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Book Club- نادي القراءة: Nabati Poetry and its cultural significance in the UAE - الشعر النبطي

Nabati Poetry


The vernacular Nabati poetry is often also known as “Bedouin poetry” or “the people’s poetry.” This traditional Arabic poetry has always been an inherent part of Arab culture. Some Bedouin poets have been known to memorise as many as 20,000 poems for oral recitations.

One of the basic reasons for the popularity of Nabati among the masses is the simple language it uses to narrate complex phenomena. Unlike the formal prose of classical and contemporary Arabic literature, the colloquial Arabic used in Nabati makes it direct, clear and comprehensible for the common man.


Nabati poetry in the UAE is celebrated as a means of relaying both prose and songs. The most prominent Nabati practitioners of modern times was Ousha bint Khalifa Al Suwaidi, also known as Fatat Al Arab. A Poetess extraordinaire, Ousha emerged as an eminent cultural figure and one of the finest Nabati poets in the UAE. 

Even after her death in 2018, Fatat Al Arab’s work continues to influence aspiring poets, making monumental contributions to the evolution of Arab Literature and Nabati poetry in the UAE . Even before Ousha, there have been several poets and Nabati practitioners who have enlightened masses through the course of history through their words.

Mubarak Al Oqaili who lived between 1880 and 1954, was one of the first Classical Arabic poets from the UAE to gain recognition for his Nabati works. Others who succeeded in making their mark in the field include Salem bin Ali Al Owais, Ahmed bin Sulayem, H.H. Sheikh Saqr Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi and Khalfan Musabah

Over the years, this form of literature has undergone continuous renaissance. At present, Nabati poetry is once again experiencing a resurgence of popularity with poets bringing it back to mainstream Arabic Literature. 

Taking pride in its rich Arabic heritage, the UAE has always endorsed the different elements of its culture. To promote Nabati poets and their works, the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage hosts a biannual reality show called Poet of the Million on Abu Dhabi TV. 

Poet of the Million is a festival of poetry that offers Emirati Nabati poets a chance to share their work with the masses and compete for the grand prize. The fact that this programme became one of the most successful reality shows in the Arab world speaks volumes of its popularity.  

Contemporary Poets in UAE

The UAE's poetry scene is as diverse and multicultural as the country’s population. 

Almost a decade old, the country’s open mic and slam poetry scene has thrived thanks to the many active voices that have made it what it is today. 

Platforms and organizers like Blank SpaceRooftop Rhythms, and Dubai Poetics are what have helped advance slam poetry in the country. 

Alserkal Avenue's LiteraturHaus, where poets and other figures of literature are invited to speak, is also another.

Take a look at emerging and established poets that are redefining the UAE's cultural landscape. 

Farah Chamma is a Palestinian poet who has been performing spoken word poetry since she was a teenager. Most of her works focus on the identity of Palestinian youth in the region. 

While she mainly recites in Arabic spoken word, she can also perform in English as well as other languages. 

Her talent has taken her to more than 10 countries

Afra Atiq is one of the first Emirati female spoken word artists and slam poets. Having won a couple of awards, she's performed in the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, and the USA. 

Atiq's poetry addresses contemporary Emirati identity and her inner conflict growing up to an Emirati father and a Japanese-American mother.

Salem Al Attas is one of the UAE’s first slam poets, performing since 2011. Having won an award in 2015, his performances include elements of humor as well as theatrics. 

The issues that he addresses through include Arab identity and the cultural imperialism of youth around the region.

Sarah Murad is a 19-year-old Emirati who recently joined the UAE’s poetry community. 

She didn’t give up when she was told at school that literature is not a “degree worth having” and fought to pursue her dream. 

She is now an active participant in the UAE’s open mic and spoken word poetry events. 

Murad has also been shortlisted for her 'The Reason I Pray' poem by By Me Poetry website. 

More about Nabati Poetry

Want to learn more about Nabati poetry and its cultural influence? Here are some other helpful links that you can refer to for more information on the subject.

Arabic Poetry