Born in Malaysia, Saudi poet Nimah Ismail Nawwab, descended from a long line of Makkan scholars and became the first Saudi Arab woman poet to be published in the United States. Her essays, poems and articles have been published widely in print and online, in Saudi Arabia and abroad.
Nawwab’s book of poetry, The Unfurling, was published in 2004 by Selwa Press to much international acclaim and attention. Hailed as a voice for Arab women, Nawwab has given readings and interviews in venues including Newsweek,
National Public Radio, BBC World News, BBC World Today and The Washington
Nimah Nawwab’s interests in diversity, change, acceptance, women’s issues and youth empowerment have led to her involvement in many conferences and workshops. She seeks to build bridges of understanding and has been dubbed a “cultural ambassadress” because of the interactive readings and presentations she gives in countries in the East and West. She has presented at The Smithsonian Institute, The Mosaic Foundation and Vital Voices in Washington, D.C.; The World Expo in Japan; the UN Pavilion, Aichi, Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore; Ghalib Academy and Hamdard University in India; and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
Nominated a Young Global Leader of the Young Global Leaders Forum, an affiliate of the World Economic Forum (WEF), she actively joined 175 leading executives, public figures and intellectuals from 50 countries, addressing global issues for a service period of five years. She often uses poetry to illustrate points in her speeches about women, youth and global issues. More information about Nimah Niwwab’s work can be found on www.nimahnawwab.com.
How her spirit
Entices us all!
Will the time come
For my ideas to roam
Across this vast land’s deserts,
Through the caverns of the Empty Quarter?
For my voice to be sent forth,
Crying out in the stillness of a quiet people,
A voice among the voiceless?
For my thoughts, that hurl around
In a never-ending spiral,
Mature, grow and flourish
In a barren wasteland of shackled minds?
Will my spirit be set free—
To soar above the undulating palm fronds?
Will my essence and heart be unfettered,
Of man-made Thou Shall Nots?
Striding through the gates of learning,
Wrapped warmly in her black abaya,
Modestly cloaked head to toe,
Not a hair astray, no skin showing,
Holding her head up high,
Thinking of the future,
Arms laden with books,
Head in the clouds,
Lunch, television, studies, friends,
That is how her day will go,
Near future, far future,
Blissful, brimming with expectations.
“Hey, you there!” thunders across the parking lot.
“You with the black boots” the tone is raised.
Oh, oh, reluctantly she turns,
The self-righteous, bushy-bearded figure,
Crashes through the crowds,
Bestriding his narrow world like a Colossus,
As his entourage hurries in his wake,
A raging bull on the rampage,
Seeing red as the girl flouts ‘convention.’
Necks crane to watch,
The crowds are in on the show.
He thunders on,
The police by his side.
“Stop, your scarf has slipped.”
The tirade begins,
Head cast down,
Eyes to the ground,
Burrowing into her deepest self.
Has she missed a prayer?
Has she been a disobedient daughter?
Cheated, lied, stolen,
Beaten a child, an animal, been cruel to another soul?
What did she do?
Her scarf slipped,
An unforgivable transgression,
In the eyes of the Controllers.
Is that her sin,
Her ever-lasting humiliation,
Her major fall from grace,
The mind is strange, the spirit stranger yet,
The rebellion begins.
* Abaya is the outer garment worn by women in Persian Gulf
He watched the old movie unfold,
The head-covered man bashing his van into a building,
Nodding his head: ‘Yes another one, they are terrorists,’
The calm way he uttered those words
The look in his young eyes,
For they had won,
they had won,
they had won,
Their hollow victory,
turning the world upon itself.
Those demented fanatics have implanted the bitter seeds,
Our young believing that terror is here to stay,
Questioning their identity constantly,
Questioning elements of society, a fact
Could I really answer?
Did I even want to answer?
No justification, no excuse can wipe,
Needless deaths, destruction of innocents.
Not a single life lost,
could be justified.
The land turned into a big-gated occupied territory
The once-peaceful kingdom rent with shootouts,
As the tolerance of our spiritual beliefs
Misguided by the need for vengeance,
Vengeance against perceived,
Unacceptable ways of life,
Those whose hearts have been wiped clean,
Clean of the basic tolerance for fellow man,
A tolerance making the religion thrive,
A spirit attracting billions to the faith,
All dashed on the rocks
In the surging, ravaging river
Of loathing the Other.
As the very essence of our faith
Now stands in danger
Of this ambush from within,
Turning back upon them,
Derailing their intentions
As hate colors their vision of the truth,
That we are all, all, all
Sons and daughters of Adam,
That the three faiths,
Our mainstay, our guide
Sealed by The One
To spread their message
for human kind.