x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

35. Al bairaq or the winner's flag from Millions Poet, 2007

To mark the nation's 40th anniversary, we feature 40 historic objects.

Launched in November 2007 as a celebration of Nabati poetry, the TV competition Millions Poet now enjoys a staggering international audience of 110 million.

This crimson flag, embroidered with gold, is presented to the winner, who also takes home a prize of Dh5 million.

For Hussain Al Ameri, the show's presenter, the flag is as precious as the money. "Al bairaq has become a poetry icon, a great honour that the winner takes to his country," he says.

"It's not only a personal gift, but something for his tribe, society, and country to be proud of. He goes back with a bairaq as if he has won an Olympic gold medal."

Millions Poet is funded by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and broadcast on Abu Dhabi TV, with shows recorded at Al Raha Beach Theatre. Its huge popularity has led to comparisons with American Idol.

The current holder of the flag is Naser Al Ajami from Kuwait. It was presented to him by Professor Sultan Al Amimi, a panel member and the founder of Abu Dhabi's new Nabati Poetry Academy, Mohammed Khalaf Al-Mazrouei, the Director-General of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

Last year's contest will be remembered by many for Hissa Hilal, the Saudi woman poet who reached the final despite receiving death threats after reciting verses attacking the use of fatwas by some of her country's clerics.