Each year, Abu Dhabi International Book Fair selects a key personality, based on whom a part of the parallel cultural programme revolves. This is a unique approach that recognises influential Arabic and international figures wielding a powerful imprint on culture and human development.
This year, Abu Dhabi International Book Fair has selected the late Ousha bint Khalifa Al Suwaidi (also known as ‘Fatat Al Arab’) as its ‘Focused Personality of the Fair’, in recognition of her major impact on the UAE’s legacy of Nabati poetry.
The 29th edition of the Fair will showcase Al Suwaidi’s career, detailing how her work has contributed to enriching both the heritage of poetry in the UAE and the wider Arab literary scene, and will include a dedicated section in DCT Abu Dhabi’s pavilion presenting the most important literary achievements of the late poet.
In 1989, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, recognised Al Suwaidi as a pioneer of Nabati poetry by honouring her with the name ‘Fatat Al Arab’.
Al Suwaidi was born in Muwaiji, Al Ain but later settled in Dubai. Throughout her life, Al Suwaidi engaged in poetry contests with some of the UAE’s greatest poets, including the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as well as Ahmed bin Ali Al Kindi and Saeed bin Hilal Al Dhaheri.
Al Suwaidi took Emirati poetry to new heights, and greatly expanded its influence. Her poems reflected the many major historical and social transformations she witnessed in the UAE and wider Arab world, inspiring artists such as Jaber Jasem, Ali Bin Rogha, Mehad Hamad and others to turn them into songs.
Although she stopped writing in the late 1990s, she continued to recite her poems praising the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).