Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

New Abu Dhabi exhibit displays rare-edition Quran

The collection of manuscripts has been arranged by the Department of Culture and Tourism

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, visits the manuscript exhibition. Pawan Singh / The National
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, visits the manuscript exhibition. Pawan Singh / The National

Tucked away in a new exhibit on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island lie some of the rarest manuscripts in the world.

From editions of the Holy Quran dating back hundreds of years to the first edition of the Arabian Nights, the unique display offers a breathtaking view of ancient Islam.

Organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism, the collection opened on Wednesday and is on display until February 15.

About 50 manuscripts make up the exhibit, all on loan from Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies and the Juma Al Majid Establishment in the UAE.

“This is the first-ever exhibition of such manuscripts in Abu Dhabi,” said Shaikha Al Mehairi, a library director at the Department of Tourism and Culture.

“Our aim is to highlight just how precious these pieces are. So many are stolen, lost or destroyed by conflict that we have to treasure what we have.”

The new exhibit, which includes maps and books worth millions of dirhams, is on display at Manarat Al Saadiyat.

A Quran commissioned in the 17th Century by the Moroccan Sultan Abdulla II is among the highlights.

An historic book from Petrus Apianus on show at the Manuscripts Conference. Pawan Singh / The National 
An illustrative book by the German astronomer Petrus Apianus. Pawan Singh / The National

The works are part of UAE efforts to promote and protect its rich cultural heritage, allowing Emiratis and tourists alike to learn more about the country’s past.

They are on display to coincide with Abu Dhabi’s first Manuscripts Conference and Exhibition on Wednesday and Thursday.

In 2017, the UAE pledged US$15 million (Dh55m) as part of global efforts to better protect heritage sites around the world from war and extremism.

Signatories to the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas vowed to conserve and restore sites at risk from armed conflict.

“It’s really important to highlight the calligraphy of our manuscripts, educating the public on their cultural heritage,” said Ms Al Mehairi.

ABU DHABI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , January 16 – 2019 :- The earliest printed travelogue to the Middle East and Arabia. With over 150 woodcut text illustrations, 14th century on display at the Manuscripts Conference held at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi. (Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Shareena
The earliest printed travelogue to the Middle East and Arabia dating to the 14th century. Pawan Singh / The National

“It’s crucial for any nation to understand their past and how their culture has developed.

“Our geographic boundaries may be new, but previous civilisations have made great contributions to who we are and we can trace this through the manuscripts.”

Included in the exhibit are some of the earliest known Islamic manuscripts.

Speaking on the first day of the conference, Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said: "Arabic manuscripts are this nation's living memory, and represent its knowledge, cultural, and intellectual heritage accumulated over the years."

ABU DHABI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , January 16 – 2019 :- The First Atlas Illustrated with Woodcut maps on display at the Manuscripts Conference held at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi. (Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Shareena
An atlas illustrating the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Pawan Singh / The National

Adjacent to the main site, visitors with deep pockets can also take the opportunity to buy similarly unique items from a variety of specialists.

Atlases, 15th-century maps and sea charts are all for sale by London dealer Daniel Crouch Rare Books, which recently sold a map to the Louvre Abu Dhabi for around $10 million.

Nearby, Peter Harrington Rare Books is currently selling the first edition of The Prophet, by the Lebanese-American poet Khalil Gibran, for more than Dh100,000.

“We are trying to expand in the Middle East,” said Ben Houston, who represents Peter Harrington Rare Books.

“There’s a burgeoning market for rare books in the region.”

Ms Al Mehairi, the library director, added: “It’s a growing niche but more and more Emiratis are interested in manuscripts. These exhibitions encourage that.”

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Read more:

The history of museums in the Emirates

Louvre Abu Dhabi: the long-awaited first look inside

Qasr Al Hosn is a huge hit with visitors on opening night

Updated: January 17, 2019 11:49 AM

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