In Saudi Arabia there’s a new type of reality TV, poetry competitions ala American Idol. This year’s winner is 34-year-old Ziyad Hijab bin Naheet.
Naheet performed in front of an audience of 2,000 in studio and 17 million in front of their televisions to bring home the top prize of $1,361,207.64. Naheet is a Nabati poet. Nabati poetry is an ancient form of storytelling in verse. It is recited in tribal dialects unlike other forms of classic Arab poetry.
The Global Post reports:
“It’s the most famous genre of poetry in the Gulf,” explained Muhammad Ayish, a professor of communications at the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, the seven-state nation nestled between Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Arab’s are one of the first cultures to perform the Spoken Word in the form of poetry. It has always been an important part of the culture.
The show “Million’s Poet” has been a huge success. The elders are pleased that the younger generation is seeing that poetry is being preserved with the young. The show is Abu Dhabi TV’s highest rated prime time show. The contestants recite their own poetry written in the Nabati style. The poetry form dates back to the fourth century.
The studio audience is segregated with men and women sitting in different areas. Women who are performing however at with the men they compete against.
The Guardian reports:
“When we designed this show we had in mind the grandness of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and the suspense of Pop Idol, ” says Nashwa Al Ruwaini, Millions’ Poets producer and head of the show’s production company, Pyramedia. “The idea was to create a new format that would appeal to this part of the world without offending this part of the world.”
Regional governments are very active in reviving Nabati poetry. Poetry festivals are becoming popular.
At Dubai International Poetry Festival 2009 audiences listened to poems that were translated to various languages as well as dialects.
The Saudi Gazette quotes Jamal Huwaireb, chairman of the recent event:
“We want to help break that translation barrier,” he said. The organizing committee has called on poet-translators to contribute to the noble cause of making poetry available in many different languages. The festival has also launched the Translator Poet Award which goes to the one who provides an accurate translation of own poems in other languages, including Arabic. With that, Dubai has rightly “earned the title of the world city of poetry,” Huwaireb said.
Global Post quotes the star of the hour, Naheet.
“All of royalty loves it,” Naheet said.
“It’s unacceptable for someone to stand up and say ‘I love you,’” he explained. “Whereas to use the channel of poetry to convey praise, loyalty and love, it’s acceptable.”