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

From the Site

Arab Song Translations

By Lennie Clark


From Lennie Clark's Web Site:

Ya Ritni Tir
(I Wish I Were a Bird)


This page contains a translation into English of the lyrics to the classic song "Ya Ritni Tir", which was sung by Farid al-Atrache. Another spelling sometimes used for this song title is "Ya Raitni Tayr" or "Ya Reitni Teir".

This is the song that launched Farid al-Atrache's career as a popular singer on the radio. A radio executive named Medhat ‘Aassem heard him sing in Badia Masabni's club, and recruited him to sing on local Egyptian radio stations.The song "Ya Ritni Tir" was used for his radio debut.

Farid al-Atrache was a multi-talented entertainer of the 20th century. He was a virtuoso at playing the oud, a movie star, a singer, and a composer of music.

Al-Atrache was born in 1915 to parents Prince Fahad Al Atrache and Princess Alia of the Druze people. When he was 8 years old in 1923, his mother brought the family to Egypt to escape the violence of Lebanon, where people were fighting to end the French colonial occupation.

In Egypt, young Atrache became a naturalized Egyptian citizen. As a promising young musician, he was accepted into the conservatory. He became apprenticed to legendary composer Riad al-Sombati, who was known for creating several of Oum Kalthoum's hit songs. As he matured, he became a popular performer as a singer and oud player in Cairo's thriving nightclub scene, working first for Mary Mansour, and later for Badia Masabni. He was discovered by Medhat ‘Aassem who heard him sing in Badia Masabni's club, and recruited him to begin his radio career. Farid went on to enjoy a thriving career in Egyptian cinema, appearing as a leading man in over 30 movies, and composing music for more than 40.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: The photographer who took this photo was Van Leo (Levon Boyadjian), an Armenian-Egyptian known as the photographer to the stars because of his beautiful photos of the celebrities of his day.

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

Music: Farid al-Atrache

Farid al-Atrache




I wish I were a bird
I would fly around you wherever you go
My eye on you
But this wish is like a dream
I wish the world was owned by my lover and me
I would not leave a second
But it is all "If" and "If"
As a word does not make a house exist*
I wish I were a hair of your eyelash
That I could hear your heartbeat
Or that I was one of your slaves between your hands
Day and night
But it is only a wish


* The expression is similar in meaning to the English one, "If wishes were horses then beggars would ride."



Where to Get Recordings of this Song

Ya Ritni Tir CD Cover


Artist: Farid al-Atrache
CD Title: Ya Ritni Tir

Cairo Road CD Cover  

Artist: Various
CD Title: Cairo Road: Great Songs of the Arab World



Translations of
Farid al-Atrache's Songs on This Site

Other translations of songs performed by Farid al-Atrache on this web site include:




About the Translator

Adel Abdallah is an Egyptian who resides in New Orleans, Louisiana. If you are traveling to that great city, he invites you to stop by the Cafe Picasso, located at 3401 Chartres (on the corner of Chartres and Desire, in the Bywater). The cafe serves delicious Middle Eastern food, and offers shiisha smoking. They are open daily except for Sundays, from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. (Deliveries until 10 P.M.) The phone number is (504) 948-6881.

The translation summary was done by Adel at Lennie Clark's request. Muchisimas gracias to Kruz, (whose Morocco to India ethnic boutique, located in the historic French Quarter, is not-to-be-missed) for suggesting Adel as a translator.


About the Source

This article originally appeared on Lennie Clark's web site, "Arabic Song Translations." Lennie created this web site in 2002 as a response to discussion on the Internet regarding incidents of dancers who performed inappropriate sensual dances to religious music. Lennie's web site resided on a free web hosting service known as Geocities.

When the planned October 2009 closure of the Geocities web hosting service was announced, Lennie and Shira agreed to move the contents of Lennie's site to To explore all the articles and song translations that once appeared on Lennie's Geocities site, visit Lennie's portal page here on

Lennie Clark



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