Tales from the East: Dh60 million worth of rare artefacts are on display at Sharjah Book Authority

The exhibition is taking place until Monday and is open to the public from 8pm to midnight each day

History looms at the Tales from the East exhibition at the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA).

The exhibition puts centuries of cross-cultural exchange between the region and the wider world on display with artefacts, manuscripts, paintings and books worth more than Dh60 million ($16m).

Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the exhibition on Tuesday. It is taking place until Monday, and is open to the public from 8pm to midnight each day.

The exhibition is divided into five sections. The first contains manuscripts of the Quran. Brilliantly bordered with geometric patterns and penned with crisp calligraphy, the manuscripts date back hundreds of years and show the development of scribing and binding techniques over the years.

Old paintings and photos of regional landmarks and cities can be viewed in the second section. These include paintings of Makkah during Hajj season, as well as of Sharjah and Dubai, showing what the two emirates looked like years ago.

Tales from the East exhibition will enable visitors to journey hundreds of years back in time and witness the events and innovations that have shaped the course of our history

Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, chairman of Sharjah Book Authority

The third section exhibits maps and glossy, vibrant globes dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, while the fourth houses first and early editions of famous literary works of fiction, theatre, politics and history. It also has translations of One Thousand and One Nights in various languages.

The final section displays several advertisement posters for airline, railway and tourism companies from around the region. The eye-catching works, with their vivid colours, were used to invite viewers to go golfing in Tunisia or spend a summer in Rabat, Morocco, for example.

Among the most notable works in the exhibition is the first issue of Description of Egypt. Spanning 23 volumes and illustrated with 935 plates, the colossal work of history is the result of a collaboration between the 160 scientists, artists and technicians who followed Napoleon Bonaparte to Egypt at the turn of the 19th century.

With detailed cultural, geographic and anthropological information, the work aimed to record all known aspects of Egypt’s ancient, modern and natural history.

Another must-see work is The Mirror of the World by 17th-century Ottoman polymath and author Katib Celebi. Published in Constantinople in 1732, the work is illustrated with 40 coloured maps and plates, including the famous map of the Arabian Peninsula drawn by Ahmed Al-Qirimi. It also contains wind maps and astrological models of the universe.

Adrien Dupre’s 1819 work Journey to Persia, documenting the Orientalist’s travels through Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Turkey, Armenia and Persia, is also on display. As is a centuries-old manuscript of The Aphorisms of Hippocrates. The work was originally penned in 400BC by the Greek physician, who is often referred to as the father of medicine. The piece was translated into Arabic in the Abbasid era during the translation movement between 750 and 1258.

Courrier de l’Egypte, a newspaper used for propaganda during the Napoleonic occupation of Egypt, as well as rare architecture books and atlases, and works about Islamic geometric decorations, can also be seen.

“Through the extensive collection of written material and manuscripts, Tales from the East exhibition will enable visitors to journey hundreds of years back in time and witness the events and innovations that have shaped the course of our history," Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, chairman of Sharjah Book Authority said.

The priceless works on display here will serve as an inspiration for the young generations to work harder

"The exhibition not only explores the formative work of scientists, innovators and thought leaders over several centuries, but also highlights the meticulous art of creating books in the ancient days and the relentless efforts that have gone into developing civilisations. The priceless works on display here will serve as an inspiration for the young generations to work harder and recognise that harnessing knowledge is the key to serving their nations and humanity.”

A series of talks and panel discussions by historians and archaeology experts is taking place on the sidelines of the exhibition. The challenges of preserving ancient manuscripts, as well as the techniques and technologies involved in the practice, are among topics being discussed.

Covid-19 health and safety protocols are being implemented at the event. Halls and panel discussion areas are being sanitised regularly, while all exits and entrances have thermal scanners.

Updated: April 29, 2021 05:41 PM

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