Lau Sharbu al Bahr- If they drank the sea…

Acre (American Colony Jerusalem) Lib Congress
‘Akka, pre-occupation (Library of Congress)

Law Sharbu al-Bahr is a song about Acre (‘Akka), as a sea-side village with picturesque monuments of various eras (Hellenistic, Crusader, Ottoman). Its population continues to be predominantly Palestinian, yet it is administratively under Israeli rule, which takes its natural resources in exchange for not much to the local population. It is worth remembering that ‘Akka lay outside the state of Israel as recommended by the UN’s partition, and was conquered by siege by Haganah forces.

I remember the sea of ‘Akka. One couldn’t reach the sea from the city, which overlooks it from high medieval walls, so I walked out of the city limits to try to find an access to the beach. More walls. Then fences. Then private Israeli beaches. 


لو شربوا البحر أو هَدّوا السور

If they drank the sea or demolished the wall

لو سرقوا الهوا أو خنقوا النور

If they stole the air or choked the light

ما بيعها لعكا بالدنيا كلها

I wouldn’t sell for ‘Akka for the world

وما ببدل حارتي ولا بقصور

I wouldn’t replace my neighborhood for castles

المينا وكل البحرية وشخاطيرها النايمه عالمية

The port and all port workers boats sleeping by the water

 وشبكها الخضرا المطوية صورة راح تبقى بقلبي بدهور

And her folded green nets, a picture that will remain in my heart forever

لو شربوا البحر أو هدوا السور

لو سرقوا الهوا أو خنقوا النور

ما بيعها لعكا بالدنيا كلها

وما ببدل حارتي ولا بقصور

لو شمس الصبح وقمر الليل ونهار الغربة وليل الويل

If the sun of the morning and the moon of the night and the evening of exile and the night of woe

أخذوا روحي على نجم سهيل أنا روحي بزُريبا بخور

They took my soul to Canopus, and my soul is weak in captivity

لو شربوا البحر أو هدوا السور

لو سرقوا الهوا أو خنقوا النور

ما بيعها لعكا بالدنيا كلها

وما ببدل حارتي ولا بقصور

لو رمل الشط اللي ما بنعد وصدفاتو المخلوقة ع القد

If the sand of the shore that cannot be counted, and its shells created in just the right amount

ومزحات الدهر اللي صاروا جد ركعولي ما بترك هالسور

(if) the jokes of a long ago became serious and bowed down to me in prayer I (still) would not leave these walls.



All verbs start with prefix ب, as is the norm in colloquial Levantine Arabic.

هدّ is Levantine Arabic for the fussha  حتم, to demolish

ويل :affliction , woe

خنق :to strangle, choke

شبك nets

على القد: something perfect, hence: just the right amount

 مخلوقة: adjective of خلق, to create (by God)

نجم سهيل: Canopus, an ill-omened star, cursed by Nabati (Bedouin) poets and feared by sailors

زربية: cattle pen, “zareba” (hence: captivity)

بخور: in خور, weakness, languor

صدفات: shells

شخترة: boat

مزحات: pl. of مزح, noun from the verb مزح, to joke: jokes

ترك: to leave


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