ABU DHABI, May 24, (AFP): The Middle East’s poetry equivalent of “Pop Idol” is helping to keep alive an age-old tradition using bedouin dialect, which is barely understood outside the Arabian Gulf. Apart from the glory, a Kuwaiti student took home five million dirhams ($1.36 million), the top prize in a television show followed by millions of poetry lovers across the region.
With his Nabati poem, Rajih Al-Hamidani was crowned 2016 champion of “Million’s Poet”, staged in oil-rich Abu Dhabi for a seventh year. “This is the biggest achievement of my life,” said Hamidani after winning the May 17 final.
Fans who had travelled from Kuwait chanted and danced around him as he carried the winner’s red banner. Hamidani, who studies law in Cairo, keeps the fl ag for a year, after which he can defend the title or pass it on. He spoke to AFP of his passion for poetry. “Poetry is a gift I received from God. I did not inherit it from my family. I work on it with passion and I give it all that I can,” he said.
The winning poem describing his passion for writing put him ahead of fi ve other fi nalists. Audiences cheered after every quartet of his Nabati poetry, which uses bedouin dialect and is favoured in the Gulf but often incomprehensible for other Arabs.
Some Arab royals are known for their passion for Nabati poetry, including Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al- Maktoum, who has a dedicated page on his website. The competition takes its cue from the pre-Islamic Okaz poetry festival near Makkah, where poets from across the peninsula recited their fi nest works of classical verse.