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A Handbook and Reader of Ottoman Arabic

Esther-Miriam Wagner

II. Reader

2. The Purim Scroll of the Cairene Jewish community

Benjamin Hary

Texte intégral

1The Purim Scroll of the Cairene Jewish Community (megillat pūrīm il-miṣriyyīn) was probably composed by the spiritual leader of the Jewish community in Cairo, Rabbi Samuel (or Solomon) Sidilio. The Scroll records events following the deliverance of the Jews from the tyrannical rule of Ahmad Pasha, self-appointed governor in Ottoman Egypt in 1524. The community established the 27th of Adar as a day of fasting and the 28th of Adar as a festive holiday to be celebrated after the manner of Purim. On that day the Scroll was read in the local synagogues. There are two versions of the Scroll among the Cairene Jewish community. One is more detailed, mentions names of people and places, and exists in both Hebrew and Egyptian Judaeo-Arabic. The other is shorter, more general, and has survived only in Hebrew. Both versions are critically edited using several manuscripts, translated, and linguistically analysed in Hary (1992).


Adler, Folio 4b

Adler, Folio 5a

Arabic Transcription

Adler, Folio 4b

Adler, Folio 5a


  • 1 Literally: ‘they tore their clothes very much’. As is well known, the tearing of clothes is a sign (...)

2(4b) On that day when Ahmad Pasha went up to the Citadel, they appointed him Sultan and (subsequently) people proclaimed in all the squares of Cairo that Ahmad Pasha had become the Sultan of Egypt and all of its towns. When (Ahmad) became the Sultan, he renewed the oppression over the people in Cairo, (5a) seeking to rob them of their wealth. In every district and town, whenever it was heard that Ahmad Pasha had rebelled against King Suleiman, the people of the countryside also rebelled with him. When the Jews heard that the Pasha had rebelled against Sultan Suleiman and that he had become the Sultan in Egypt, they grieved tremendously, became very fearful, and tore their clothes into pieces.1 Furthermore, all the residents of the city became anxious, too, and both the young as well as the old tore their clothes. The townspeople became sorrowful and all of its dwellers became humiliated.


Folio 4b

3Line 11

4לא םוי . The separation of the definite article from its following noun and its manifestation as a separate written morpheme is common in Late Judaeo-Arabic (Khan 1991, 225; Hary 2009, 110–11).

5Line 12

6עולט /ṭuluʿ/ reflects the preference in Egyptian Judaeo-Arabic for the vowel /u/ (Rosenbuam 2002, 37; Hary 2017, 16–17, 20–21) and the pattern /fuʿul/, which is widespread in Egyptian Judaeo-Arabic (equivalent to standard Egyptian Arabic /fiʿil/; Hary 2009 ,117–18). For the pattern /fuʿul/ see also יצוע (line 5); ויצוע (line 6); ונזוח (lines 11, 16).

7Line 13

8ןאטלוס reflects the (almost) obligatory spelling of short /u/ with a waw in the Hebraised orthography in Late Egyptian Judaeo-Arabic (Hary 2017, 16–17).

9Line 15

10אלע reflects the Hebraised orthography (Hary 1996) where the ʾalif maqṣūra bi-ṣūrati l-yāʾ is not spelled with a yod (as is more common in the Arabicised orthography in Classical Judaeo-Arabic); rather it is spelled with an ʾalef here, perhaps due to Aramaic influence (Hary 1992, 252–53).

11Line 17

12דלא ֗ י reflects the frozen form of the relative pronoun in Late Judaeo-Arabic (Hary 1992, 308).

Folio 5a

13Line 8

14לא דואי reflects scribes’ avoidance of the combination והי for its perceived sacred significance (Blanc 1985, 306; Hary 1992, 90, 270).

15Line 11



1 Literally: ‘they tore their clothes very much’. As is well known, the tearing of clothes is a sign of mourning in the Jewish tradition.



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