The Chivalric Tradition of the Arabs


La tradition chevaleresque des Arabes (The chivalric tradition of the Arabs) is a work by Egyptian writer and politician Wacyf Boutros Ghali (1878–1958) that attempts to link the chivalric tradition of the European Middle Ages to the manners and customs of the Arabs. The author considers several key characteristics of chivalry, namely ancestral and moral pedigree; regard for women, horses, and weapons; and, above all, honor, which he regards as common to the Arabs and to medieval Europe. “If Arabia guarded the plant and flower of Honor as its own possession,” he writes, “France became drunk on its perfume, spreading it to all humanity.” Ghali, a Coptic Orthodox Christian, was part of Egypt’s cosmopolitan, French-speaking elite. From the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, cultural ties between Egypt and France were particularly close, with French schools, newspapers, literary reviews, associations, journals, theater, radio programs, and lectures forming an integral part of cultural life in Cairo and Alexandria. Like many of his class, Ghali was educated and participated in this francophone environment. As recently as 1952, there were four French daily newspapers and 36 periodicals in Cairo, while Alexandria boasted five dailies and 26 magazines. Ghali was among the elder statesmen of the Francophile intellectuals in Egypt. Notwithstanding his ties to the Egyptian nationalist party, the Wafd (he was foreign minister in four Wafd cabinets), Ghali was thoroughly a product of French culture. He lived in France for long periods, married a Frenchwoman, and this book was published in Paris. His critical writings were much influenced by Orientalist scholarship and the leading French literary criticism of his day. For Ghali, chivalry represented the manifestation of the best in French civilization. He calls it “the divine seed of moral nobility implanted deep in our hearts,” one that was shared in differing forms in other nations and cultures, including the Arab world.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Plon-Nourrit, Paris


Title in Original Language

La tradition chevaleresque des Arabes

Type of Item

Physical Description

300 pages ; 19 centimeters


  1. “Ghali, Wasif Butrus,” in Arthur Goldschmidt, Jr, Biographical Dictionary of Modern Egypt (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2000).
  2. Jean-Jacques Luthi, Cinqante ans de littérature égyptienne d’expression francais, 1934–1984 (Alexandria: L’Atelier, 1985).

Last updated: September 22, 2015