The renowned Emirati poet Oosha bint Khalifa Al Suweidi was honoured with an event in recognition of her contribution to UAE literature on November 28, 2011.
The prestigious gathering was held at the Habtoor Grand Hotel, Jumeirah, Dubai, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the United Arab Emirates Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
Oosha is known throughout the Gulf for her award-winning Nabati poems, many of which have been put to music.
However she’s most famous for her poetic correspondence with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, who during his lifetime dedicated many of his poems to her. She in return wrote poetry addressed to him. He used to refer to her fondly as ‘Fatat Al Arab’ or ‘The Girl of the Gulf’.
Many of Oosha’s poems, as well her life story, have recently been compiled in a book – Al Amaal Al Kamila Wa Al Seera Al Thatiya (The Life Story and Journey of Oosha bint Khalifa Al Suweidi) by Dr Rafia Ghubash the President of the Arabian Gulf University Bahrain and founder of Matthaf Al Mara’a (The Women’s Museum – a museum that showcases the history of women in the UAE. The book was also launched at the gathering.
The TV presenter and news anchor for Dubai TV Noora Al Marzooqi presented the event, which began with a short dramatic sketch describing how Oosha woke from a dream in which she had swallowed the moon, at the age of 12. The famous tale tells of how her father, recognising her great gift reported the occurrence to the local religious Sheikh. He predicted that one day her name would be known throughout the Arab world, as indeed it is.
Some of Oosha’s work was recited during the event and Gaith bin Matar bin Mizeinah, representing the younger generation of UAE poets, paid homage to Oosha by reciting a poem he’d written in her honour. The well known scribe Rashid Sharar also read a poem dedicated to Oosha.
Sheikh Nahyan delivered a speech in which he drew attention to the important contribution she’s made to Emirati literature. “The poet Oosha is a great role-model for the younger generation of UAE women. Her deep faith is obvious throughout her poetry and it’s clear that she aspires to high ideals.
“You can sense too her strength of character and determination. It’s clear she recognises the depth of the human soul. I often recite her poem titled ‘My Lord, The Forgiver’ which is in essence a prayer.
And he added: “I appreciate the huge effort it has taken Dr Rafia Obeid Ghubash, to research and write this book. It will make a distinctive addition to Arabic literature, providing an opportunity for readers to identify important points in the life of a key figure in UAE literary history.”
Dr Rafia also remarked on Oosha’s importance. “We have sought on this occasion to gather UAE citizens from different generations to celebrate the extraordinary life of a woman whose is unique, not just in her poetry writing ability, but in maintaining the authenticity of the vocabulary and cultural heritage of UAE’s society,” she said.
Khalaf Al Habtoor, the Chairman of the Habtoor Group, who is also a first cousin of the poet, hosted the event. He too spoke in her honour. “Oosha bint Khalifa Al Suweidi, or ‘Fatat Al Arab’ as His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum used to call her, was a rarity on the poetry scene. I knew her very well and I found her to be an exceptional person,” he said.
“Oosha loved this country. The deserts and the waters of the Arabian Gulf inspired her to write some of her most beautiful poetry. But the vocabulary and the images she used are even more beautiful than the actual environment. It’s impossible not to admire her vision and vivid imagination.”
His granddaughters (Oosha’s great granddaughters) – Noora bint Mohammed Al Habtoor and Hamda bint Ahwad bin Mijrin also gave speeches in Oosha’s honour.
Noora bint Mohammed Al Habtoor commented: “Our grandmother’s poems leave a profound impact on the hearts of all readers. We, who know her well, love her very much. She’s more than a great poet; her unique qualities are a source of inspiration to us all. She’s a woman ahead of her time. She’s strong, independent and courageous.”
Also announced at the event, was the establishment of an annual award for female Emirati poets in Oosha’s name; a section in honour of Oosha in the Women’s Museum in Dubai; as well as a library in the Emirates International School to be named after her. The Primary School Arabic Library of EIS Meadows was launched by Rashid Al Habtoor and Amna Al Habtoor on the same day.
Meanwhile at the Habtoor Grand hotel, guests mingled at a reception after the event to honour Oosha, as Dr Rafia signed copies of the book about her life.