diversity of the original stories and to present them in a clear and elegant Swahili language. Adam’s translation consists of eight volumes, each containing about 30 stories.

Alfu Lela Ulela is a treasure of world literature that has influenced many writers and artists across cultures and times. It is also a valuable source of information about the history, society, culture and values of the medieval Islamic world. By reading Alfu Lela Ulela in Swahili, one can enjoy the beauty and wisdom of these stories and also appreciate the linguistic and literary skills of the translators who have brought them to life in a different language.

Some of the most famous stories in Alfu Lela Ulela are those of Sindbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, and the Seven Voyages of Sindbad. These stories have been adapted into various forms of media, such as movies, cartoons, comics, video games and musicals. They have also inspired many other works of fiction, such as The Arabian Nights by Jorge Luis Borges, The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, and The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh.

Alfu Lela Ulela is not only a collection of stories, but also a reflection of the human condition. The stories explore themes such as love, justice, power, fate, free will, morality, identity and gender. They also show the diversity and complexity of the characters, who are not always good or evil, but often have flaws and virtues. The stories also challenge the stereotypes and prejudices that some people may have about the Islamic world and its culture.

Alfu Lela Ulela is a book that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. It is a book that can teach us many lessons and values, such as courage, compassion, creativity and curiosity. It is a book that can make us laugh, cry, wonder and dream. It is a book that can enrich our minds and souls with its stories.

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