UAE Mother's Day: Emirati Slam Poet Salem Al Attas pays tribute to mothers with heartwarming poetry

The Emirati poet collaborated with a delivery service in UAE to showcase a poem inspired by childhood nostalgia and the love for food


Husain Rizvi

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Published: Mon 20 Mar 2023, 4:21 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Mar 2023, 4:29 PM

Writing is something Emirati Poet Salem Al Attas has always been deeply passionate about. He constantly searched for opportunities and it was during his university days when he finally found something.

Salem's first monumental day in his journey was when he was part of an open mic event where he got to share his love for spoken word poetry with the audience. As a result, he became the UAE's first slam poetry artist.

The first time Salem felt he made it as an artist was when he had the opportunity to perform at the Grand Reopening of Qasr Al Hosn in Abu Dhabi. He was honoured to have showcased his work on a grand scale at the prestigious event. And that's when Salem realised that there was a real path forward in the art of poetry for him.

Since then, Salem hasn't looked back. "I was determined to keep pushing myself and to keep striving for even greater opportunities," he says when we caught up with him and discussed a poem he worked on for UAE's Mother's Day, celebrated on Tuesday, March 21.

On the occasion of UAE Mother's Day, Salem collaborated with online food delivery company Deliveroo to dedicate a heartwarming tribute to all the mothers across the world.

The Emirati Slam Poet penned a poem titled A Taste of Home that is inspired by the childhood nostalgia from when one first falls in love with food. The poem takes readers on an emotional journey, feeling a mother's love through her food which, at times, gets lost as we grow up and move away.

Excerpts from the interview:

You're the first Emirati Slam Poet. What does that mean to you?

Becoming the first Emirati Slam Poet meant that at the time, I didn’t really have anyone from my community to look up to. Today, it represents the challenges of having to pave a path for myself and other Emirati creatives who followed my example, ventured into the creative world and have since excelled. I like being the first Emirati Slam Poet, but I would never want to be the only one.

Take us through your experience as a poet/artist in the UAE.

While there’s nothing that I’d change about the work that I do, I’ll admit that my experience has been challenging. The art scene is definitely growing in the UAE but the industry still has a long way to go. Since it's still developing, opportunities for artists can be sporadic. Pursuing a career in this field needs one to sacrifice stability but I guess that’s expected when one ventures onto unexplored territory. That said, for those who are passionate about the craft, the rewards of pursuing a career in the arts can be immense.

As an artist in the UAE, I have achieved and accomplished many things which I often like to reflect on. I just completed my project with Deliveroo where we worked on a Mother’s Day poem together. I held this project very close to my heart because our mothers deserve to know that we as children recognise the love and passion they put into preparing our meals. That being said, I am currently developing a workshop program for spoken word artists of all levels. I'm excited to be working on this project because I believe that spoken word poetry is a powerful art form that has the ability to inspire and transform audiences, and I believe that I have reached a level in my career when I am able to teach it.

How was the Mother’s Day poem put together?

For this poem, I was actually approached by the team at Deliveroo who were interested in collaborating with me to dedicate a heartwarming tribute to mothers. I was instantly inspired by the concept and started working on the project. This is how A Taste of Home was born, by taking inspiration from the childhood nostalgia of when one first falls in love with food, alongside my love for food, my own memories of my mother cooking and my appreciation for everything she did to keep me well-fed. With this poem, we wanted to take listeners through an emotional journey of feeling a mother’s love through the warmth of her food.

You said the poem was born by taking inspiration from the childhood nostalgia of falling in love with food...

Like many other mothers out there, mine has always been a source of healing and comfort. She’s always known the right thing to do or say at the right time, and most often than not, it was through food. I cannot talk about food without talking about a memory of my mother.

With Mother's Day here, what does the term mother and the occasion mean to you?

Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate any woman who offers a mother figure to someone else. I believe it is more than a title earned by giving birth, it represents a level of unconditional sacrifice and selflessness one can only dream of. It even means lying on her lap while she rubs your head and tells you everything is going to be okay.

Was there any point in life where you had to live away from your mother, as do many expats here in the UAE?

No, I have been privileged enough to have never had to live in a foreign country away from my mother, Alhamdulillah.

What are the most important lessons you have learned from your mother?

The lessons learned from my mother are endless, but if I had to pick the most important ones, it would be:

1. Salah before and above anything and everything.

2. There is no room for doubt in your ability, only the goal.

Tell us your thoughts on poetry in the contemporary world?

Poetry has evolved tremendously throughout the years. It’s become a very diverse space for thought, expression, and collaboration, especially in our region. Young Emirati talents are turning to arts as a form of expression, and it’s been an honour to be a part of that evolution, to guide and motivate them. I would say we’ve never been in a better place.

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