The Kennedy Center

Tamim Al Barghouti


Tamim Al-Barghouti is known for the capacity of his poetry to draw the attention of thousands from various age groups. The reception of his poetry among such a diverse audience is a testimony to the vitality of the centuries-old tradition of classical Arabic poetry.
Al-Barghouti was born in 1977 to Palestinian poet Mourid Al-Barghouti and Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashour. That year, the Egyptian government had embarked on a peace process with Israel and expelled most Palestinians of prominence, including Al-Barghouti’s father. Since childhood, Al-Barghouti has been immersed in the political realities of the Arab world, the way they affect the most personal aspects of an individual’s life, as well as in the literary means to express them. He published his first poem at 18. In 1999, at age 22, he was able to return to Palestine for the first time. There, he wrote his first poetry collection, “Mijana,” in the Palestinian spoken dialect of Arabic and published it in Ramallah. His second collection, “Al-Manzar,” followed shortly thereafter, written in Cairo using the Egyptian spoken dialect. In 2003, on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq, Al-Barghouti left Egypt in opposition to the war and the Egyptian government’s position. The experience resulted in two works that gained Al-Barghouti a degree of fame in Egypt and the Arab world; the first was “Aluli-Bethebbe-Masr” (They Ask: Do You Love Egypt), written in the Egyptian spoken dialect, and “Maqam Iraq,” in Standard Classical Arabic. Both works were well received. “Maqam Iraq” in particular was described by one critic as “something of a classical Arabic masterpiece…a lengthy epic-like diwan on Iraq comprising a variety of stylistic forms: song, narrative, and prose...that established Al-Barghouti as a master of Arabic language and history.”
In 2007, Al-Barghouti’s work “In Jerusalem” became something of a street poem. Palestinian newspapers dubbed Al-Barghouti “The Poet of Jerusalem”. His posters hang on the streets of Jerusalem and other Palestinian cities, where keychains are sold with his picture on them. Sections of the poem have even become ring-tones blaring out from mobile phones across the Arab world, and children compete in memorizing and reciting it. The poem, which describes an aborted journey to the city, became the basis for a number of performances in Nablus, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Jericho, Amman, Beirut, Muscat, Berlin, The Hague, and Vienna, among others.
Al-Barghouti studied politics at Cairo University, The American University in Cairo, and Boston University, where he received his Ph.D. in Political Science. He has written two volumes of history and political thought, and is currently a visiting professor of politics at Georgetown University.
Tamim Al Barghouti