The Beauty Hunters


The Beauty Hunters

Sudanese Bedouin Poetry, Evolution and Impact

Adil Babikir

On African Poetry Series

160 pages
1 table, 1 glossary, index


April 2023


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April 2023


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eBook (EPUB)
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April 2023


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eBook (PDF)
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April 2023


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About the Book

Named a Notable African Book of 2023 by Brittle Paper

The Beauty Hunters
offers a rare insight into Sudanese Bedouin poetry, its evolution, aesthetics, and impact. Through an in-depth profile of al-Ḥārdallo, the doyen of this art form, Adil Babikir explores the attributes that established him as a poet of international stature. The life of al-Ḥārdallo was a series of journeys in pursuit of beauty. From wandering across the Buṭāna wilderness to his adventures with women, he documented the ups and downs of his life using superb verse. In addition to its aesthetic value, al-Ḥārdallo’s poetry offers rich material for Sudanese studies as it carries glimpses of the sociopolitical developments in Sudan during his lifetime, having lived through three distinct eras: Turco-Egyptian rule (1820–1885), Mahdist rule (1885–1898), and part of the Anglo-Egyptian era (1898–1956). Reading Bedouin poetry in a hybrid context, as a major contributor to what Babikir calls a uniquely Sudanese aesthetic taste, The Beauty Hunters makes an invaluable addition to the discourse on Sudan’s cultural identity.

Author Bio

Adil Babikir is a translator and an Arabic content manager at Mubadala Investment Company in Abu Dhabi. He has translated and edited several works, including Modern Sudanese Poetry: An Anthology (Nebraska, 2019) and Mansi: A Rare Man in His Own Way, by Tayeb Salih.


“The clouds of neglect have parted, and an enchanting book of classical African poetry has come forth shining. The Bedouin poetry of Sudan, a descendant perhaps of the pre-Islamic poetry of Arabia, can also sit alongside the Chinese Book of Songs and Hāla’s Sattasaī of India, pure poetry bearing the scent of the land and woven with silk-fine imagery and exquisite lyricism. The Beauty Hunters is a tour de force, proving once again that Africa is the heart of the world’s beauty and light. Thank you, Adil Babikir, for this wonder of a book.”—Khaled Mattawa, author of Fugitive Atlas

“Here the legacy and enduring appeal of al-Ḥārdallo, Sudan’s preeminent nineteenth-century poet, is showcased with thoroughness and panache. Oryxes, heavy rains, and dancing women blaze through a vivid pastoral landscape of nomadic tribes and journeys guided by the stars. Adil Babikir’s moving and vibrant translations capture the exuberance and pathos of this Afro-Arab poet, caught in the crosshairs of imperialism. The Beauty Hunters bears witness to the richness and range of Arabic as it mingles with the local Beja and Nubian languages of Africa.”—Leila Aboulela, author of Minaret and The Translator

Table of Contents

Notes on Transliteration
Introduction: A Life’s Journey in Search of Beauty
1. Al-Ḥārdallo’s Time
2. Romance
3. The Nature Lover
4. Al-Ḥārdallo’s Style
5. The Musdār: A Historical Context
6. Musdār al-Nijūm: A Journey across the Stars
7. Musdār Rufāʾa: A Terrestrial Journey across the Buṭāna
8. The Role of Bedouin Poetry in Shaping Sudan’s Aesthetic Taste
9. The Bedouin Poem: A Living Legacy
10. The Musdār and the Ḥaqība
11. Contemporary Musdārs
12. Al-Ḥārdallo’s Poems
Musdār al-Ṣayd
Miscellaneous Quatrains
The Ordeal
Arabic Glossary of Local Terms


Named a Notable African Book of 2023 by Brittle Paper

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