ABU DHABI // Cheers erupted among Egyptian fans at Al Raha Beach Theatre when Alaa Janib won the coveted reality television title of the Prince of Poets and the Dh1 million first prize.
Thousands of people applied to take part in the show, which started on Abu Dhabi TV on May 1, and 300 were selected. That number was whittled down to 20 poets from around the world.
Janib, 40, had penned two diwans (collections of poetry) and five research and critical theses.
The Egyptian, who started writing poetry at 16, was also honoured with a burda (cloak) symbolising Arab heritage and a ring denoting an emir, or prince.
During his poetry session he spoke on a diverse range of topics, from historic and current political turmoil in the Arab world to praise for the UAE’s visionary leaders, and particularly the late Sheikh Zayed, the country’s founding father.
“I got to this position with the love of people from across the Arab world,” Janib said. “I thank them all, but I believe that everybody who took part in this competition deserves the same honour as they all are very proficient in their poetic dialogue.
“I also thank those who are engaged in reviving the Arabic language once again through poetry.”
Yahya Wahhash, a Yemeni, won the silver medal and Dh500,000. Third was Sheikh Walad Bilamash, from Mauritania, who won a bronze medal and Dh300,000. Fourth was Hisham Al Saghri, an Omani, who also won a bronze medal and Dh200,000; fifth was a Saudi, Mohammed Abu Shararah, who also received a bronze medal and Dh100,000. Linda Ibrahim, from Syria, was voted out last night before the finale took place.
Wahhash, who has three diwans, said: “I am delighted to be honoured with this award. I have had an interest in poetry writing and reciting since I was very young; poetry is everything to me.”
Judge Dr Salah Fadl said: “All the poets presented beautiful verses and all of them have a bright future.
“Arabic poetry has lots of imagination, innovation and charm and through these efforts we hope to keep the language alive and benefit people in all aspects of life, whether it’s educational, technical or social.
“Poetry is one of the most efficient tools for reviving the Arabic language.”
Fifth-placed Shararah began writing poetry at the age of 14. He said: “I thank the organisers for promoting the tradition of poetry and helping to preserve the language.”
The show was created in 2007 by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and is always broadcast live from Al Raha Beach Theatre.
It has been so successful that its ratings have overtaken those of football and other reality television programmes.
A judging panel of established poets and critics offers feedback on the entries, while the studio audience and viewers vote for who they want to win.
Prince of Poets is similar to another Emirati poetry competition, Million’s Poet, which promotes Nabati (Bedouin) poetry, while Prince of Poets promotes classical Arabic poetry.
The contest is named after the late Egyptian poet Ahmed Shawqi, whose peers gave him the title Prince of Poets in 1927.