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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

UAE Portrait of a Nation: The Emirati poet who is training to be a neurosurgeon 

Aside from perusing hobbies, which include watching surgeries and reading Shakespeare, Mohammed Belhoul found time to write a poetry book, Creation and You

19-year-old Emirati Mohammed Belhoul is a published author and is also studying to be a neurosurgeon. Victor Besa / The National
19-year-old Emirati Mohammed Belhoul is a published author and is also studying to be a neurosurgeon. Victor Besa / The National

At just 19, Emirati Mohammed Belhoul is a published author and is also studying to be a neurosurgeon.

His first attempt at writing was in the 10th grade at around the age of 15. “It was a long romantic poem inspired by the French romantics,” he says.

As a child, he was passionate about literature. “I loved literature and was my English teacher’s star.”

One of his favourite poems is the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, he likes Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet, so you would assume that he would major in literature. Instead, in 2016, a young Mr Belhoul enrolled in UAE university to study medicine and later train to be a neurosurgeon.

Why did he go to medical school and not pursue literature? “Because I have a passion for research and am interested in science.

“In my free time, I read science journals. It has more to do with how the humanities are taught currently because it is mostly a liberal perspective and it is not taught the way it should be taught.”

He references clinical psychologist Dr Jordan Peterson, who believes literature “is influenced by post-modernism, and it is mostly liberal ideas being forced into the humanities.”

Another reason that is much simpler to understand is the job market. “Today the job market wants engineers, scientists, doctors, but rarely are they looking for literature graduates and poets," he said.

Aside from spending time pursuing his hobbies, which include watching surgeries, reading medical publications and Shakespeare, Mr Belhoul found time to write his poetry book, Creation and You.

He was influenced by an inner drive to “create” and his personal experiences. Everything he or a friend went through, such as a friend going through a failed relationship, was written down, until another friend suggested that he publish a book.

“I had these rough drafts of poems on my computer. So last year I decided to arrange and edit them.”

Being exposed to mostly English literature, his poetry flowed in English.

“I want to prove that Emiratis can write in different languages.

“The language I use comes from all over the place, some inspired by the Gothic poems of Edgar Allan Poe.”

His book, a compilation of short poems, was published in 2017. It is now being sold at local bookstores.

“A lot of it is based on figments of my imagination,” he says. One poem, titled The Sea, is based on a friend who kept a lot of secrets.

“Keeping secrets can sometimes weigh down on you, so I started imaging a girl who was burdened by all the secrets she kept and that’s how I wrote The Sea.

With Mr Belhoul, everything has a deeper meaning even the title of the book. “I chose the title, Creation and You, because the book is intended to describe all humanity,” he says.

“There is branch of philosophy called aesthetics, which is basically about beautifying humanity, and that’s what I am trying to do.

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“It is a short-term escape from your everyday life where you can appreciate how we are as a species. ‘Creation’ is where I describe everything around you, because I have a lot of analogies from nature.”

The book of around 100 short poems won’t be his last foray into the publishing world – he has already started on a self-help book that he plans to call The Passiveness Towards Education. It is completely the opposite of Creation and You. He wants to "put the UAE on the map".

“It is aimed at high school students. Many people here have this passive approach towards education where they are doing the minimum to graduate and get a job.

“What I want to do is to create a cultural shift where people are more active towards education.”

The biog

Age: 19 

Profession: medical student at UAE university 

Favourite book: The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

Role model: Parents, followed by Fazza (Shiekh Hamdan bin Mohammed)

Favourite poet: Edger Allen Poe 

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