‘My hope persists’: Iraqi poet Karim Al Iraqi receiving cancer treatment in Abu Dhabi

Singer Kadim Al Sahir visited the acclaimed songwriter in hospital

Iraqi poet and composer Karim Al Iraqi. Instagram
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Karim Al Iraqi is battling prostate cancer.

The celebrated Iraqi poet and composer, real name Karim Oudah, is receiving medical treatment in an Abu Dhabi hospital. Iraqi, 65, shared a video from his hospital bed earlier this month to shed light on his experience and to thank fans and supporters.

"I am awaiting my fourth session of chemotherapy and in front of me are four more in the next month-and-a-half. My patience continues and my hope is bigger with the prayers of friends and loved ones," he said.

"I apologise I couldn't get to return all the phone calls because there have been so many. I am blessed and I am grateful. The more there is love, the more there is a cure and hope."

He went on to thank UAE and Iraqi leaders for their support. "I salute and thank the concern shown by the great leadership of the United Arab Emirates represented by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed [Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces]," he said. "I would also like to thank the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi for the warm phone call, as well as the great exchanges I had with artists from here, Iraq, Sweden and all around the world. My patience and hope persists."

A celebrated partnership

Some of Al Iraqi's close friends have come to the capital to pay him a visit, the most high profile being fellow Iraqi national Kadim Al Sahir.

The singer and Dubai resident has collaborated with Al Iraqi over four decades to produce a number of hits, including Nas Wa Nas, Mu'allem Ala Al Sadmat Qalbi and La Tahramouni Minh.

Their partnership remains strong. In April, Al Iraqi told the website Et Bel Arabi that the duo were working on a number of new songs based on a fresh batch of poems he composed.

Al Iraqi explained that three of the poems are about love, while one is about Iraq.

"The poems are different and they are a continuation of the journey that has brought us together for more than 40 years," he said. “All the poems are sentimental and they represent the journey of understanding between me and Kadim.”

One of the unreleased pieces to look out for is La Tathlamihu, which looks at how love and destiny compete. "We sometimes wish certain things, but destiny can draw us towards another direction. This poem is about how we can be kidnapped by stunning circumstance, and with that a part of your dream gets lost in the process," Al Iraqi said. "Without explaining it to him, Kadim heard the piece for the first time and immediately agreed to [work on] it."

Back to basics

Born in the Karrada district of Baghdad, Al Iraqi built his artistic career while working as school teacher. After penning musical productions for the high school, he began publishing his poetry in Iraqi magazines before becoming a fully fledged songwriter in 1974.

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

Supplementing his lyrical work were stints as a teacher and journalist. The latter took Al Iraqi to the UAE, where he has lived for more than a decade, working in editorial roles for various publications, including Dubai-based magazine Sayidaty.

When it comes to dealing with a health crisis during 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 told Et Bel Arabi. "But the isolation has brought me back to the days of reading and meditation."