x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Many words, myriad uses

In Nabati poetry, popular especially in bedouin culture, there are at least 10 ways to say love, including al hawa, al ishq, al houb, al gharam, al mahaba, al hiyam, and al moutaym. Even more words express anger and disgust - akh, for example, and kekh. Numerous words identify sounds of the wind and creatures, such as sasar (whisper) or saroukh (either rockets or loud sound) and sayeh (crying). Some poetic words are derived from desert vegetation, like the ghuwaifat, a plant that gives shade and fruit, and so is used to means goodness or the act of eating something fast. Depending on emphasis, kandura can mean the national dress, a short, annoying man, or a thick piece of wood. Nabati poems use local, everyday dialect. According to the poet Rashid Sharar, the head of the Sharjah Centre for Nabati poetry, it is "a mirror of the Emirati society, reflecting its words, history and culture". One of the earliest Nabati poets whose work has survived was al Majidi ibn Daher, who lived in Ras al Khaimah in the 17th century. The word Nabati comes from the Arabic verb "to derive", a reference to its origins in classical Arabic. But it has another meaning: water bubbling up from the ground. The genre is found across the peninsula, where for centuries the Bedouin tribes passed their stories from generation to generation. "While they were labelled as illiterate, the poems of a Bedouin were at times deeper and more eloquent than an educated Arab man," said Mr Sharar. The other main style is Faseeh, or classical Arabic poetry. It can generally be understood by Arabs in the peninsula, the Levant and North Africa. "If someone reads and understands the Quran, they will understand the Faseeh poems," said Mr Sharar.

* Rym Ghazal