The Empty Lands featured in a group exhibition as part of the first edition of 21,39 Jeddah Arts, under the vision of Hamza Serafi and curated by Aya Alireza and Raneem Farsi. In the wider 21,39 programme, Ahmed presented a solo display of works from Desert of Pharan and participated in a symposium.
The Moallaqat exhibition took as its starting point the historical phenomenon of the Moallaqat, a much-debated subject. With very little evidence, save oral traditions passed down from generation to generation, to prove their existence, there are many scholars who claim that they are merely legend.
Previously translated as ‘The Suspended Odes’, ‘The Hanging Poems’ or ‘The Golden Odes’, the Moallaqat were originally a compilation of seven poems, the jewels in the crown of the most renowned poets of pre-Islamic Arabia; Imru’ Al-Qais; Antara Ibn Shaddad; Amr Ibn Kulthum; Labid; Zuhayr bin abi Salma; Tarafa and Harith bin Hilliza. Legend has it that they were written in gold on the finest Coptic linen and hung on curtains covering the Kaaba, an event that is commonly thought to have influenced their title of ‘Moallaqat’, a term that denotes suspension. However, it has also been suggested that the title was bestowed, not because they were suspended on the Kaaba, but because their content, once read, would become suspended in your mind. Another theory is that the term ‘Moallaqat’ originates from ‘ilq’, meaning ‘precious thing’, suggesting that it was something to ‘hang’ on to.
–– Reynold A. Nicholson, A Literary History of the Arabs.