The Poet and Daughter of the Sea: Animated Ships in Andalusian Arabic Poetry

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The Mediterranean Sea has stirred the imagination of Andalusian poets of the tenth and eleventh centuries. They wrote many poetic maritime scenes with lively details about sea and ships. Describing ships as camels ranging over the land is the central core-image of these scenes. The poets’ perspective of ships reveals their unique character and aspires to an aesthetic truth. This article will concern itself with some of the ships’ depictions in Andalusian Arabic poetry, and will illustrate, in particular, the ways by which poets refer to the ships’ external characteristics in order to represent them as animated beings in the sea vista. These epithets coincide with the medieval perception of animals that generally particularize their appearance by some qualitative characteristics. By means of some of animal epithets like physiological features, anatomical references, behavioural traits and feminine characters, poets succeeded in referring to ships as the most animated objects on the maritime scene. I wish to express my gratitude here to my teacher Professor George J. Kanazi, Department of Arabic Language and Literature, University of Haifa, for his valuable remarks that improved the early drafts of the article. To Dr. Marsha Benshushan, Department of Foreign Languages and Professor William Freedman, Department of English, both of the University of Haifa, my thanks for their freely offered help with the English translation of the poetry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-130
Number of pages10
JournalAl-Masaq: Islam and the Medieval Mediterranean
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • Al-Andalus
  • Animals
  • Mediterranean sea
  • Metaphor
  • Poetry
  • Seafaring
  • Ships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies


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