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ode to a palm tree

December 1, 2009
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One of my favorite poems, translated from Arabic, which I encountered in a favorite book, Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal. A favorite not least because it’s written to a tree.

A palm tree stands in the middle of Rusafa,

Born in the West, far from the land of palms.

I said to it: How like me you are, far away and in exile,

in long separation from family and friends.

You have sprung from soil in which you are a stranger;

And I, like you, am far from home.

It was written by Abd al-Rahman, founder of the Umayyad Emirate of Cordoba, who lived from 731 to 788.

I’ve been interested in Islamic art and architecture, especially the sort found in Andalucia (Moorish Spain)  since I wrote a paper on Andalucian architecture in high school Spanish junior year. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to learn Arabic, but I’ve not gotten around to it yet. I probably should also track down translations of Arabic poetry, which Menocal made sound very enticing.

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