Bedouin Poets of the Nafūd Desert

Bedouin Poets of the Nafūd Desert

300 Pages

April 2024

ISBN: 9781479826155




Khalaf Abū Zwayyid (d. 1942) gained notoriety for his barbs aimed at the most powerful prince of Arabia in his time, Muḥammad ibn Rashīd. He died in 1942 at around 100 years of age.

ʿAdwān al-Hirbīd (d. 1896) was held in special esteem for his love poetry.

ʿAjlān ibn Rmāl belonged to the tribe of al-Rmāl.

Marcel Kurpershoek is a specialist in the oral traditions and poetry of Arabia. He is the author of the five-volume Oral Poetry and Narratives from Central Arabia, as well as several books on Middle Eastern history and culture. He served as Netherlands ambassador to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Poland, and as special envoy to Syria until 2015.

A collection of poems from a changing Bedouin world

Bedouin Poets of the Nafūd Desert features poetry from three poets of the Ibn Rashīd dynasty–the highwater mark of Bedouin culture in the nineteenth century. Khalaf Abū Zwayyid, ʿAdwān al-Hirbīd, and ʿAjlān ibn Rmāl belonged to tribes based around the area of Jabal Shammar in northern Arabia. A cultural and political center for the region, Jabal Shammar attracted caravans of traders and pilgrims, tribal shaykhs, European travelers (including T.E. Lawrence), illiterate Bedouin poets, and learned Arabs. All three poets lived at the inception of or during modernity’s accelerating encroachment. New inventions and firearms spread throughout the region, and these poets captured Bedouin life in changing times. Their poems and the accompanying narratives showcase the beauty and complexity of Bedouin culture, while also grappling with the upheaval brought about by the rise of the House of Saud and Wahhabism.

The poems featured in Bedouin Poets of the Nafūd Desert are often humorous and witty, yet also sentimental, wistful, and romantic. They vividly describe journeys on camelback, stories of family and marriage, thrilling raids, and beautiful nature scenes, offering a window into Bedouin culture and society in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.