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Granada: A Poem by Nizar Qabbani

posted on: Mar 8, 2017

A figure by a pool at the Alhambra by Henry Stanier

Granada by Nizar Qabbani

Translated by Habeeb Salloum/Contributing Writer 

After touring the Alhambra Palace in Granada with a beautiful Andalusian guide, the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani wrote:

At the entrance of Alhambra was our meeting,

How sweet is a rendezvous not thought of before.

Two soft black eyes in perfect frames enticing,

Generating after-effects from the past ages afore.

Are you a Spaniard? I asked her enquiring,

She said: Granada is the city where I was bore.

Granada! Seven centuries awoke from slumbering,

In her eyes, after the clothing of sleep they wore.

And Umayyad, with flags lifted high, flying,

Their horses streaming by, unnumbered they pour.

How strange is history, how is it to me returning?

A beautiful granddaughter, from my pedigree of yore.

With a Damascene face, through it I was seeing,

The eyelids of Sheba and the neck of Sucad once more.

I saw a room in our old house with a clearing,

Where mother used to spread my cushions on the floor.

And the Jasmine inlaid in its stars were shining,

With the golden singing pool, a picture of splendour.

Damascus, where is it? I said: you will be seeing

It in your flowing hair, a river of golden black ore.

In your Arab face, in your mouth still storing

The suns of my country from the days of Arab lore.

In the perfume of Generalife with waters gleaming,

Its Arabian Jasmine, its sweet basil and citron odour.

She came with me and her hair behind her flowing,

Like luscious ears of grain in an unharvested meadow.

The long earrings on her neck were glittering,

Like Christmas Eve candles that sparkle and glow.

Behind her like a child I walked, she was guiding,

And behind me, history, piles of ashes row after row.

The decoration of Alhambra I almost hear pulsing,

And the ornaments on the roof, I hear their call grow.

She said: Alhambra! Pride of my ancestors glowing,

Read on its walls my glories that shine and show.

Her glory! I anointed an open wound festering,

And in my heart anointed another that refused to go.

If only my lovely granddaughter had a way of knowing,

The ones she meant were my ancestors of long, long ago.

When I bid her adieu, when I knew I was going,

I embraced in her Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād, that Arab hero.

Alhambra of Granada

Alhambra of Granada

A ceiling in Alhambra

Alhambra of Granada

Alhambra of Granada

Alhambra of Granada