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Nabati Poetry in the Arabian Desert

For centuries, Nabati poetry has been a touchstone of identity and tribal values in the Arabian Peninsula. NYU Abu Dhabi Senior Humanities Fellow Marcel Kurpershoek, a former Dutch diplomat, traveled to the Arabian desert in the 1980s to record oral poetry and stories with the Bedouin people.

Children of War and Diplomacy in Syria

Marcel Kurpershoek and Thomas Fletcher, two experienced scholars/diplomats, discuss the war in Syria, ways to provide education to children displaced by war, and the role that digital diplomacy can play in the future.

In the News

Beyond the Headlines: Saudi Arabia from Bedouin culture to a leading power
As the kingdom celebrates its 90th anniversary this week, we reflect on the growth of one of the Middle East's most important countries
The National |  September 23, 2020

A Dutchman's quest to translate Bedouin poetry takes him to Ras Al Khaimah
Marcel Kurpershoek is seeking to understand the 17th century writings of folk hero Ibn Dhaher for an English-language book.
The National | March 8, 2020

Arabian Romantic: Translating and ‘Cherishing the Irrational’ 
In this second part of a back-and-forth that took place over email, Kurpershoek discussed what is unique about Ibn Sbayyil’s work and the translational challenges of bringing it into a contemporary English.
Library of Arabic Literature | October 19, 2018

Arabian Romantic: A “Linear Descendant” of Early Arabic Classics 
In a back-and-forth over email, Kurpershoek discussed why this sort of “romantic” poetry has disappeared from the landscape, why he calls it “romantic” at all, and how the survival of this type of poetry “hangs by a very thin, tenuous thread.” This is the first in a two-part series of interviews about Arabian Romantic.
Library of Arabic Literature | October 16, 2018

The Poems of the Story
Marcel Kupershoek is featured in an episode of a new poetry program. The subject of his episode is on Humeidan al-Shuway'ir, an early 18th-century satirical poet. The program will feature six poets.
Al Arabiya (in Arabic) | March 17, 2018

Coaxing the Lizard Out of His Burrow: Marcel Kurpershoek on Hmedan al-Shwe’ir and Najdi Poetry Before Wahhabism 
In a talk over Skype, Kurpershoek and M. Lynx Qualey discussed the critical importance of this little-translated poetry. In this second part of their discussion, Kurpershoek talks about the available manuscripts, the ways in which the print editions of Hmedan’s work were censored, the Golden Age of Nabati poetry, and more.
Arablit | December 13, 2017

Marcel Kurpershoek on Translating 18th-century Nabati Poetry That Still ‘Smells Like Fresh Bread’ 
In this first part of their discussion, Kurpershoek touches on the relationship between this poetry and pre-Islamic works; how it illuminates life in the eighteenth-century Najd; what we know about Hmedan’s life; and how his poems live on in contemporary Central Arabia.
Arablit | December 4, 2017

Ancient Bedouin verse, the ‘people’s poetry’, has found a new audience
This ancient Bedouin verse has found a new audience thanks to a well-known television show but for academics, Nabati poetry is a cultural touchstone.
The National | November 7, 2013