Tributes paid after Iraqi poet Karim Al Iraqi dies aged 68

The celebrated writer, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, was being treated at an Abu Dhabi hospital

Karim Al Iraqi, who started his career as a high school teacher, was a regular public speaker. @karemaliraqiofficial / Instagram
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Celebrated Iraqi poet Karim Al Iraqi died on Friday aged 68.

The news was announced on his official Facebook account and comes after Al Iraqi – real name Karim Oudah – was treated for prostate cancer in the UAE in 2020.

His brother Rahim Al Iraqi said a remembrance service will be held at the Awda Al Sua’idi Mosque in Baghdad on Sunday.

President Sheikh Mohamed paid tribute to the poet on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, writing: “May God have mercy on the poet Karim Al Iraqi, who [leaves] behind a rich legacy of creativity. He had a relationship of mutual love and appreciation with the Emirates and its people over many years.”

Sheikh Mohamed added: “My deep condolences to his family and fans in brotherly Iraq, the Arab region and the world.”

Arif Al Saadi, the adviser for cultural affairs to Iraq's prime minister, shared the news on Facebook. “To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return. I mourn the poet Karim Al Iraqi who passed away at dawn today in one of Abu Dhabi’s hospitals,” he wrote.

Arab musicians and artists also joined the tributes to the master poet and keen collaborator.

“Farwell to the pulse of Iraq, the great poet and friend Karim Al Iraqi,” said Lebanese singer Assi El Hallani.

Iraqi pop star Aseel Hameem wrote: “The death of the great poet Karim Al Iraqi. We belong to God and to Him we shall return.”

Born in the Karrada district of Baghdad, Al Iraqi built his artistic career while working as a high schoolteacher.

After writing musical productions for the school, he began publishing his poetry in Iraqi magazines before becoming a songwriter in 1974.

Some renowned Iraqi artists he worked with include Seta Hagopian, Saadoun Jaber and the late Reda Al Khayat.

His most popular songs were with Iraqi singer Kadim Al Sahir. The duo collaborated for more than four decades to produce a number of hits, including Nas Wa Nas, Mu'allem Ala Al Sadmat Qalbi and La Tahramouni Minh.

Al Sahir paid tribute to his “friend and companion” on X, writing: “May God have mercy on the deceased and grant us and his family patience and solace. We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return.”

Teaching and journalism supplemented Al Iraqi's lyrical work.

The latter took him to the UAE, where he lived for more than a decade working in editorial roles for publications, including the Dubai magazine Sayidaty.

When it came to dealing with his cancer diagnosis amid the pandemic, Al Iraqi said the experience of being indoors allowed him to indulge in activities he loves.

“As the [11th-century Sufi poet] Al-Ma'arri says: 'I am held captive,'” he said at the time. “But the isolation has brought me back to the days of reading and meditation.”

Al Iraqi's last Instagram post on April 17 is a snippet of a poetry reading he delivered on television.

“Religion is love, and worship is mercy to God, all religions return entirely,” he said.

“Teach your children to be tolerant, my brother. For tolerance brings happiness to the generations.”

Updated: September 02, 2023, 4:57 AM