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Yehia Molden

20 questions for: Yehia Moldan (#24)

Episode #24 of my series “9273 roots”: 20 questions for the man who takes Arabic calligraphy to a new level: Yehia Moldan.

Last updated: June 2, 2021

Lisān al-‘Arab (لسان العرب), the famous dictionary of Classical Arabic, contains 9273 roots (and 4,493.934 words). A huge playground for people who are passionate about Arabic such as…

Yehia Moldan

يحيى مولدان

The man who takes Arabic calligraphy to a new level.

Yehia Molden

left (سوريا), middle (شايف البحر شو كبير), right (أمل)
picture credit: https://www.instagram.com/yehiamoldan/

How would you introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know you?

It depends on the person and the area that I’m introducing myself to, but generally, I’d say that I am a writer and graphic designer.


What was your first Arabic grammar book?

My school books.


What is your favorite Arabic book (novel, etc.)?

The polymath (العلّامة) by Bensalem Himmich (بنسالم حميش)

book the polymath

–> What’s the story?

The polymath is an award-winning historical novel that tells the life of the Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun, using historical sources, and particularly material from the writer’s works, to construct the personal and intellectual universe of a fourteenth-century genius. The dominant concern of the novel the uneasy relationship between intellectuals and political power, between scholars and authority addresses our times through the transparent veil of history.

Bensalem Himmich, born in Meknes/Morocco in 1945, is a novelist, poet, essayist, professor of philosophy, and a former Minister of Culture for Morocco. He received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Paris and writes in both Arabic and French. The Egyptian Writers’ Union selected his novel Majnoun Al-Hukm (The Theocrat) as one of the 100 best novels of the 20th Century, and another novel, Mu’adhdhibati (My Torturess), was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Himmich received the grand award of the French Academy of Toulouse in 2011.


How much time does a native English speaker need to master Arabic?

It depends on the person and his or her time. It is like any other language, I guess.


What is your favorite Arabic word?

اِنْعِكاس – reflection


Which Arabic word do you like least?

I never thought about it that way and I can’t find a word now.


Which Arabic dialect do you like best?

Egyptian Arabic.


What is your favorite Arabic colloquial word or expression?

معلش – it is okay.


What is your favorite Arabic quote or proverb?

A line by Abū al-ʿAtāhiyah (أبو العتاهية):

طَلَبْتُ الْمُسْتَقَرَّ بِكُلِّ أَرْضٍ

فَلَمْ أَرَ لِي بِأَرْضٍ مُسْتَقَرَّا أَطَعْتُ مَطَامِعِي فَاسْتَعْبَدَتْنِي

وَلَوْ أَنِّي قَنِعْتُ لَكُنْتُ حُرَّا

Remark: This is a line of Classical Arabic poetry. It is difficult to translate ancient poetry, especially, if you want to express rhythm, sound, etc. I would like to give a rough translation which aims at giving you an idea of the above lines:

I looked throughout the world for a resting place – but there is no more resting place in the world for me.
I followed my inclinations, and they led me into slavery; ah! If only I were happy with my fate, I would be free.

How was Abu al-Atahiya?

Abū l-ʻAtāhiyya (أبو العتاهية‎) – full name: Abu Ishaq Ismā’īl ibn Qāsim al-ʻAnazī (أبو إسحاق إسماعيل إبن قاسم العنزي‎) – was an Arab poet (748–828). Many scholars say that he was the first Arab poet to break with the conventions established by the pre-Islamic poets of the desert. The older poetry of the desert had been constantly imitated up to this time, although it was not natural to town life. Abu al-Atahiya used a simpler and freer language of the village.

He was born in Ayn al-Tamr in the Iraqi desert, near al-Anbar. He grew up in a poor family which may explain his nontraditional poetic style. He spent his youth in Kufa where he was engaged for some time in selling pottery. Moving to Baghdad, he continued his business there, but became famous for his verses. He is also regarded as one of the earliest philosophical poets of the Arabs. Much of his poetry is concerned with the observation of common life and morality, and at times is pessimistic.He died in 828.


What is the best thing that was ever said about the Arabic language?

That it is like any other language.


What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?

You can learn everything.


More examples of Yehia’s work.

left: بغداد *** right: حب

picture credit: https://www.instagram.com/yehiamoldan/
email for commissions: [email protected]


Which three people would you like to invite for dinner?

It depends on my mood.


What was the last great meal you had?

Vietnamese food (but I disliked it actually).


What is your favorite city?

I don’t have any.


Which book would you give to a dear friend?

Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History by Eduardo Galeano

  • Nation Books

–> What’s the story?

This book is shaped like a calendar. Each day brings with it a story: a journey, feast or tragedy that really happened on that date, from all possible years and all corners of the world. From Abdul Kassem Ismail, the tenth-century Persian who never went anywhere without his library – all seventeen thousand books of it, on four hundred camels; to the Brazilian city of Sorocaba, which on February 8, 1980, responded to the outlawing of public kissing by becoming one huge kissodrome; to July 1, 2008, the day the US government decided to remove Nelson Mandela’s name from its list of dangerous terrorists.


What is your all-time favorite movie?

The shining (1980)

For those who haven’t seen this movie with Jack Nicholson: A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future.


What music do you listen to?

Disco.


More examples of Yehia’s work.

left: شام *** middle: مختلف *** right: نار

picture credit: https://www.instagram.com/yehiamoldan/
email for commissions: [email protected]


When were you happiest?

When I was in love.


What is your greatest fear?

The future.


What is your life motto?

We are all people.


Yehia Moldan, thank you for your time.

Picture credit: Yehia Moldan.

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