The following poem, which aired as a filler on the Syrian-based TV channel Al-Rai TV on January 3, 2009, was written by the poet Nizar Qabbani. In the poem, Qabbani compares Arab leaders to the pre-Islamic poet Antara bin Shaddad, who is a symbol of false Arab bravado. The poem is accompanied by images of Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, as part of the recent anti-Egyptian media campaign.
This country is a furnished apartment, owned by a man called Antara.
He gets drunk all night long at the door, collects rent from the inhabitants, wants to marry their women, and opens fire at the trees, the children, the eyes, and the scented hairstyles.
This country in its entirety is Antara's private property:
Its skies, its waters, its women, and its green fields.
Posters of Antara hang from all the windows, and all the public squares are named after Antara.
Antara lives in our clothes, in our bread, in our coca-cola bottles, and in our dying dreams.
He lives in our lettuce and watermelon carts, in the buses, in the train station, in the airport customs, in the postal stamps, in the football courts, in the pizza restaurants, and on all sides of our counterfeit coin.
A deserted ghost town – not a mouse, an ant, a brook, or a tree remains.
Nothing in it amazes the tourists – except for the official, authorized picture of General Antara, in the drawing room, on his happy birthday, and in his splendid luxurious, walled palaces.
There is nothing new in the life of this colonialized city.
Our sorrows repeat themselves, our death repeats itself, and the aroma of coffee on our lips also repeats itself.
From birth, we are imprisoned in a bottle of circular culture, circular language.
Ever since we went to school, we have learned only one biography, which tells us of the muscles of Antara, the generosity of Antara, and the miracles of Antara, and in all the cinemas we watch a single tedious Arab film, starring Antara.
There is nothing on the morning radio that interests us.
The first news item is about Antara, and the third, the fifth, the ninth, and the tenth items are all about Antara.
The only thing in the second program is a qanoun1 musical piece, composed by Antara.
The only thing in the second program is a qanoun musical piece, composed by Antara, as well as an oil painting, scribbled by Antara, and a medley of the worst possible poems, sung by Antara.
In this country, the publicists lend their voices to the master of intellectuals, Antara.
They beautify his ugliness, they write the history of his era, they spread his ideology, and they beat the drums of his triumphant wars.
1 The word qanoun is a pun, referring both to a musical string instrument and to law.