The influence of the Arabic language on the Spanish language was the theme of a panel discussion at the fair Image Credit: Supplied

Guadalajara: The power of languages in bridging cultures, especially the presence of Arabic vocabulary in the Spanish language, was explored as part of Sharjah’s Guest of Honour programme at the 36th Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL) in Mexico.

Sultan Al Amimi, Chairman of the Emirates Writers Union, stressed that Arabic words in the Spanish language does not only reflect the era of Arabs in Andalusia over the course of 800 years but also reveals the size of the cultural commonalities that bring together Arabs with Spanish speakers, especially Mexicans. He said: “Just hearing Mexican people speaking in words of Arabic origin, I feel connected to them.”

Al Amimi’s comments were made during a panel discussion moderated by Jorge Alberto Pére speaking alongside Moisés Garduño García on the history and development of Arabic lexicons and the influence of the Arabic language on the Spanish language.

4,000 Arabic-origin words

Al Amimi noted in the session that he discovered that Mexican people have a lot of similarities with their Arab counterparts during a Sharjah delegation visit to the South American country. He pointed out that the Spanish vocabulary has around 4,000 words that have Arabic origins. He pointed out that this large number clearly indicates the impact of the Arabic language in various forms, including phonemic, citing even the appearance of the letter ‘Kha’ in the Spanish language. On a lexical level, it appears that words were transferred orally, and in addition to the morphological effect and the influence based on humankind’s invention of words, similarities could be found between the two languages to denote a sound or movement like ‘knock’.

Moises Gardino Garcia discussed the emphasis and pronunciation of the Arabic aspects in Spanish, stressing that it reveals the strength of the historical relationship between the two cultures; but also reveals many stigmas, including the inaccurate representation of Arabs by using unreal clichés by some media.

Garcia pointed out that Mexicans need live communication with the Arab world, citing Sharjah’s participation at FIL as a great opportunity. He stressed that communication and knowledge exchange with Arab intellectuals and authors would bridge the gap in the knowledge of Arab culture and its current realities.

On access to learning the Arabic language in Mexico, he pointed out that there are few opportunities, stressing the need for more support and attention to build bridges with the Arab world. He pointed out that the diversity of Arabic dialects poses obstacles for non-Arabic speakers, and expanding on this he said: “The difference between dialects led to the development of the Arabic language we have today, this was compounded by globalisation and the inclusion of foreign vocabulary into the language.”

In his opinion, the matter requires the launch of a study to show the power of lexicons, and in overcoming all of these stigmas and challenges as well as their impact on the Arabic language as a whole.

Mexican named after Khalil Gibran

The enduring influence of Lebanese-American writer, poet and visual artist, Gibran Khalil Gibran, one of the three most-read authors in the world till date, continues to be felt across the world to this day as the author of ‘The Prophet’ is inspiring and impacting young generations even as far away as Mexico.

During his visit to the Sharjah pavilion at the 36th Guadalajara International Book Fair - where Sharjah is being celebrated as Guest of Honour - Khalil Landero, a Mexican photographer, said that he was named after the Lebanese writer who transformed Arabic literature in the first half of the 20th century.

Khalil Landero at mexico book fair FIL 2022
Khalil Landero at the book fair in Mexico Image Credit: Supplied

“My family is from Mexico, but my parents were keen on choosing a name with a deep meaning for me, their eldest son. When they were young, my parents had read Gibran and his writings resonated with them. They were inspired by the famed writer’s humanity and his deep philosophical wisdom,” said Landero.

“Books open up whole new worlds and when these are from another culture, they connect with us in a profound way.”

Literature has a great impact on cultures worldwide, he said, adding: “Stories like the origins of my name are commonplace and it is books that pave the way for uniting people of one culture with a new world.”

Beauty of poetry

Also at FIL, Emirati poets Khulood Al Mualla and Abdullah Alhadiya, accompanied by Mexican author Diego Gomez, participated in ‘The Voice of the World’ poetry recitation session held on Sunday.

Poets demonstrated their talent during the recitation Image Credit: Supplied

The Sharjah pavilion, a dedicated space for the Guests of Honour in Mexico, was packed with an audience experiencing Arabic poetry and its beauty through instant translation that highlighted the unique topics. The session asserted that poetry is a medium that brings all together despite language barriers.

The session, moderated by author Laura Di Pietro, began with a comment by Emirati poet Khulood Al Mualla, saying that “today, the lifelong dream of mine to visit Mexico became a reality. It is a country that welcomes you with open arms; I can’t express how happy I am to present my poems during this visit”.

She proceeded to take the audience on a poetic journey through her poems ‘Harwala’ and ‘Shurood’, which evolve around contemplation, stillness and mysticism.

Poet Abdullah Alhadiya introduced the audience to his poems about the heritage and mythological aspects of Arabic culture. His poems were packed with connotations rooted in the history of the Arab region.

Mexican author Diego Gomez recited several poems by renowned classical Latin poets to introduce visitors to the themes carried by poets from Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

also read

Spotlight on refugee crisis

The Rubu’ Qarn Foundation for Creating Future Leaders and Innovators turned the spotlight on the refugee crisis with a silent play organised as part of Sharjah’s Guest of Honour programme at FIL.

The puppet show ‘Above Earth under the Sky’, held at Teatro Vivian Blumenthal in the Mexican city of culture, attracted theatre lovers and global audiences at the fair with a narrative on the realities of the refugee children.

The show’s cast included members of Sharjah Youth and Sharjah Capability Development (Tatweer) Image Credit: Supplied

Held in the presence of Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Government Relations (DGR) in Sharjah, and head of the Sharjah delegation; Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), and heads of Sharjah and Mexico cultural institutions, the show depicts the stories of children uprooted from their communities, the disruptions in their normal day-to-day living, and the helping hands that provide support to them.

The show’s cast included members of Sharjah Youth and Sharjah Capability Development (Tatweer) including Abdullah Muhammad Saleh, Omar Younis Al Zarooni, Muhammad Omran Abbas, Mansour Ahmad Al Zaabi, Saif Muhammad Al Hammadi, Abdullah Juma Ahmad, Muhammad Hassan Al Ali, Adnan Muhammad Muharrami and Majed Juma Ahmed.

The cast was joined by the Rubu’ Qarn delegation headed by Asma Muhammad Hassouni, Deputy Director of Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah Girls of Sharjah; Dr Adnan Zalloum, an expert in performing arts at Rubu’ Qarn; Ali Al Mazmi, Director of Theatre and Performing Arts at Sharjah Youth; Shehab Al Awadi, Al Madam Youth Centre Manager at Sharjah Youth; and Abdullah Al Shaer, Head of Purchasing and Stores Department.