Write an anthem, get a GIF!

This week, Ibrahim al-Khafaji, the poet behind Saudi Arabia’s national anthem, sadly passed away aged 90.

Most anthem poets’ deaths go unnoticed until about 30 years later when someone decides to name a road after them. But the Saudi authorities gave Ibrahim a properly modern tribute: by drawing a cartoon of him and turning it into a GIF!

It’s, er, very touching.

Ibrahim wrote numerous patriotic odes, but deserves special tribute for giving the country’s anthem words in 1984 since it’d been strictly instrumental beforehand. His lyrics are super religious. “Glorify, the creator of the heavens,” it goes at one point. “Repeat: Allahu Akbar.” But then, what’d you expect? It’s Saudi Arabia.

Shame the song’s not the best.

Rest in power, Ibrahim.

Olympic anthem of the day #13: Independent Olympic Athletes! Otherwise known as Kuwait!

If you look at the Olympic medal table right now, one thing stands out. No, not the bizarre state of affairs that is Great Britain being second, but this:

Medal table, Independent Olympic Athletes

Yep, an independent has won gold for the first time.

When I saw this, I assumed it was one of #teamrefugee (the hashtag’s obligatory), but it turns out it was actually the man below: Fehaid Aldeehani, a Kuwaiti, who won the men’s double trap shooting contest.

Fehaid Aldeehani wins gold at Rio

The reason he had to compete as an independent is Kuwait’s banned form the Olympics because its government interferes in sport. Naughty them!

What did this mean for Fehaid? Well, one, had to watch the Olympic flag get raised rather than his own, and, two, that he had to listen to the godawful Olympic anthem get played (I’ve written about that before here if you want to hear it).

Was he happy about that? Well, I’d guess ‘no’ since he’s a member of Kuwait’s army and massively patriotic. He refused to hold the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony. But, well, he looks pretty pleased in the photo, doesn’t he? So who knows!

In case he wasn’t, though, here for Fehaid and for you, is Kuwait’s anthem:

Quite fun, no?

I actually give Kuwait a mention in my book on anthems in a chapter on Bosnia:

The idea of doing without words [in anthems] has been most popular in the Middle East – a surprise, perhaps, given poetry is considered the greatest of art forms in many of its countries. Kuwait’s anthem, for instance, was initially just a 15-second brass flourish and so boring at that it could have done with being half the length. Iraq, Qatar, the UAE and North and South Yemen (the two countries that preceded the current one) also didn’t feel the need to have words to their original anthems, although from the 1950s onwards they all seemed to cave in, one after the other, like embarrassed teenagers desperately trying not to look out of place at the school disco. Kuwait’s is now a word-packed two minutes (at one point it praises the country’s emir for ‘Fencing us all fairly’). It could still do with being cut in half.

I perhaps shouldn’t have been so harsh.