Ancient Arabic poetry that, say, contains some seldom-used words and has its verses written in two columns, may not seem enough to inspire creativity.
But for Salha Obaid Ghabesh, that was exactly what unleashed the writer in her.
“That might sound bizarre to everyone except lovers of literature. [But] such little details always matter to us,'' said Ghabesh, who is secretary-general of Sharjah's Supreme Council for Family Affairs.
In an interview with Weekend Review, Ghabesh said: “Literature has [stoked] my imagination since I was a child and writing has shaped my personality.
My passion for Arabic literature was [ignited by] a series of ancient Arabic poems … I was enchanted [by it] at first. Then, little by little, [I] became obsessed with it.
“I [always] dreamt of being a poet when I was a child. But when I left school, I had to [constantly] remind myself of that dream because life led me in a different direction. Into teaching.
“I was attracted to the works of certain writers and poets, both past and present. Take poet Abu Al Tayeb Al Mutanabbi for instance; I have always adored his verse; I am always reminded of one of his poems, written when he was down with fever. In it he visualises fever as a woman who comes to torture him every night and leaves him in the morning.''
From among contemporary Arab poets, Ghabesh admires the works of Iraqi poet Lamia Abbas Amara.
“I love her poems very much, particularly the one which is written in the form of a dialogue between [the poet] and a fortune-teller as to whether he had foreseen that she would lose the one she loved.
"Later in the poem, she blames the fortune-teller for not warning her earlier so that she could have avoided the misery she has gone through. The text is full of mystery, suspense and imagination.''
Ghabesh was still in school when she started writing stories. Her first story, The Storm has Calmed, which discussed social issues, was published in the school magazine.
“Later I wrote a story called Dreams of a Child, about a child who lived in an isolated area and had missed out on many opportunities, such as schooling.
“I [got] the idea for the story during a trip to a remote area organised by our school. I saw a girl almost our age looking at us.
"Maybe she was admiring us or even envying us for having the opportunity of schooling and trips, while she was deprived of both. It had a big impact on me and pushed me to portray her situation in a story.''
Ghabesh is “attracted to real-life situations'' as she can draw upon them for her stories.
Her novel, Smell of Ginger, describes the situation in a poor family in Sharjah.
“They had many children and their little daughter could not forget a winter night when her mother was preparing a hot ginger drink.
It was one of the coldest nights of the year and she always remembered her mother and her siblings in that cosy togetherness.
Whenever she smelled ginger or experienced unbearable winter chills, she recalled how that difficult, snowy night had brought her family together,'' she said.
The point of her novel, Ghabesh added, “is that the modest beverage had a strong, meaningful link and remained a symbol of family love, warmth, safety and hope.
“It is such little details in our life that always stay in our hearts.''