What About Abou Abed?

By Jana Kayssi

What you’re about to read can either feel familiar, or like a magical folklore tale, depending on who you are. 

If you’re a Lebanese person who grew up hearing jokes from your family, I would like to think that you know Abou Abed. I would like to pretend that his genuine Beiruti spirit has yet not left the realms of our childhood and surpassed the limits of our imagination. And I would like to think that we are all sharing and re-sharing this spirit in our everyday lives, holding still and tight to what felt and still feels like home. 

However, if you are completely unaware of who Abou Abed is, I did a bit of digging to understand how such a simple character can contribute to the rich forming of a nation. Here’s what my Grandpa and consultants (yes they were many- playing Tawle and drinking coffee) told me after I raised the question. 

His name is Ahmad Khalifeh, and he goes by Abou Abed El Beiruti due to his meticulous role-playing. In fact, the role of Abou Abed was first played in theatrical performances by Khalil Chehade in the 60s. Nonetheless, it is Ahmad Khalifeh’s face that flashes before our eyes when we think of warm and fun evenings that were all about storytelling. Abou Abed was a brilliant hakawati (storyteller) whose appearance was marked by a tarboush (fez) and a mighty bamboo stick. His stories are said to fly people out of this world and drop them in a world of fairytales and mysteries, a world where Shahryar and Shahrazad reigned. 

Where Abou Abed was, laughs and snorts erupted in the making of a lively evening. He was known for his witty sense of humor and has grown to constitute a monumental part of the national Lebanese humor. Till our present day, his name is still exchanged as a major element of every Lebanese joke. 

We think we know how Abou Abed looks, even though, it’s fishy that Ahmad khalifeh’s mustache was not as bold as the one usually assigned to Abou Abed. We are guessing that the idea of curled mustaches was an assumption and a representation of masculine Lebanese men in the old days. Let us know if you know better! Which brings me to say, have you ever tried to imagine how his best friend, Abou Steif, and his wife, Em Abed, look? We kinda have our own vision of Em Abed!

Head to our website to check our Abou Abed products! It is the memory that counts most.