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The nomadic tribes that inhabited the Arabian Peninsula have left little in terms of buildings, painting or sculpture; such demonstrations of artistic abilities would have been impractical for a society on the move. However, they did have language and a traditions of poetry developed that has continued into the present. In the west we didn’t grow up in a society that places much value on poetry and so understanding the attitude to poetry here is not easy


Poetry continues to play an important part in the Arab world, there are television programmes and competitions that are very popular.


The Arabs developed a sophisticated system of poetry – with elaborate grammatical and lexical refinements in vernacular, rules of metre and rhyme, and themes of pastoral nomadic tradition that captured Arab tribal identity.


Tribal poets would recite their work in public and there were competitions among tribes. As Islam spread so did the appreciation of Arabic poetry, where pre-Islamic poets had recited to their tribes, from Spain to Afghanistan poetry began to be recited in courts.


Ghazal poetry can be traced back to classical Arabic poetry. A ghazal usually has 12 lines, a clear rhyming pattern and themes included love, religion and praise. Each couplet is an independent unit, and the final line often includes the poet’s pen name.



Nabati Poetry

Nabati – is the name given to the poetry currently found in the United Arab Emirates today. It is not written in the literary Arabic of the Qu’ran but uses vernacular Arabic.


The name ‘nabati’ is said to derive from the ancient Nabateans, who lived in Petra and other areas of north western Arabia. As non- Arabic speaking people become Muslims, they began to speak Arabic that was more colloquial than the classic Arabic of the Qu’ran and this became known as Nabati. It is also known as ‘Bint al rimal’ – literally ‘Daughter of the sands.’

Nabati poetry has a long pedigree and reaches back many hundreds of years, and even some pre-Islamic poetry has similar structure, themes and metre.


Nabati poetry became an outlet for creativity in the Arabian Peninsula, where other forms of creative output such as painting and sculpture were impractical and had no heritage. It is one of the areas literary treasures.


HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is an accomplished poet and has published many poems. Initially, these were published under a pen name, to ensure that they were judged on their merit, rather than as the poems of the ruling Sheikh. They received acclaim, and he now publishes under his own name.

One of Sheikh Mohammed’s poems My Hopes  is dedicated to HH Sheikh Zayed:


O! You, our brothers of Kuwait and Euphrates.

O! You, our brothers, north and south in the Arab world.

Zayed has called out to us with dedicated resolve

A call whose commitment rekindles true hearts.

Listen to Zayed! Abandon sleep!

He has called us to denounce division.

He who follows Zayed may hope to survive.

Following Zayed is a duty – a vital duty.









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