In the Footsteps of Gilgamesh: The Classical Epic and its Contemporary Arab Poetic Offshoots

Sabbar S. Sultan


The present paper aims at shedding some illuminating light on the formidable effect The Epic of Gilgamesh (2100-1200 BC) still leaves on modern and contemporary poets, apart from a host of scholars, historians, archeologists and researchers. As creative writers, Arab poets find in the classical text of Gilgamesh irresistible temptations to explore that classical text from their own contemporary perspective and cultural and experiential viewpoints. The poetic extracts chosen here belong to different Arab countries and cultural orientations. The first is Ali Jaafar Al-Allaq (Iraq), followed by Mahmoud Darwish (Palestine) and finally Asma’ Al Qassimi (UAE). All the three poets have perceived the classical text from their own distinct perspectives. Implicitly one can easily notice the diversity and multifacetedness Gilgamesh stirs in the minds and imagination of the poets in question. The approach used throughout is basically thematic: how the topics raised by the three poetic excerpts in this paper reflect the richness and depth of Gilgamesh and its capacity to address humankind, irrespective of time and place. Also, these three poets have used the character of Gilgamesh and his entourage as a means or clue for highlighting their own cultural situation and countless challenges.


Gilgamesh, Enkidu, Al Allaq, Darwish, Al Qassimi, Epic

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