Each instrument in MIM’s extensive collection tells a unique story about the musicians who played it and the places it has traveled. MIM recently added to its collection an exquisitely inlayed ūd that carries a remarkable narrative of global travel. The instrument was made in Egypt in 1919 by Mahmoud Ali—one of the most renowned luthiers of the time—and acquired by an affluent Syrian tobacco merchant and talented musician named Georgi Behna in the 1940s. Local musicians reportedly invited Behna, who was working and living in Egypt, to perform with them at King Farouk’s palace, where he then played this ‘ūd. The ‘ūd traveled back with Behna to Aleppo, Syria.

Around 1957, the family moved to Venezuela, where MIM’s newly acquired ‘ūd became a legend in the Venezuelan Arab community for its sound quality, imaginative design, and the skillful performances of Behna’s son, Georges Mouchaty Aswad. A well-known Venezuelan performer and recording artist, Aswad worked for the Saudi Arabian embassy in Venezuela and played this ‘ūd, nicknamed “the Unique,” at diplomatic functions and on trips to the Middle East. His recordings were played on radio stations in Venezuela, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia. MIM acquired the instrument from Georgi Behna’s grandson, Mouchaty (George) Toufic, who has treasured memories of his grandfather and father playing the instrument now on display at the Egypt exhibit.