Marcel Kupershoek

An NYU Abu Dhabi researcher who roamed the deserts of Saudi Arabia in the 1980s is now starring in an Arabic TV series about his experiences.

Humanities Research Fellow Marcel Kurpershoek, a former Dutch diplomat, is the central figure in the Arabic language documentary series Al-Rahhala al-Akhir, which is based on his book Arabia of the Bedouins — a collection of Bedouin poems and the story of his intensive study of traditional Saudi society. The show on Al Arabiya TV features a number of individual episodes in Arabic starting on October 7.

Here are eight interesting facts about Kurpershoek's experiences over the last three decades that culminated in a number of books and now a TV series about his encounters with the Bedouins and other European researchers who lived in the Arabian deserts in the 1980s.

1. Kurpershoek traveled to the desert in the 80s to record oral poetry and stories with the Bedouins. His fieldwork was first published in the series Oral Poetry and Narratives from Central Arabia (Brill Publishers 1994-2005). The literary story of his fieldwork was originally printed in Dutch in two volumes.

2. In 2000, Kurpershoek's book Arabia of the Bedouins (the inspiration for the TV series) was translated into Arabic as The Last Bedouin.

3. The name of the show — Al-Rahhala al-Akhir — translates into English as The Last Traveler.

4. In the show, Kurpershoek retraces his steps and recalls meetings in the desert with other researchers, poets, and the Bedouin people. Bedouin poetry is a central theme.

5. Kurpershoek is from the Netherlands and fluent in Arabic. In the show, he speaks the Bedouin dialect and recites Bedouin poetry.

NYUAD Researcher Stars in Arabic TV Show About Bedouin Life
Kurpershoek rides a camel during filming in Saudi Arabia.

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6. The Al Arabiya film crew traveled to Amsterdam to film Kurpershoek at his home and at the university where his studies and interest in the Arab world began. He taught Arabic at Leiden University and was also a diplomat.

7. The TV series was shot in March 2016 near the northern Saudi Arabia city of Hail and in the Nefud desert after weeks of preparation digging out old materials, notes, and photographs.

8. Kurpershoek is currently writing two volumes of NYU’s Library of Arabic Literature on Central Arabian Poetry due to be published next year.