By Rym Ghazal
In the 7th century, the fabled Arabian town of Ukaz, located on the road to the heart of the holy site in Mecca, was known for the hustle and bustle of its market place. Apart from all the normal commercial exchanges, the market was also a meeting point for the best Arab poets from the region.
In the midst of all the eloquent men stood a woman, Al Khansa – a nom du plume meaning “gazelle” or the “snub-nosed” – whose talent for poetry quickly became the envy of her contemporaries.
Her writing is considered paramount to the legendary Al Muaallaqat poems (a compilation of seven works regarded as the some of the best poems from the pre-Islamic era). The Prophet Mohammed was known to have enjoyed her poetry – he would often ask her to compose and recite them at his gatherings.