Stamp exhibition opens in Sharjah today
DUBAI // Naseer Al Serkal was only eight when he began his collection but today the 18-year-old student has stamps that date back to 1920.
The finance student says his passion helps him better understand his country past and present.
Heis among a handful of teenagers that the Emirates Philatelic Association (Epa) hopes will play an instrumental role in building interest among young people.
Enthusiasts say exhibitions such as the Sharjah Arabian Stamp Exhibition that opens today will inspire new collectors to begin their own collections.
Naseer will show his stamps from Iraq dated between 1920 to 1940 alongside 44 other collectors at the five-day exhibition.
"It's a passion for me because through stamps I feel attracted to the history and culture of my country," said Naseer, a student at the American University of Sharjah.
"When I see the small colourful papers, I get engaged with them and what they mean. I encourage my friends to collect stamps because it teaches you many things about your past.
"It also teaches patience - that you cannot have everything at once."
Young collectors are a rarity in the UAE. The country's main philatelic society hopes to inspire young people such as Naseer to delve deeper into the nation's history through stamps.
Unlike most teenagers, Naseer is not distracted by computer games, which he stopped playing five years ago. Apart from a growing stamp collection that he prefers not to quantify, he is also a keen collector of Arabic manuscripts and old books.
His favourite stamps include several large, colourful ones from Sharjah that depict famous poets.
Most of the collectors who will attend the exhibition have fond memories of visiting the post office with their fathers to buy their first stamp album and a magnifying glass. They hope exhibitions will inspire other children to accompany adults to philatelic shows.
The organisation revised its format from last year to a competition structure this year that aims to encourage more participation. A painting contest for children has also been organised and the best picture will appear on a postcard to be printed by the Epa.
"We need new blood; my dream is to spread this love of stamps all over the country," said Abdulla Mohammed Tayyeb Khoory, an Emirati businessman who is the Epa president.
"It's not about collecting and collecting, it's about the joy in researching and discovering new information, new facts and knowing more about your heritage and about your country."
Mr Khoory is troubled that the association has not grown to more than 345 registered members over the past 15 years, and welcomes ideas for future growth. He wants to introduce youngsters to the thrill of seeing rare stamps.
His prized collection includes two stamps known as the First Definitive of Abu Dhabi: Sheikh Shakhboot bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Released in 1964, it features the brother of Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE.
During early print runs, the Arabic translation of the English 30 fils was written incorrectly as 20 fils. Mr Khoory owns two of five such stamps in the world.
"This is one of the rarest stamps of the UAE and has the highest price per stamp recorded until now," said Mr Khoory, estimating that each stamp is valued at Dh86,631.
"Collectors look out for errors because these are rare and not easy to find. That's why it's a hobby not like any other."
The postal history of the Emirates dates back to 1909, when the Indian Branch Post Office under the British administration opened in Dubai. After the British control of the postal service ended in 1963, each emirate began issuing its own stamps until 1972, when the postal service of the Emirates was united.
Most stamp collectors say they see themselves as researchers, attempting to document the country's past.
"I don't see myself as a philatelist alone, I see myself as a researcher trying to document the postal history of our country," said Khalid Ali Al Omera, a communications engineer who is studying the postal history of the UAE, documenting how post moved between the emirates.
"When I was in school, we had competitions about who has the most stamps and of how many different countries. Now, children have other interests. But with competitions in schools and such exhibitions, I'm confident we can discover new collectors every day."
The Sharjah Arabian Stamp Exhibition runs from October 18 to 22 at the ground floor of the Mega Mall.
Published: October 18, 2011 04:00 AM