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Ask Ali: Arab literature influences, and where to find good oud

How the Holy Quran has influenced Arab literature, and where to buy oud.

Dear Ali: I've heard that the Holy Quran has influenced much of the literature of the Arab world, and that Souq Okadh played a major role in literary advancement. Is this true? And are there works by any Arab or Emirati poets that you would recommend I read? OB, Doha

Dear OB: I'm glad you asked this question. Arabic literature, known as "Adab", which also means "respect", is full of moral teachings. It dates back prior to the revelation of the Holy Quran, although it was not as popular at the time. The revelation inspired many literary works, mainly because of the beauty of the language used in the Holy Quran itself. The Muslim Holy Book contains injunctions, narratives, homilies and parables and was greatly admired for its layers of metaphor as well as its clarity. That said, the Holy Quran continues to inspire the literary industry today.

In terms of Souq Okadh, this market is the perfect example of the Arab love of literature. It was an annual event that took place in what is now Saudi Arabia, between Mecca and Taef, during the Islamic month of Dhul Qida. A trading exhibition and a popular social forum, the souq was a place where people told eloquent stories of adventure and bravery and recited beautiful poems about love and generosity. It was a busy venue for Arabs to gather and compete in poetry competitions to show off their pride. Poets would meet with like-minded people and discuss their mutual love of words and it served as the birthplace for some of the most significant poems and poets in the Arab world.

Furthermore, Souq Okadh was also a place where people got a chance to meet their leaders to settle tribal disputes and clear their names. As you can see, the history of Arabic literature is fascinating.

In a way, the spirit of Souq Okadh still exists in the hit poetry competition show Million's Poet, which is organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. If you ask me who I think would be the next Khalil Gibran, the best-selling Lebanese-American poet from the early 20th century, I would look no further than my good friend and brother Wael al Sayegh, a poet on a mission who writes in English. His writings are making him one of the top poets in the region and a source of pride for all of us. A brother such as Wael is an asset to our modern "Adab". I recommend you check out Wael's work at www.waelalsayegh.com.


Dear Ali: I want to buy good oud but don't want to spend a lot. Where can I find some in Abu Dhabi? MR, Abu Dhabi

Dear MR: Which oud, the incense or the instrument!? I'm going to assume you're asking about the fragrant incense.

Oud is one of our most-loved scents and, thankfully, there are many places to buy it. Here's a tip on what many of us locals like to do: we wipe a little oud on our clothes, be it khandouras or abayas, before placing the bukhoor, or solid oud, on the incense burner. This way the scent lasts a little longer on our clothes, and depending on the kind of bukhoor you use, there is less chance that our clothes will smell like everybody else's.

As is the case with other fragrances, the kind of oud you choose is a personal choice. Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre is a good place in Abu Dhabi where you can find a wide selection of reasonably priced oud. The beauty of these shops is that you can bargain to bring the price down. I hope this helps.


Language lesson

Arabic: Mabkhara

English:Incense burner

The mabkhara is an integral household item in any Emirati home. We use it every day to burn the bukhoor, or solid oud, to add fragrance to our homes and clothes. If you want to ask your daughter to hang clothes near the mabkhara to make them smell nice, you can say, "Hetti el malabes a'ala al mabkhara" or "Bakheri el malabes".

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