Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Ebrahim Al-Arrayedh: The Life of a Bahraini Poet

Ebrahim Al-Arrayedh (in Arabic: إبراهيم العريّض‎, born 8 March 1908 – died May 2002) was a Bahraini writer and poet, and is generally considered to be one of Bahrain's greatest poets and one of the leaders of the Bahraini literary movement in the 20th century. In this article, we'll try to see why he is regarded as such.

Biography:

Arrayedh was born in Bombay, India to his Bahraini parents on 8 March 1908. In 1922, he visited Bahrain for the first time at age 14, where he started his education at the country's first school, the Hidaya al-Khalifa school though he did not permanently reside in the island. He returned to Bombay in 1926 and enrolled at a local school where he earned his high school diploma. It was at this school that Al-Arrayedh studied Farsi and the English language, alongside Urdu, and had expressed a deep interest in Urdu literature. He later studied Urdu literature at the Aligarh Muslim University.

In 1927, Al-Arrayedh returned to Bahrain and was appointed as an English teacher in the Hidaya al-Khalifa school, a position he held for four years. He later became the deputy director of the Jafari school though he was forced to quit his job over disputes with the British colonial authorities. After this, he served as a treasurer in the State Customs Service. In 1937, he moved on to become the head of a translation department in a Bahraini company, which did not last as a result of the outbreak of World War II. In 1943, he traveled to Delhi and worked at a radio station. He later returned to Bahrain where he worked for the Bahrain Petroleum Company until 1967, when he retired.

Poetry and honours:

Since the age of 18, Al-Arrayedh began writing poetry, with his first set of poems being published in Baghdad in 1931. Since he was a multi-linguist, he translated the works of poets between Persian, Hindi, Urdu, English, and Arabic. His poems were popular in Iraq, Syria and Egypt; such that the American University of Beirut asked him to deliver lectures on Arab literature, which he had agreed to. Ebrahim published another collection of poems, The Dolls, in 1946. This was followed by another three compilations, two poetic dramas, four critical studies of Arabic poetry, one poetry collection in Urdu and another in English. He translated Al Khayami's Rubayat from Persian into Arabic in 1966. Throughout his life, Al-Arrayedh lectured widely and travelled extensively to participate in conferences and debates in the field of poetry

He was awarded the Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa Order - First Class, by the Bahraini government.  He was also a noted reformer setting up a school, and was appointed head of the Constitutional Council by the emir Sheikh Isa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa. In short, Ebrahim was responsible for developing Bahrain's constitution in the early 1970s prior to independence from the United Kingdom. He served as Bahrain's ambassador-at-large (which is a diplomat of the highest rank or a minister who is accredited to represent his country internationally) in 1974 and later as ambassador extraordinary plenipotentiary at the Ministry of Foreign Affair, a position he held until his death in 2002.
Ebrahim al-Arrayedh in his later years

Death and legacy:

Ebrahim died in May 2002 at the age of 94, after suffering breathing problems. He was buried in the Manama graveyard, next to his late daughter Layla Al-Arrayedh who died the preceding year.

Following his death, the King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, named one of the Kingdom’s most geographically important roads after him — opposite the Bahrain Financial Harbour. In 2006, his old house, in Gudaibiya, in the capital city of Manama, was turned into a cultural centre, the Ebrahim Al-Arrayedh Poetry House, open to tourists and as a meeting place for poets.

In 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation held an exhibition in Al-Arrayedh's honour in its headquarters in Paris, France.

Notable works:
(In Arabic, couldn't find a decent translation.) 
(A larger collection of his poems can be found here)

Architecture Plan of Bab Al Bahrain from 1945

Double click for larger image. Reading through the Qatar Digital Library's massive digitised archives of British colonial files, I...