Sharjah’s ‘Tales from the East’ show power of Arab culture

  • Gulf Today
  • 6. Mai 2021
  • Staff report

The week-long exhibition has concluded, paying tribute to human achievement in the form of rare books, manuscripts and artefacts. The exhibition has bolstered Sharjah’s status as a beacon of science, culture and knowledge.

‘Tales from the East,’ Sharjah Book Authority (SBA)’s week-long exhibition to spread awareness about the region’s glorious past, concluded at the SBA headquarters. The seven-day tribute to humankind’s past glories aimed to educate the public through the formative work of scientists, innovators and thought leaders that over hundreds of years has informed and influenced current technological feats.

‘Tales from the East’ showcased a collection of centuries-old books and manuscripts along with rare artefacts, collectively valued at more than Dhs60 million.

Ahmed Bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA, said: “The exhibition was a unique opportunity to learn about the power and influence of Arab and Islamic culture on human civilisation over the centuries,” as it enabled visitors to journey back in time to explore some of the most significant sources of knowledge and sciences that have shaped our understanding of history.

“The exhibition affirms the truth that acquiring knowledge is a continuous and cumulative journey which transcends all physical boundaries and can be transmitted to generations across centuries,” he further noted.

“’Tales from the East’ served as a window that offered insights into the formative works of great minds, and reinforced that the true value of manuscripts lies not only in their content but also in their importance as a valuable work of preserved art. Manuscripts help us decode many unique aspects of the era in which they were written, the prevalent beliefs and values of the time, and the creativity inherent during that period,” Al Ameri continued.

He concluded saying that this exhibition has “bolstered Sharjah’s status as a beacon of science, culture, knowledge and reflects the vision of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to preserve the cultural and intellectual legacy of humankind and ensure its preservation and continuity.”

The week-long exhibition also hosted several engaging and enlightening cultural sessions and panel discussions led by eminent historians and experts. These sessions not only shed light on the importance of preserving ancient manuscripts for upcoming generations, but also provided insight into the challenges being faced thereof.

Among the unique items showcased as part of Tales from the East were rare early editions and manuscripts of the Holy Quran dating back hundreds of years. Description of Egypt, a 23-part collaborative work of scholars, scientists, artists, and technicians who followed Napoleon Bonaparte to Egypt in the early 19th century, drew vast crowds.

The exhibits included the first edition of Katib Çelebi’s The Mirror of the World, published in in 1732; 17th-century globes, and other singular range of artefacts. Visitors also got the opportunity to appreciate the beauty and aesthetics of Arabic calligraphy that spanned centuries.

Earlier, the science, skill and passion of a community of professionals who have dedicated their lives to saving centuries-old books and preserving historical knowledge for future generations, was the centre of a fascinating discussion led by experts at the ‘Tales from the East’ Exhibition organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA).

The panel discussion titled ‘The Life of Manuscripts’ was led by Dr. Bassam Daghistani, Head of Maintenance, Treatment and Restoration of the Manuscript Section at Juma Al Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage; and Hugo Wetscherek, owner of Austria-based Antiquariat Inlibris, who took their audiences on a behind-the-scenes journey of what exactly goes into repairing and restoring priceless ancient texts spanning different eras.

“How do we perform the complex work of manuscript restoration at the Juma Al Majid Centre?”, questioned Dr. Bassam, following up with an elaborate and interesting answer. The panel’s audience learned about the fine details in the steps his team of restorers follow to breathe life back into old, battered books, manuscripts and other printed materials the centre receives.

From sterilising the pages of a book to remove fungi and other harmful microorganisms that live off the starch and sugars held by the paper, to dry cleaning, removing acidity by restoring the book’s pH levels, and finally, re-moisturising the restored book before storing them in temperature- and weather-controlled storage areas to ensure that the restored book can enjoy a hospitable environment for a long period of time, Dr. Bassam shared a detailed account.