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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Ah Ya Helu
(O Beautiful)

This page contains a translation into English of the song lyrics to the traditional Syrian folk song "Ah Ya Helu". Also included are the Arabic lyrics transliterated into the Roman alphabet so you can sing along if you like. Artists who have recorded it include Sabah Fakhri and Mohmed Kheyri. The song title is sometimes written as "Ya Hilou Ya Msallini" or "Ah Ya Helu Ya Msaliny".

Maqamat: Bayati and Karjeghar
Rhythm: Masmoudi Kabir, which is in 8/4

Song lyrics are provided for educational purposes. If you like the song, please purchase either the album or a download from an authorized source.




Arabic Lyrics

English Translation



Ah ya helu ya msallini O beautiful, O companion,
Ya-lli be-nar el-hajre kawini You are the one who burns me with the fire of abandonment.
Emla-l-mudam ya jamil we-s'ini ya e-ni Fill the cup O beautiful and give it to me to drink (O my eye)
Min kotre sho'i alek ma b-anam Because of my ardent desire for you I cannot sleep.

Repeat Chorus.

Repeat Chorus.


Verse 1:

Verse 1:

Habbet jamil we ya retni dello (3 times) I fell in love with a beauty, I wish I were her shadow (3 times)
Ya eni O my eye
Haz-el-jamal we-l-hosne kollo She won all beauty and good character.
Lamma ra-eto malak fo-adi (3 times) When I found that she took possession of my heart (3 times)
Ya eni O my eye
Sabbarte 'albi we hamalte zello I asked for my heart to be patient and carried along my humiliation

Verse 2:

Verse 2:

Abyad we ya, ya lon-el-yasmin (3 times) White the color of jasmine (3 times)
Ya eni O my eye
Ya-lli 'ala khaddak yetshaf-el-wardi On her cheeks one can see flowers
We hyat khududak we-l-jebin (3 times) By the life of your cheeks and forehead (3 times)
Ya eni O my eye
Inni asir-el-mawadda I am the prisoner of love and friendship.

Verse 3:

Verse 3:

Ma zane albi tensani (3 times) It never occurred to my heart that you would forget me (3 times)
Ya eni O my eye
We yzid fi hobbak ashjani And that my grief would increase
Ud ya jamil (ya-khi) ud li tani (3 times) Come back O beautiful, come back again. (3 times)
Ya eni O my eye
Min kotre sho'i alek ma b-anam Because of my ardent desire for you I cannot sleep.



Where to Get Recordings of this Song

Traditional Songs from Syria CD Cover  

Artist: Zein Al-Jundi
CD Title: Traditional Songs from Syria



About the Contributor

This translation was done by Dr. George Sawa for Yasmina Ramzy of Arabesque Academy of Toronto, Canada. I'd like to thank Yasmina for making this translation available to you via my web site.

Yasmina Ramzy has been performing, teaching, and choreographing Middle Eastern dance since 1981. She has toured extensively throughout Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, England, Mexico, the United States, and Canada as a soloist and with her company, sometimes performing for royalty and heads of state in many of these countries. She is the Artistic Director of Arabesque Academy, School of Culture-Specific Dance and the Arabesque Dance Company. Although Yasmina has dedicated her life to Middle Eastern dance, she also produces Gypsy and Dancenet which are culture-specific dance and music events with an educational slant. She is also a member of Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists and serves of the board of directors for Dance Ontario.



About the Translator

Dr. George Sawa was born in Alexandria, Egypt. He has over 50 years of experience in Arabic music performance, history and theory, and has performed and lectured extensively worldwide: Canada, USA, Brazil, Mexico, Europe (Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Greece) and the Middle East (Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates). He studied qanun, theory and voice at the Higher Institute of Arabic Music.

After immigrating to Canada, Dr. Sawa studied ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto, and obtained his doctorate in historical Arabic musicology. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses on medieval, modern, and religious music of the Middle East at the University of Toronto and at York University.

Dr. Sawa is the author of:

  • Music Performance Practice in the Early Abbasid Era. 132-320 AH/750-932 AD
  • Rhythmic Theories and Practices in Arabic Writings to 339AH/950 CE (Ottawa: The Institute of Mediaeval Music, 2004 and 2009)
  • An Arabic Musical and Socio-Cultural Glossary of Kitab al-Aghani (The Book of Songs) of al-Isbahani (d. 971) (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2015).
  • Egyptian Music Appreciation and Practice for Bellydancers

Dr. Sawa has published over 50 articles on Arabic music in refereed journals and encyclopedias, and is frequently invited to give lectures and concerts worldwide. In 2005, he received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Egyptian Ministry of Culture for his research in Arabic music history.

George Sawa

George has been the musical director for several productions of the Toronto-based Arabesque Dance Company, and taught hundreds of dancers at the Arabesque Academy and Hannan's Bellydance Studio in Toronto, as well as studios in Canada, USA, Brazil and Mexico. His first CD release, The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, Vol. 1, was nominated for a JUNO Award in World Music in 2009. A subsequent volume, The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, Vol. 2, was released in 2009.

His book Egyptian Music Appreciation and Practice for Bellydancers has won international acclaim and serves as an invaluable - one of a kind - companion to bellydancers all over the world. (It is available in English, Chinese, French, Greek, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, German and Portuguese). A companion set of two DVDs produced with Lulu Hartenbach in Brazil includes over 50 tracks of dancing instruction from his CDs and book: Lulu and George Dimitri Sawa. Apreciação de Música Árabe para Bailarinas - Teoria & Prática 2 vols. Sao Paulo: Ventreoteca. Produzido por Kaleidoscopio de Ideias. Shimmie, 2015.

Presently Dr. Sawa is working on a book Erotica, Love, and Humor in Arabia which will be published by McFarland in 2016.

For more information on Dr. Sawa's books, musical recordings, and videos, see his web site at .

Dr. George Sawa




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