Barghouti grew up in Ramallah as one of four brothers. In the mid-1960s, Barghouti went to study at Cairo University in Cairo, Egypt. He was just finishing his last year in college when the Six-Day War of 1967 started. By the end of the war, Israel had captured Gaza and the West Bank, and Barghouti, like many Palestinians living abroad, was prevented from returning to his homeland. After the war Barghouti first went to work as a teacher at the Industrial College in Kuwait. At the same time, he began to pursue his interest in literature and poetry, and his writings were soon published in the journals al-Adab, Mawaqif, in Beirut and al-Katib, "attaleea" and "Al Ahram" in Cairo. In 1968, he became acquainted with the Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali, who at that time was also working in Kuwait.
In 1970, Barghouti married the Egyptian novelist and academic Radwa Ashour. The two had met years earlier, when they were both students of the English Department at Cairo University. They have one child, a son, Tamim Al Barghouti, born in 1977 in Egypt, who is now a poet with four published books of poetry.
The couple left Kuwait for Egypt less than a year after marrying. In 1972, Barghouti published his first book of poetry in 1972 (Dar al-Awdeh in Beirut, Lebanon). He has since published 12 books of poetry, the last of which is Muntasaf al-Lail (Midnight, Beirut, 2005, Riad El Rayes Publishers). His Collected Works came out in Beirut in 1997. A Small Sun, his first poetry book in English translation, was published by the Aldeburgh Poetry Trust in 2003. He was awarded the Palestine Award for Poetry (2000). His poems are published in Arabic and international literary magazines. English translations of his poetry have been published in Al Ahram Weekly, Banipal, The Times Literary Supplement and Modern Poetry in Translation, and one of his most famous poems appeared as a cover photo of Pen International.
In the autumn of 1977, Barghouti was deported from Egypt on the eve of Anwar Sadat's controversial visit to Israel and was allowed to come back only after 17 years. Barghouti, his wife and their son had to spend most of the next 17 years apart; Radwa lived in Cairo as a professor of English at Ain Shams University, and he lived in Budapest as a PLO representative in the World Federation of Democratic Youth and a cultural attache.
The Oslo Accords finally allowed Barghouti to return to the West Bank, and in 1996 he returned to Ramallah after 30 years of exile. This event inspired his autobiographical novel Ra'aytu Ram Allah (I Saw Ramallah), published by Dar Al Hilal (Cairo, 1997), which won him the prestigious Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in the same year. Important Palestinian cultural personalities including Ghassan Kanafani and Naji al-Ali also appear in the book, which has been translated into several languages, including English, with an introduction by Edward Said.
Edward Said described I Saw Ramallah as “one of the finest existential accounts of Palestinian displacement we now have,” and John Berger wrote that it was “a bedside book if ever there was one, unforgettable memories, razor insights, name–games, stories with eyes closed, no conclusions, only the passionate pain of exile, recounted at the end of the day by a true poet.”
Mourid Barghouti has published many essays both in English and Arabic on poetry, the most quoted paragraph of these writing is this one: "One of its charming miracles is that through its form, poetry can resist the content of authoritarian discourse. By resorting to understatement, concrete and physical language, a poet contends against abstraction, generalization, hyperbole and the heroic language of hot-headed generals and bogus lovers alike.... Poetry remains one of the astonishing forms in our hands to resist obscurantism and silence. And since we cannot wash the polluted words of hatred the same way we wash greasy dishes with soap and hot water, we the poets of the world, continue to write our poems to restore the respect of meaning and to give meaning to our existence." - Mourid Barghouti (Originally published in New Internationalist # 359 -August 2003)
In an interview with Maya Jaggi in The Guardian, Barghouti was quoted as saying: "I learn from trees. Just as many fruits drop before they're ripe, when I write a poem I treat it with healthy cruelty, deleting images to take care of the right ones."