Nigel Holt: Ice Yaqoub

Milk for Honey

The wax extends across the afternoon;

every follicle exhumed and exiled;

each inch of skin exfoliated. Soon,

she will be ready: brows plucked; nails filed;

sprucer than the cedar on the flag,

cool habibi in her open top.

Hot pink, her lips; her hair the only drag

as she Porsches to Jumeira’s red-light stop.

Carrera shades assuage her careless gaze.

(The air that takes her hours to perfect)

The whiteness of her scarf, her arms reflect,

(She times exposure to day’s UV rays)


Then skip on breakfast as it’s de rigueur;

Lunches with friends? She, politely, will demur

dining alone at home, du pain et beurre.


From: ‘The Dubai Fifteeners’






In Bur Juman, the maze is inside-out:

Wa’fa is walking out, but heading in

with Aisha, Sarah, Bushra—with the pout.

In her mission to her fashion, she’s devout:

this minotaur has lipstick on its grin.


Behind the black-swathed sway of hidden hip,

the journey to the exit pulls them back.

The hunted’s on the hunt: the sudden rip;

the well-eyed situation and the hand goes slack;

there on the floor, the tiny folded strip.


When Ahmed, Seif, or any of the boys

catches the hunter’s eye; picks up the note;

sees the number Wa’fa secretively wrote,

there’s a thought that every boy and girl enjoys:

He the hunt; she, the fangs deep in his throat.


From: ‘The Dubai Fifteeners’




Ice Yaqoub

He’s a mean machine,
ganja-smokin’ Gangsta-man;
sports his hot dishdasha,
this ice cool Basha
slaps his Dolphins’ cap on backwards
– all American.

Never meskeen,
kufr-hating ghutra-man,
never lies –Wallah!
His Swiss-banked dollar
means a dirhameen for Al Quds
– swear on Al Qur’an.

Mercedes-mashin’ bangster-man;
hard-smack stasher,
he shuns the madrasa,
drives his bitches to the quiet ‘hoods
– a righteous Mussulman.

Between ‘alameen,
king-sized bedded Bedu-man;
with a kilo and a tola,
gahwa and a cola,
there’s God against material goods,
la, la, la – shukran.




dishdasha – white one piece worn by Gulf Arab men.

Basha – Pasha (there is no ‘P’ in Arabic)

Mujahadeen – warrior of the religion – defender of Islam

Al Quds – Jerusalem

madrasa – school, especially a religious one.

meskeen – poor

Kufr – un/disbelief or atheism (hence kaffir – un/disbeliever)

ghutra – variously coloured headscarf worn by Arab men

Wallah! – by god!

dirhameen – two dirhams

‘alameen – two worlds

Bedu – Bedouin 

tola – Arabic weight roughly equivalent to 1oz

gahwa –  Gulf Arabic name for coffee

la – no

shukran – thank you


Nigel Holt has lived and worked in the United Arab Emirates for a number of years. He has been published in a number of magazines and journals, the most recent of which are London Magazine, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Anglican Theological Review, Crannog, Agenda, and The Raintown Review.

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