ABU DHABI // Emirati Saif Al Mansouri has described his happiness at being crowned the winner of the sixth series of Million’s Poet and collecting the Dh5 million prize.
He was handed the winning crimson flag, fringed in gold, from renowned poet Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the son of King Hamad of Bahrain, at Wednesday’s final.
Al Mansouri, 27, said his family was more excited than he was at his win.
“My father’s happiness was more important to me. He was anticipating the glory more than I was, and I wanted him to know so he can be happy with me,” he said.
“I didn’t show it at the time, but I was very happy. This is as much a success for me as it is for my leaders and the people of my country.”
He said he was “70 per cent sure of the win” after he qualified to the last round.
“I expected my audience would not let me down,” he said. “I thank my audience who stood by me, and I tell them to wait for Saif Al Mansouri’s presence in the coming festivities.”
His winning poem, translated as Golden Papers, describes his journey in the Million’s Poet.
“It was the final poem, and I wanted to showcase the journey of the past three months,” he said.
Al Mansouri beat competition from Emiratis Ali Al Qahtani and Hamad Al Baloushi, as well as Kamal Al Bathery from Oman, Saudi Arabia’s Mastour Al Dhaouby and Bahrain’s Mohammed Al Arjani – the other five finalists.
Under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and organised by the Poetry Academy, Million’s Poet is a programme in search of the best poets from the region.
The latest season started in February and 48 regional contestants battled it out in front of a judging panel and a live television audience.
Of the 48, four were Emiratis, three of whom made it to the final. The auditions, which began last year, involved contestants reciting their own works and a written test on aspects of poetry such as metre, rhyme and composition.
Broadcast live on Abu Dhabi Al Emarat and Baynounah TV from the Al Raha Theatre, the TV contest enjoys an international audience and its huge popularity has led to comparisons with American Idol.
The show is said to have revived interest in Nabati poetry, which is recited in colloquial Bedouin dialect and dates from the 4th century. One of the oldest forms of Arabic poetry, it was seen as a dying art before the success of Million’s Poet.