State media says Egyptian poet Abdel Rahman El Abnoudy, who channeled folklore and rural life into verses that touched the Arab world, has died at 77 after a long illness.

He was known for writing in the Egyptian dialect and penning lyrics for beloved singers such as Abdel Halim Hafez. He was imprisoned under socialist President Gamal Abdel-Nasser but later praised him for his attention to the poor.

State newspaper al-Ahram says he died Tuesday and is survived by his wife and two daughters.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi mourned his death in a statement, calling him a defender of civilization and values whose words and spirit would live on. The statement said he called El Abnoudy's family to express condolences.