The Middle Eastern Society hosted the annual Taste of Texts Arabic Poetry Declamation Competition last week. The Gladstone Library was packed as a range of Arabists, from beginners to more advanced learners, lined up to recite from memory a poem of their choice. The adjudicators assessed the performances for quality of memorisation, pronunciation, and expression.

This year we were fortunate to welcome back a group of OE Arabists to carry out the adjudication: Dr Fitzroy Morrissey of All Souls College, Oxford (KS ‘10); rare books specialist Nicholas McBurney (ACDG-C/MJLB ’06); and Cambridge researcher Alexis de Vivenot (KS ’13)

The quality of the declamation involved was shown by the length of time it took for the judges to select the winners, during which the audience were able to enjoy a variety of Middle-Eastern snacks, including stuffed vine leaves, hummus and baklava.

The poems of Nizar Qabbani were a popular choice, with carefully prepared performances by Hugh Bowden and Jahan de Bellaigue (both IRG) securing first place in the beginners’ and intermediate categories respectively. The overall winner was Max Matta (PEPW), commended for his powerful rendition of some famous lines by Mutanabbi.

‘Mabrouk’ to all involved!

Eton College Community Engagement (ECCE)