Living among the locals

10 poets in the UAE you should know about

The UAE’s poetry scene is as diverse and multicultural as the country’s population. 

Almost a decade old, the country’s open mic and slam poetry scene has thrived thanks to the many active voices that have made it what it is today. Platforms and organizers like Blank SpaceRooftop Rhythms, and Dubai Poetics have greatly contributed to the progress of slam poetry in the country. Alserkal Avenue’s LiteraturHaus, where poets and other figures of literature are invited to speak, is another significant contributor.

Take a look at emerging and established poets that are redefining the UAE’s cultural landscape. 

  1. Farah Chamma

Farah Chamma is a Palestinian poet who has been performing spoken word poetry since she was a teenager. Most of her works focus on the identity of Palestinian youth in the region. While she mainly recites in Arabic spoken word, she can also perform in English as well as other languages. Her talent has taken her to more than 10 countries.

  1. Afra Atiq

Afra Atiq is one of the first Emirati female spoken word artists and slam poets. Having won a couple of awards, she’s performed in the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, and the USA. Atiq’s poetry addresses contemporary Emirati identity and her inner conflict growing up to an Emirati father and a foreigner mother.

  1. Mina Liccione

Most of us here in Dubai know American Mina Liccione from her popular drama and stand-up comedy workshops, Dubomedy – which she has been managing along with her Emirati husband, Ali Al Sayed, since 2008. What many of us don’t know is that Liccione is also a poet. As shown in this video, her performances mix poetry with drama and performance.

  1. Salem Al-Attas

Salem Al Attas is one of the UAE’s first slam poets, performing since 2011. Having won an award in 2015, his performances include elements of humor as well as theatrics. The issues that he addresses include Arab identity and the cultural imperialism of youth around the region.

  1. Sarah Murad

Sarah Murad is a 19-year-old Emirati who recently joined the UAE’s poetry community. 

She didn’t give up when she was told at school that literature is not a “degree worth having” and fought to pursue her dream. She is now an active participant in the UAE’s open mic and spoken word poetry events. 

Murad has also been shortlisted for her ‘The Reason I Pray’ poem by By Me Poetry website. 

  1. Malavika Suresh

Malavika Suresh is an 18-year-old spoken word artist of Indian descent. She has been writing for two years but has only been performing for one. Inspired by lyrics and other spoken word artists, she hopes to articulate people’s emotions and break the silence on topics that aren’t often discussed. 

  1. Ehrlich Ross

Coming from the Philippines, Ehrlich Ross is a nurse who likes to write poetry in his spare time. What he likes most about it is that it enables him to tell stories, navigate emotions, and discover new ones. His poems tell stories and lessons he has learned in his life. He started performing last year and has become a regular at open mic events around town ever since. Thanks to his active presence, he has won an award and performed at important events like Dubai Culture’s Sikka Art Festival.

  1. Deena Dadachanji

Deena Dadachanji’s passion for learning and expression has taken her across the globe; from Pakistan to Dubai, to Canada and Singapore, all the way to Thailand. 

As an alternative educator, she offers children and teens the tools to tap into their creativity and share their ideas and emotions. 

She is the founder of Girl Talk Dubai, an organization which offers workshops and events for young girls to learn, express, grow, and feel supported. As a member of Dubai Poetics, she has performed in various events in the UAE.

  1. Dana Dajani

Dana Dajani is a Palestinian poet based in Dubai. She is also an actor and a producer with a degree in theater. 

Her move to Dubai in 2011 paved the way for wide recognition and various awards thanks to her many talents.

  1. Tasneem Mayet

Tasneem Mayet is another member of Dubai Poetics. Coming from a third generation South African family, she’s always been away from homeland. 

She now draws much of her inspiration from Dubai’s architecture. When she is not performing at open mic events around town, Mayet makes a living as a content marketing strategist and financial consultant.

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About Yasmin Helal

Having lived in the GCC, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran, Yasmin is a journalist who enjoys writing travel and culture features.

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