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An 11th Century Love Story from al-Andalus

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In 1059 the governor of Shilb (modern-day Silves in Portugal), Prince Muhammad ibn Abbad, was visiting Seville. He was taking a walk along the river Wad al-Kebir (Guadalquivir) with his friend, the renowned poet Ibn Ammar. The prince came to a stop, and improvised the first part of a verse:

Sana’ al-rihu min al-ma’i zarad (The wind has made of the water a coat of mail)

and he suggested that the poet should complete the verse. Ibn Ammar’s mind went blank, and suddenly a young washerwoman on the riverbank called out:

Ayyu dir’in li-qitalin law jamad  (What battle-armour that would make, if it should freeze!)

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The prince was so impressed with the young woman that he paid off her master, and they married. He went on to inherit the kingdom of Seville from his father. She became a famous poet, I’timad Arrumaikiyya. In the end, an Almoravid sultan deposed him, and he was imprisoned for the rest of his life. I’timad remained close to him, and he died just a few days after her.

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