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The battle for rhyming words had made its first five "victims" on Tuesday night at Al Raha Beach Theatre in Abu Dhabi. The 20 finalists who made it to the seventh Prince of Poets live broadcasted competition are now 15. Since February 21st, when the show began, they all took the hot seat in front of the three judges, thousands spectators and hundreds of thousands TV viewers.


The show on Tuesday night began with announcing the final 15 now entering the second round of the competition. Among them are Ali Al Abdan, the only Emirati poet in the competition and Iraq's Afia Amin, one of the strongest female competitors.


"Now that we heard all 20 poets, I think they are all great! Compared to previous seasons, the subjects they are writing about are more positive. I don't say they are not also writing to shed light on the challenges facing the Arab world, especially terrorism and fundamentalism, but I've noticed they are more focused on faith. The majority are influenced by Sufism, particularly by the love poetry of Ibn Arabi [13th century poet] or Al Hallaj [9th-10th century mystic poet]," said Dr. Ali bin Tamim, one of the three judges of Prince of Poets.


"We have entered now the second stage of the competition and for the next three shows we will hear five poets in each programme. They will each have to recite their own poem, but they will also have to compose a short poem on a subject of our choice. During the course of the programme we will give them a theme, mostly related to family and community, and 20 minutes to compose three lines in classical Arabic poetry style. They will be judged both by us and the viewers," added Dr. Tamim.


Organised by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee, Prince of Poets was launched in 2007, now taking place once every two years. It awards poetry composed in classical Arabic language, the top winner receiving AED 1 million, then AED 500,000 for the second place,  AED 300,000 for the third, AED 400,000 for the fourth place and AED 100,000 for the fifth.


The classical Arabic poetry competition, broadcasted live by the Baynounah and Al Emarat TV channels, has become so popular throughout the Arabic language speaking world that it attracts more viewers than football!


This season, the competition is considered stronger than ever, particularly having, for the first time, an equal number of female finalists as male. So far, the poetesses gave their male contestants a pretty good run for their money, and they are supported by the audience, and even by their competitors.


"This season is more special because we have 10 women and 10 men poets. It makes the competition stronger because the way we write is different. Not just in this competition, but in general, whether the poem was written today or 1000 years ago, I find the female poets are more emotional in writing, while the men write more from thought or philosophical perspective," said Saudi Arabia's Eyad Hakami, one of the 20 finalists.


Eyad, who comes from the Jazan, a city in the south of Saudi Arabia, near the border with Yemen and the shores of the Red Sea, loves writing about people's feelings, particularly people who cannot express themselves, those affected by wars, oppression, but he is also inspired by his own experiences.


"I've started writing poetry following a tragic event. My closest friend had an accident he didn't survive. One year after his passing I wrote my first poem; it was about my memories of him. It was eight years ago," he said.


" I watched the Prince of Poets competition every single season - it's very famous. I remember when I watched season one, seeing all these great poets, I didn't imagine I would be in their seat one day. They were like idols for me. Yet now I'm here, and I'm very happy to be here," continued Eyad.


Maram Al Nasser, from Syria, is one of the 20 female poets, and, at 23 years old, she is also the youngest. Her journey with the rhyming words began in the beautiful Al Raqqah, a town on the Euphrates river, where she was born and raised.


"I wrote my first poem when I was looking at the river," mentioned Maram, who is also about to graduate from the Damascus University of Medicine.


"I'm here to represent my country, which suffers from war; every day you see many people die without any reason. I've lost my only brother in this war, so I'm deeply affected by it. My first poem, which I presented on the very first day of the competition was about Syria and what happened in Damascus."


"I hope I will be the Princess of Poets in this competition and become a doctor in the same time," added Maram.


The next episode of Prince of Poets will take place on April 4th, from 10 pm, at Al Raha Beach Theatre, while the final verse battle will crown the winner on April 25th.