Hekayah | The Story brings together poets, singers, and musicians

What does home mean to you? Your country, your city, your family? Join a lineup of poets, spoken word artists, musicians, and storytellers from diverse backgrounds coming together to explore their heritages and cultures for the 9th annual Hekayah | The Story.

Emcee Reem Almenhali leads this memorable evening of performances that showcases the beautiful diversity of the UAE. This year’s lineup includes:

  • Basma Choir – Music – Find them on Instagram
  • Gregory Pardlo – Spoken word poetry (USA) – See his Website
  • Jad Al Kareem Tatou – Music (Syria) – Find him on Instagram
  • Rand Abdul Jabbar – Video & Performative Reading (Iraq) – Find her on Instagram
  • Rasha Alduwaisan – Spoken word poetry (Kuwait)
  • Rawad Raidan – Spoken word poetry (Lebanon) – Find him on Instagram
  • Salha Obaid Hassan – Spoken word poetry (UAE) – Find her on Instagram
  • Samar Abdel Jaber & Ali Zain – Spoken word poetry (Palestine) – Find her on Instagram
  • Shahad Alsaqqaf – Spoken word poetry (UAE) – Find her on Instagram
  • WYWY – Music (Philippines) – Find them on Instagram

The lineup of performers was selected through a collaborative curatorial process, by key players in the cultural, poetry, arts, and writing communities across the UAE, including:

  • Bill Bragin, Executive Artistic Director of The Arts Center
  • Dorian Paul Rogers, poet, producer of Rooftop Rhythms, in residence monthly at NYUAD
  • Osama Mootassem, marketeer and founder of both cl-u and the brand nvr frgttn
  • Farah Chamma, Palestinian poet and performer
  • Safeya Alblooshi, sound artist, Research Assistant with the Music and Sound Cultures Research Group at NYUAD under the Kawader Research Fellowship Program


Reem Almenhali

Reem is an Emirati performance artist and a theater practitioner. Reem received a B.A in theater with a minor in psychology from New York University Abu Dhabi. Reem co-created Amulets of Palm with her collaborator Maitha Al-Suwaidi and showed it in Al-Serkal avenues as part of their More Than Human festival. The performance used poetic and visual forms of fiction to capture the palm as a mystical soul, an abundant ground, and an entity. The performance later developed into a short film that was screened in Basel, Switzerland as part of the public programming of Art Basel. Deliberately and in Cash, Reem wrote and directed the performance lecture on the history of the practice of collecting Diya money in the Gulf. The performance took place during COVID lockdown and thus it was showcased virtually through Zoom. Reem also wrote Al Raheel | Departure, and co-created the performance in collaboration with the director Joanna Settle. The performance is a bilingual contemporary theater piece that explores how the rapidly evolving life in the UAE and its bilingual reality are experienced by women of different generations. Al Raheel was produced by The Arts Center at NYUAD and was funded by the Cultural Foundation in 2019 and received official support of the US Mission to the UAE in 2022. Reem won the 2020 Gulf Capital ADMAF Creativity Award for writing the script of Al Raheel.

Basma Choir

Basma Choir is an Arabic choir based in the UAE that performs all kinds of oriental and Arabic music spanning from Levantine to Khaliji music. The choir includes diverse members from most of the Arab world and perform at many occasions including at UAE National Day.

Gregory Pardlo

Gregory Pardlo is the author of the poetry collections Spectral Evidence and Digest, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. His other books include Totem, winner of the American Poetry Review / Honickman Prize and Air Traffic, a memoir in essays. His honors include fellowships from the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He is Co-Director of the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers University-Camden, and a visiting professor of creative writing at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Jad Al Kareem Tatou

Jad Al Kareem Tatou is a musician (Arabic vocalist, Oud player) born in 1994 who is currently based in the United Arab Emirates. He has participated in various events and festivals both in the UAE and abroad. He is a passionate and dedicated musician with extensive experience in performing various genres of Arabic music including Middle Eastern, Tarab, Traditional, Arabian Gulf Music, Cover, Jazz, Blues, and Classical music.

Rand Abdul Jabbar

Rand Abdul Jabbar (b. 1990, Baghdad) borrows from the vestiges and ephemera of history to produce reconstructions of past events and experiences. Exploring her relationship to place and landscape, she contests with personal and collective memory while engaging with legacies of archaeology, mythology and material culture. Employing sculpture, writing, video and installation as primary mediums, her work unfolds through an experiential dialogue between recollection and re-imagination, inventing a set of anchors that facilitate the retelling and adaptation of the past into a space for the reclamation of agency and affirmation of identity. Abdul Jabbar was awarded the Richard Mille Art Prize by Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2022. She received a Master of Architecture from Columbia University in 2014.

Rasha Alduwaisan

Rasha Alduwaisan is an oral historian from Kuwait. Her poetry has appeared in Cincinnati Review, The Adroit Journal, Willow Springs and The Common. Her poem “Remote Control” was nominated for Best New Poets 2023 by Michigan Quarterly Review. She holds an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University.

Rawad Raidan

Rawad lived in the United Arab Emirates, and the Gulf, for most of his life. The threads of being in a place and belonging intertwine and weave a unique cartography of meaning, rooting, and relating between his internal landscapes and that without. He writes creative non-fiction using a prose-writer’s ink, borrowing generously from the visual, imagined, and sensory. His spoken word and poetry grow from the same soil. He likes to play in the space between words, as one walks on sand, occasionally picking shells.

Salha Obaid Hassan

Salha Obaid Hassan is an Emirati writer. Her first book of short stories, Alzheimers, was published in 2010 and was translated into German the following year. Her book An Implicitly White Lock of Hair_ (2015) won the 2016 Al Owais Award for Best Emirate literature book published that year. In 2017, she won the Emirati Youth Prize in creative writing covering all of her work. Her first novel, _Maybe It’s a Joke, was published in 2018 and longlisted for the Zayed Book Award. She has a fellowship in creative writing from the international writing program at Iowa University. Besides writing fiction, she also writes about art, philosophy, and community.

Shahad Alsaqqaf

Shahad Alsaqqaf, an Emirati artist based in Abu Dhabi, is a poet, pianist, and performer. Her poetry serves as an ode to the world’s beauty and its creator, delving into the essence of the human experience. Fluent in both Arabic and English, she seamlessly blends languages in her writing and storytelling. She has performed in domestic and international venues, including NYU Tisch, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York, and Rooftop Rhythms in Abu Dhabi, showcasing her spoken word artistry. With a diverse background in the performing arts, she has acted in an improvisational act at London’s BRIT School, co-written and starred in the Real AD show at NYUAD, and engaged in public speaking through her work as a reporter at Majid Kids TV.

Samar Abdel Jaber

Samar Abdel Jaber, Palestinian, b. 1985, is the author of Wa fi rewayaten okhra (And There Are Other Accounts; Malameh Publishing House, 2008), Madha law konna ashbahan (What If We Were Ghosts; Dar al-Ahlia Publishing, 2013), winner of the Palestinian Young Writer of the Year Award from the A.M. Qattan Foundation, Kawkab mansey (The Forgotten Planet; Dar al-Ahlia Publishing, 2016)., and “Translucence – Between two continents”; (Indolent Books, New York, 2018), Abdel Jaber participated in “Arab Female Poets” Festival in Damascus, 2008, Copenhagen Literature Festival, 2012, “Khan Al Fonoon” Festival in Amman, 2016 and in “Hikaya” Festival in New York University in Abu Dhabi, 2018. Abdel Jaber holds a bachelor’s degree from Beirut Arab University and currently works in Dubai.

Ali Zain

Ali Zain, Syrian, b. 1993, is a musician with 12 years experience. He is a bouzouki player, singer, and music composer. He has participated in several events and festivals including the Sharjah Festival for Culture and People, and plays music regularly in several places in the United Arab Emirates.


WYWY is a sound artist/ dream pop /ethereal wave couple based in the United Arab Emirates. Members are X (aka Astral LXXXI) on vocals, synth xylophone Mckie on guitars, and bass synth. They are known for their dreamy, dark, ethereal sound and visual live performances. WYWY released their first EP Album Within You Without You in January 2017 with five 5 all original tracks. They are now working on their album which is set to be released soon.