Centuries of Arabic romantic poetry a timeline of love

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Updated 13 February 2020

Centuries of Arabic romantic poetry a timeline of love

JEDDAH: The language of love has been an integral theme of Arab poetry.

From before Islam, poets have inked expressions of love, affection and passion into their verses.

The word for poet in Arabic is sha’er, which means the feeler or the one who feels, and from the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula to the Andalusian aristocratic gardens, classical Arabic poetry is filled with ancient love tales.

Many remain popular today, inspiring contemporary poets, singers, artists, and musicians.

Antarah ibn Shaddad Al-Absi and Abla (sixth century), Qays ibn Al-Mulawwah and Leyla (seventh century), Kuthayyir ibn ‘Abd Al-Raḥman and ‘Azza (eighth century), and Ibn Zaydun and Princess Wallada (11th century) are examples of the numerous pairings from romantic Arabic verse.

Arabic poetry has steadily evolved through the centuries and developed new forms and themes under the influence of Western literature, partly as a result of colonialism and globalization. A sense of modernity appeared in the aftermath of World War II.

One Western cultural phenomenon that reached the Arab region was Valentine’s Day or as it is called in Arabic, Love Day.

Although the origins of Valentine’s Day date back to A.D. 269, it is only since the mid-1800s that it has been linked to romance, and was not celebrated as a holiday until the mid-19th century.

As a commercial and social event, Valentine’s Day is still in its relative infancy in the Arab world but is fast growing in popularity. The day is now often mentioned in Arabic poetry by scribes such as Lebanon’s Elia Abu Madi, Egypt’s Farouk Gouida, Saudi Prince Badr bin Abdul Mohsin, and Nizar Qabbani from Syria.


Love me even more, even more

Oh my most beautiful fit of madness, even more

Drown me even more, my lady, the sea is calling me

Kill me even more, maybe death would be my rebirth

Oh most beautiful woman in the universe, love me

Oh you whom I loved until love burned, love me

Oh you whom I loved until love burned, love me

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, I’d have you reside in the light of my eyes

Your love is my map, the map of the universe no longer matters to me

I am the oldest capital of sadness and my wound is a pharaonic inscription

My pain extends like a flock of birds from Baghdad to China

Love me even more, even more

Oh my most beautiful fit of madness, even more

My heart’s canary, my April

Oh you are the sands of the sea and the soul of my soul,

Forests of olives,

A taste of snow and a taste of fire,

(And) a flavor of my doubt and certainty

I feel scared of the unknown so shelter me

I feel scared of the dark so hold me tight

I feel scared of the cold so cover me and stay be my side, sing for me

Since the beginning of creation, I have been looking for a homeland for myself

I have been looking for the love of a woman which can take me to the edges of the sun and throw me off

Love me even more, even more, oh my most beautiful fit of madness, even more

Oh, light of my life, my fan, my lantern, the fragrance of my gardens

Stretch out for me a bridge made of the scent of lemons

And place me as an ivory comb in the darkness of your hair, and forget me

For you I have prepared my laments and left history behind

And I scratched out my birth certificate and cut all my veins

Love me even more, even more, oh my most beautiful fit of madness, even more


Qabbani is considered to be one of the most influential voices in the history of Arabic literature. His pioneering style has had a huge influence on contemporary Arabic poetry with many young poets and songwriters imitating his powerful writing technique.

His poems have been translated into various languages and sung by famous performers such as Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Abdel Halim Hafez, and Kadim Al-Sahir.

Qabbani’s romantic poetry has also found its way into English rap songs. Although Arabic poetry and English hip-hop music are strikingly different, the Syrian American hip-hop artist Omar Offendum was able to successfully use Qabbani’s poetry in his music.

Offendum converted Qabbani’s famous love poem sung by Hafez, “Qariat il-Finjan,” into the rap tune “Finjan,” mixing the original Arabic text and its translation. On another track, “More love,” Offendum uses Qabbani’s voice in the background.

Other young Arab artists are also discovering the beauty and complexity of classical and modern Arabic romantic poetry. 

Saudi artists Abdulrahman Mohammed and Mohab Omer have become known throughout the region for their songs based on poetry.

Thanks to artists such as Mohammed and Omer, young Arabs have been able to find a link between their culture and classical literature through music and, most importantly, their hearts.

 

 


‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

Updated 09 July 2020

‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

  • "There’s some magic in the water of the desert," says Korhonen

JEDDAH: As she reaches the end of her second mission in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, US Consul General Rachna Korhonen will soon be heading home, taking memories to last a lifetime.
Known for her love for culture and the Arabic language and for her vast knowledge of the region, Korhonen became well known as a constant supporter of Saudi women and youth in the region, participating in numerous cultural and social events in the Eastern Province and across the Kingdom.
After two more weeks in the Kingdom, Korhonen will return to the US capital to serve as the executive director of the Bureau of Near East Affairs (NEA) and the Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs (SCA) at the US State Department which supports the posts in the region, including Saudi Arabia, thus continuing her connection with the Kingdom.
With 14 years of experience as a US diplomat, she served 3 years in Riyadh in 2010, and then came back to serve as the consul general in Dhahran in August 2017. “I would say Riyadh was the start of my relationship with Saudi Arabia, and Dhahran and the Eastern Province is the culmination of the relationship,” said Korhonen told Arab News on a video call. She almost feels herself Sharqawia, a resident of the Eastern Province, Sharqia.
“Ana Sharqawia (‘I am a Sharqawia). The measure of any place is the people, it’s not about the place, it’s really about the people.”
As consul general, her role was to build relations and promote the interests of her home in the country where she was posted. Korhonen went the extra mile, she joined in the region’s celebrations and understood its traditions and culture.


Recalling her time in the Eastern Province, she said: “I’ve been getting to know Sharqawis, the people who live and work here, who have made this their home in the years since Aramco started or were born in Al-Ahsa. I think anyone who comes to the Eastern Province falls in love,” she said.
“The biggest reason I’ve gotten to enjoy myself here is (because) it has quite a bit of America here. I think it’s difficult to realize how much America exists in Saudi Arabia until you come to the Eastern Province,” she added.
As the drilling for oil began in 1935 with the help of the California Arabian Standard Oil Company (CASOC), which later became Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s oil capital has been home to thousands of Americans over the past 85 years, who have had a major influence on the region.
“Aramco is definitely a reminder of home, and you put that in with the people, the hospitality, the normal way of being Saudi which is to welcome your guests no matter who they are. You put those things together, you get the best of the United States and you get the best of Saudi Arabia.”
A native of New Jersey and big baseball fan, her love for the game didn’t stop her from supporting the Al-Ettifaq Football Club in Dammam, attending matches and singing their anthem.
Her trips to Al-Ahsa, a place she calls the most beautiful place in the Kingdom, allowed her to discover the region’s vast experiences.
Her appreciation of Al-Ahsa goes deep. Both the scenery and the hospitality of the people make it her favorite city — she even took Ambassador John Abizaid on a trip there in February.
“As you drive towards Al-Ahsa, you can see the sand changing color, from a bright yellow to a reddish color,” she said. “You start seeing the desert turning green, which is amazing to me. I’m a mountain and forest type of person and I can tell you that I now like the desert too, it’s beautiful.”
The uniqueness of Al-Ahsa called out to Korhonen and she recalls her first visit to the region in 2017. “The history, the people, the food, the culture, is very different from any place I’ve been to in Saudi Arabia, Hasawis (people of Al-Ahsa) are lovely. I think there’s some magic in the water of the desert,” she said.
Korhonen developed an interest in regional cultural events, visiting local markets picking out sheep for Eid, learning about the Saudi love for falconry and participating in the traditional celebratory dance of Al-Arda. She even has a Diwaniya, a parlor where guests are received, at her home.

When she returned to the Kingdom in 2017, Korhonen noticed the transformation of the Kingdom, noting that Vision 2030 has been the instigator for this noticeable change.
“The changes have been tremendous, I think Vision2030 is really going to really bring Saudi Arabia onto the world stage. I think some parts are already there. In the energy sector, Saudi Arabia has always been a leader,” she said. “I’m betting you right now that you’re going to see Saudi women, you’re going to see Saudi men, you’re going to see Saudi kids, Saudi art, culture and music, the traditional Saudi things, all starting to show up on the world stage.”
As the Kingdom heads towards diversifying its economy, Korhonen anticipates that the world will begin seeing more Saudi entrepreneurs with innovative ventures, as education is key. She noted that with the continuous flow of Saudi students on scholarships in the US, their return to the Kingdom will help bring forth a new business-like mindset with partnerships between the two countries that will help the Kingdom’s economy to flourish.
“It’s coming,” she noted. “I’ve seen some of the (US) businesses here, but I haven’t seen enough yet and I’d like to see more of that in the next 2-5 years, because Vision 2030 will be a success if we can get entrepreneurs to start businesses and hire more Saudis,” she added. “That to me is the key and that is what you should be bringing back from the US.”
As the end of her mission draws near, it's safe to say that we'll be seeing Korhonen back in the Kingdom in the near future.
“I’ll honestly come back because of the people, because of the friendships I’ve made here.”