Habbaba (d. 724)

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Habbaba (d. 724)

Arabian songstress who was influential in the court of Yazid II. Birth date unknown; died in 724; exerted great influence in the court of Yazid II (r. 720–724) of the Eastern Caliphate (whose capital was modern-day Baghdad in Iraq).

The future caliph Yazid II met Habbaba when he made the journey to Mecca as a young man, and he became enamored of her. A slave and a talented singer, Habbaba had been taught her art by Azza al-Maila, Jamila, Ibn Muhriz, Ibn Suraij, Ma'bad and Malik, which set her apart from the average slave. Yazid could not forget the singer, though as a mere prince he could ill afford to purchase her. As soon as he ascended the throne in 720, he paid 4,000 gold pieces to acquire Hababba, a bargain at the time. At his court, Hababba mounted large productions, often performing with an orchestra of 50 singing women accompanied by lutes hidden behind a curtain. Charming and beautiful, she was the sole recipient of the caliph's affections and consequently exercised considerable political influence. When she died suddenly, Yazid kept her body for three days, weeping and kissing her. He died of a broken heart 15 days after her burial. Habbaba typifies the power of the Arabian songstress throughout the centuries.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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