JEDDAH (Rahnuma): The language of love has been an integral theme of Arab poetry.
From before Islam, poets have inked expressions of love, affection and passion into their verses.
The word for poet in Arabic is sha’er, which means the feeler or the one who feels, and from the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula to the Andalusian aristocratic gardens, classical Arabic poetry is filled with ancient love tales.
Many remain popular today, inspiring contemporary poets, singers, artists, and musicians.
Antarah ibn Shaddad Al-Absi and Abla (sixth century), Qays ibn Al-Mulawwah and Leyla (seventh century), Kuthayyir ibn ‘Abd Al-Raḥman and ‘Azza (eighth century), and Ibn Zaydun and Princess Wallada (11th century) are examples of the numerous pairings from romantic Arabic verse.
Arabic poetry has steadily evolved through the centuries and developed new forms and themes under the influence of Western literature, partly as a result of colonialism and globalization. A sense of modernity appeared in the aftermath of World War II.
One Western cultural phenomenon that reached the Arab region was Valentine’s Day or as it is called in Arabic, Love Day.
Although the origins of Valentine’s Day date back to A.D. 269, it is only since the mid-1800s that it has been linked to romance, and was not celebrated as a holiday until the mid-19th century.
As a commercial and social event, Valentine’s Day is still in its relative infancy in the Arab world but is fast growing in popularity. The day is now often mentioned in Arabic poetry by scribes such as Lebanon’s Elia Abu Madi, Egypt’s Farouk Gouida, Saudi Prince Badr bin Abdul Mohsin, and Nizar Qabbani from Syria.