Even a casual observer could notice the importance of poetry in Iranian society, if only because a disproportionate number of tourist sites in Iran are the graves of medieval poets. When classical poetry has become a distant memory in so many cultures, it is clear that it is an integral part of the Iranian consciousness.
Seven ancient Arabic odes are still unknown to the West despite having a bedrock status as “Beowulf” does in English: the mu’allaqat or hanging odes, so-called because they were allegedly stitched in gold and draped on the shrine of the Kaaba at Mecca as masterpieces.
Roula Roukbi is among the few Damascus socialites who created an alternative space for art, culture, and some politics in the city. She excelled at living as if Syria was a free country, and in many respects, her hotel came to embody a microcosm of what freedom might one day look like.
Sea shanties provided solace and strength for sailors on merchant ships across the world. Until well into the 20th century, their haunting melodies were sung by Gulf sailors all across the Indian Ocean. Today, they are being rediscovered and adapted as a modern form of cultural expression.
The language used by early Arab poets to appraise wine shows striking parallels to the style of wine criticism we know today. Arab and Muslim poets writing hundreds of years ago used a vocabulary to evaluate wine that would only become current in the West in the late 20th century.