Exhibition to carry stamps of UAE's postal history

The history of the Arab world and its postal services will be showcased in collections of rare stamps brought together for the first time in Sharjah.

Arab history will be brought to life in a most unusual way this month, as tales of Arab and Islamic heritage will be told through collections of stamps and envelopes. Stamps from around the Arab world, some dating back to the 1830s, will be on display during the first Sharjah Arabian Stamp Exhibition from September 22 to September 27 at Mega Mall.

"Stamps reflect the history, geography, political changes and economy of the issuing country," said Abdullah Khouri, president of the Emirates Philatelic Association, the organiser of the event. "Arab stamp collections have been exhibited around the world and won awards, but they've been scattered, with one collection showing in Australia and another showing in the UK, so we wanted to gather them all under one roof."

The exhibits will feature various Arab countries and cities; including Iraq, Baghdad, Oman, Egypt, Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. One of the oldest items is an envelope dating back to April 3, 1833, sent from Muscat to the US addressed to Ann Ruschenberger. Her husband, who was a doctor on a mission in Muscat, sent it on a ship called the Peacock which had sailed to Muscat to deliver a letter from the US president to the Sultan of Oman, so the doctor sent a letter to his wife back with the ship, explained Mr al Khouri, 48.

A collection featuring the development of postal services in Dubai between 1909 and 1948 will be displayed by Mr Khouri, who has been a stamp collector since he was eight. Another collection will feature stamps from Baghdad during the British occupation from 1917 to 1923. "My two most valuable items would be a cover with a pair of Baghdad in British Occupation stamps, one of which has the word Baghdad missing, which is the only copy known," said Freddy Klatastchy, the owner of the collection.

"The other item is a multiple of eight of the 6-annas Iraq in British Occupation stamp issued in 1918, with two stamps missing the central vignette. Again these are the only two known copies," he added. Other activities will include a workshop by international stamp experts and judges from New Zealand Jenny Banfield and her husband Norman Banfield, to teach stamp collectors how to participate in international exhibitions.

A lecture will be given on the history of stamps in Kuwait, and an auction will be held of valuable unique stamps and coins from the Arab world. The auction's revenues will go to charity. "Our goal is also educational, so there will be contests for children to help them develop a passion for stamps which will grow with them when they're older," Mr al Khouri said. A contest run by Emirates Post will have children design a stamp for the UAE national day.

Alongside the main exhibition, there will be a display of other stamps owned by hobbyists and members of the Emirates Philatelic Association, and people will be able to buy and sell stamps as dealers from countries such as the UK, US and Australia will be setting up booths, said Mr al Khouri "I expect everybody who's interested in stamps from the UAE and the Gulf to attend." The participating exhibits will be up to international standards with five frames (80 pages) or eight frames (128 pages). They will all be based on an Arab country, and winners of a large Vermeil medal, explained Khalid al Omaira, the commissioner general of the exhibition.

"This is the first time such an exhibition is held, focusing exclusively on Arab items," he said.