Most of Arab Literature is made of poetry and most of that is addressed to Leyla. I believe this is a literary phenomenon unique to the Arabs. One domineering demi-goddess, one muse commanding the hearts and imaginations of a whole race of poets.
One reason behind this might be the fact that the name itself is so magical because in order for the tongue to pronounce it, it has to do a little dance; like a tiny, fine bird it must take off from that silky ‘ley’ to alight on that suave ‘la’.
Leyla, regardless of its owner, is a name that always invokes in my mind’s eye the picture of a velvety night sky with bright stars and a full moon for a diadem. Leyla means a tent in a cool desert night and the songs of a camp-fire.
The first Leyla I knew about was Leyla Mourad. During the heyday of cassettes, of which my aunt had an impressive collection, the voice of that oriental Jewess used to play all day long in our house alongside Asmahan and Oum Kalthoum. My aunt later told me that Leyla was actually born Lilian. Leyla or Lilian, what difference did it make?
And then at primary school my first infatuation was a girl called Leyla. She possessed all the stereotypical aspects of what one can call Arab beauty. But her greatest asset was her voice, a voice that lulled you into daydreaming. All I wanted was to remain by her side forever listening to her harps play any words and gaze at her honey-filled eyes, but, alas, one grows up and that childhood of innocent longings burst like a bubble.
The last time I saw Leyla, the second Leyla of course, was some three years ago. She was exiting from a hammam flashing me an enchanting smile that took me all the way back to fifth grade. Like gold, that smile never aged or lost any of its dazzling intensity. It was the kind of smile that made you believe in God and the beatitude of existence. When death shall have its day, the last thing I want to see of this world is that smile.
Leyla, wherever you are and with whomever you are, I just hope you are loved.