x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

26. Arabic dictionary

To mark the nation's 40th anniversary, we feature 40 historic objects.

This Arabic dictionary, published in Cairo, has passed through the family of Ayesha Hashemi. Courtesy Ayesha Hashemi / Al Hemyan group, NYU Abu Dhabi
This Arabic dictionary, published in Cairo, has passed through the family of Ayesha Hashemi. Courtesy Ayesha Hashemi / Al Hemyan group, NYU Abu Dhabi
This battered and well-used copy of an Arabic dictionary was published in Cairo by the Arab Heritage House of Printing.
It belongs to the family of Ayesha Al Hashemi and has been on a long journey. "I had it from my father's library and now it belongs to me, after it was brought from Kuwait where he spent a fair amount of time," she explains.
"He used it in his studies and when he came to the Emirates, he brought it with him."
For Al Hashemi, the much- travelled book, and especially one which deals with meanings, symbolises the search for home and identity, particularly for her family and tribe who originally came from Saudi Arabia but now call the UAE their home.
"It carries within it all the histories of people who came before my father and had this dictionary, and now it's mine."
The dictionary is in classical Arabic and many of the words, Al Hashemi believes, have been lost from modern Arabic dictionaries.
It is not just the feel of the dictionary, but the smell of it that conjures up so many memories for her. "I love the smell of old books," she says. "It makes me think about the numbers of people who have held the book before me, and who have discovered things about the world, about their lives and their journeys through such a book."
This object is the result of a collaboration with students from New York University's Al Hemyan project, which is dedicated to creating a digital archive by translating elements of cultural heritage into digital projects, public exhibits and art