DUBAI // Poets in the UAE often write under pseudonyms to allow for freedom of expression, and the Vice President is no exception.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, began publishing his poetry under pseudonyms so he could find out what people genuinely felt about his work.
His earlier works were published in newspapers under pen names including Nedawi and Saleet. It was Fatat Al-Arab (the Girl of Arabs), one of the most renowned Emirati poets, who gave him the encouragement he needed to put his poetry into the limelight when she penned a reply to one of these poems - a rare honour for an unknown poet.
That encouragement led to a wide body of published works, including classic verses like this one from The Parade, in which Sheikh Mohammed praises Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE:
"Oh his rank, more noble than any rank,
No one is greater than Zayed in this world
Witnesses history of him all proof, Higher than all heights his branches.
When united us with truth and faith, And the flag of unity is glorious ..."
Today the Ruler of Dubai will release his second book of poetry, this time to mark the country's 40th National Day. The collection, entitled 40 Poems From the Desert, includes 13 newly translated verses and 27 works that were translated for a previous collection.
It was debuted last night at a function at Ara Gallery in Downtown Dubai, near the Burj Khalifa.
This is not Sheikh Mohammed's first foray into the world of publishing. In 2006, he released an autobiography, My Vision - Challenges in the Race for Excellence, and in 2009 he released his first 68-page collection of translated poetry - also titled Poems from the Desert. The foreword for the latest book was written by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and son of Sheikh Mohammed.
He begins his introduction by saying he is at a loss for words to describe his love for the man "who profoundly influenced me with his outlook on life and way of thought".
"The reason I am at a loss for words is because this beloved figure is my father," writes Sheikh Hamdan. "He paints enchanting stories with his poems and renders emotion into verses."
Sheikh Mohammed has long had a passion for reading and writing poetry and lists his favourite classical poets as Al Mutanabi, Al Buhtori, and Abu Tammam.
His love for the lyrical art is shared by many Emiratis - poetry is an important oral heritage within the UAE, and in Arab culture in general. Local newspapers and television stations regularly feature poems by young and old citizens that are usually dedicated to the UAE or its past and current leaders.
Like most Emirati poets, Sheikh Mohammed does not write in classical Arabic but prefers the free-flowing qualities of the local dialect Nabati. The book is available in the original Nabati, as well as in English.
Work to translate 13 new poems began a year ago, said Nehal Badri, the head of strategy and planning at the Dubai Media Office.
"The works were translated by our translators and then given to professional editors. Thankfully there were not many changes made. His Highness also reviewed the translations and gave final sign-off on the copy."
Featured alongside the poems are illustrations by prominent Emirati artists, who were asked to produce pictures inspired by the poetry.
"By giving these emerging artists the opportunity to exhibit their work to the world, my father upholds his commitment to supporting young talent," Sheikh Hamdan writes in the foreword.
"The artists were all very pleased at the opportunity," said Ms Badri. "It not only shows Sheikh Mohammed's support for young artists, but it also means everyone can understand through different mediums the message being conveyed."
Hamdan Buti Al Shamsi, whose work is featured in the book twice, said he tried to create works that represented the transformation of the UAE while paying respect to its founders and leaders.
His work, and the work of the other artists featured in the book, will be on display at the Ara Gallery until January 13. The exhibition will be open to the public from 10am to 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm till 10pm on Fridays.
* With additional reporting by Rym Ghazal
40 Poems fom the Desert will be available at all leading bookstores in the UAE from tomorrow.