Secrets of the past

If there is a riddle from the past that needs cracking, Hasan Al Naboodah heads to his books and manuscripts to find answers

Hasan Al Naboodah is a historian and professor at the UAE University in Al Ain. Jaime Puebla / The National
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He is the Indiana Jones of books.
If there is a riddle from the past that needs cracking, Hasan Al Naboodah heads to his books and manuscripts to find answers. The 50-year-old Emirati historian and self-confessed bookworm spent his childhood on the beach, barefoot, with his face buried in books on poetry and fiction.
"I like to explore and understand our past. I am always researching and documenting whatever I can," says Al Naboodah, who is a professor at the UAE University in Al Ain and also, unsurprisingly, the Dean of Libraries.
Al Naboodah owns a rare collection of books, some several hundred years old, on early travellers from Europe, as well as tomes that explore age-old traditions and help to explain superstitions that are still in place today.
"You can find the explanation for a lot of today's beliefs and traditions by looking at the past, like giving our boys strong names related to powerful animals like a lion, as it was tradition to believe that would scare off strangers and prevent harm to the child," he says.
When he is not teaching history, Al Naboodah is researching and writing. He has published academic articles in regional and international journals, as well as five books on Emirati history, which cover topics such as oral history, forts, archaeology and architecture.
Middle Age, Gulf and pre-Islamic history, along with stories from around the Arab world, are of particular interest to the professor. "How was Arabia before Islam, from the cultural and political point of view, are important questions I like to explore through manuscripts, old poems and archaeological discoveries," he explains.
"Everywhere in Arabia, they worshipped the stars, the sun and the moon; there was a variety of religions that once ruled over the lands. History is very interesting and ours is very rich," he adds.
The father of two boys and one girl regularly uses proverbs and stories that he has read along the way as a means of passing on the wisdom of the ancestors to his children. "You can find a lot of wisdom in our past, and it would be a shame to miss out on learning and building on what has already been written and found."
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