after a map of the Arabian Peninsula from
Al Idrisi’s Kitab Rujar, 1154
I hardly recognise you, naked & nameless,
a green path, vital as a vein
snaking its way up to ard al iemama.
In early spring, desert thistles
align themselves with the stars,
a trail of crumbs for a camel caravan.
Now the stars have faded,
this land, a plantation of light –
I map the sky with my hands,
with the flick of a thumb,
a blue dot guides me
over concrete hills, concrete fields,
highways always humming.
Rasha Al Duwaisan is a Kuwaiti oral historian living in Dubai. She completed an MA in Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and spent a couple of years working at the Natural History Museum in London.
“This poem was written for J.R. Carpenter’s brilliant course, Writing Coastlines. We were asked to pick a coastal map and explore its poetic possibilities. Driving through the city of Dubai everyday, I am struck by the ways urbanisation and technology have affected ancient practices of navigation and how they have come to redefine our relationship with the natural world.”