x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sheikh Saeed Bin Tahnoon: UAE's quick-witted poet leader

Born in Abu Dhabi in the early 19th Century, Sheikh Saeed Bin Tahnoon Bin Shakhboot Bin Diab Bin Issa Al Nahyan, was a poet as well as a leader.

Born in Abu Dhabi in the early 19th Century, Sheikh Saeed Bin Tahnoon Bin Shakhboot Bin Diab Bin Issa Al Nahyan, was a poet as well as a leader.

He lived at first with his father, Sheikh Tahnoon, the Ruler of Abu Dhabi until 1833. After Sheikh Tahnoon's death, Sheikh Saeed first moved to Mahdar Mazairra, in Liwa.

After the death of his uncle Sheikh Khalifa Bin Shakhboot, who succeeded Sheikh Tahnoon, it was decided Sheikh Khalifa's sons were too young to rule.

Instead the population of Abu Dhabi asked Sheikh Hilal Bin Shakhboot and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Shakhboot to lead them. Upon their refusal, the people asked Sheikh Hilal to nominate another member of family.

He agreed to the task, and soon after Sheikh Saeed arrived, to which Sheikh Hilal called out: "Here is your new Sheikh." Sheikh Saeed at first declined, but was eventually persuaded to become Ruler.

Intelligent, quick-witted and firm, Sheikh Saeed Bin Tahnoon began his rule in 1845 and was responsible for further fortifying Qasr Al Hosn.

As story is told about a meeting 40 days after Sheikh Saeed took office. Senior figures in the emirate decided to send the leader of the Al Marar tribe, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Al Mughairibi Al Marar to ask Sheikh Saeed why he had not yet reached out to his people after taking power.

The two men met over coffee. Afterwards Sheikh Saeed invited Sheikh Al Marar to compete at Al Halusa, a traditional game similar to chess. Sheikh Al Marar played first and during the game improvised two lines of poetry to test the new Ruler:

"This land of obscure comers within

Like a handless ship, soon will spin."

When it came time for Sheikh Saeed bin Tahnoon to respond, he said:

"Proceeding with proper ropes, unbroken

Staying convinced in a placement uncertain

Will Keep true thoughts tentatively hidden."

The lines finally convinced Sheikh Al Marr that the new Ruler was the right man for the job and he returned to his people with the good news.

balhashemi@thenational.ae