Arab Poet and Aberdeen University alumni wins Tagore Peace Prize

Dr Shihab Ganem on the far right at the 2004 Conference of Obstacles Facing Creative Translation held in Sharjah 2004

Dr. Shihab Ganem is the first Arab to receive the Tagore Peace Award for his contribution to developing human understanding through translation of poetry

{jcomments on}Ganem obtained a double degree in mechanical and electrical engineering from Aberdeen University in Scotland in 1963. He completed his master’s degree in water resources engineering in Roorkee University in India but engineering is not the reason for receiving this prestigious award.

Ganem ‘s award is a natural outcome of his dedication for decades in the field of translation of creative arts, mainly poetry, aiming through his work to bring human understanding and bridge the gap between civilisations through the universal values of humanity, love and peace adopted by Tagore.

Ganem is a leading UAE poet and dedicated translator of Indian poetry to Arabic language. His interest in Indian poetry goes back to many years as other family members. His grandfather Mohammad Ali Lokman is the first law graduate in Aden, Yemen and a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi under whose instruction he launched the first independent daily in southern part of the peninsula.The Tagore award ceremony celebrating Ganem’s achievements will take place in Kolkata, India, on May 6, 2013. 

I must confess that I was thrilled to hear about Ganem’s award. He is a brilliant poet and a friend who I had the honour to meet him and participate with him in many events and activities while I was working in UAE. He is an active member of the  UAE Writers Union, and a firm believer in the importance of diversity in raising tolerance and achieving this through translation. He has translated 10 collections of contemporary Arabic poems into English, as well as 10 collections of foreign poetry into Arabic. He has published a total of 50 books, one of which is ‘Industrialization in the United Arab Emirates’ published in the Avebury Series, UK in 1992, and is used as a main reference on the subject.

The Tagore Award was instituted by the Indian government to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, for promoting values of universal brotherhood. It has been awarded to great personalities such as Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela, Amaratya Sen, professor of economics at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard, US economist Joseph Stigliz, Indonesian ex-president Meghabati Sukkarnapootri, Japanese philosopher and poet Dr. Ikeda, Social activist Irom Sharmila, who demanded the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 from Manipur, social activist Anna Hazare, who campaigned against corruption Lokpal Bill and Bengali academic Kabir Chowdhury.

I would like to share with the readers one of Dr Ganem’s poems entitled ‘Death and Civilisations’

Death and Civilizations

Death has its sanctity and awe

When the funeral of a non-believer passed by

The prophet, peace be upon him, stood up

And so did his disciples


And Death has its machines

For the thousands of heads that have ripened

Are no longer a problem

For they have invented the guillotine.

Each time Robespierre nods his head

A head flies

And all the crowds laugh

And whistling fills the air.

The head of a prince

Laughter … shouting … whistling…

The head of a child

Laughter … shouting … whistling…

And the graves are mass graves

At the end of an exciting day

A revolution!

Down with the Bastille Liberty!

Down comes the Guillotine


Let the Guillotine come down


And a head flies

Whose head?



And graves are mass graves in KOSOVO

And have no tombstones

You dig them out now

Out of fear of a beating up by the Serbs

And in a little while

Your body will be piled up in them

With a thousand emaciated corpses

Of people who have not tasted a morsel

For days and days

No witnesses!

Condoms for protection against AIDS

Are all over the floors

Of the building close by

Here lie the bodies of a boy and a girl

Raped before execution

And these are the bodies of an old man and old woman

Mutilated before being dragged to death

And here are the limbs

Of children torn and burned

What hideous scenes!

And the world looks on!

Graves in KOSOVO are mass graves

Whilst the century is about to

Breathe out its last breath

And this is the century of computers

And atomic power

And Dolly the sheep

The century of invading the moon

Oh! For the folly of mankind.

How two world wars

Could not leave a mark on the

Memory of men

Oh! For the folly of mankind!

And for the evil of mankind!

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