Qatar National Library (QNL) hosted a second successful Open Day for members of the public last Thursday to explore its magnificent Arab and Islamic Heritage Collection.
Held to celebrate UNESCO’s International Day for Monuments and Sites, hundreds of visitors flocked to its Heritage Collection’s building to view the library’s most prized and historic items. QNL’s collection of globes, maps and documents relating to the archaeological site Al Zubarah were especially popular among the participants at this special event.
Qatar National Library is a non-profit organisation under the umbrella of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF).
Speaking about the historic city in the north of the country, Saadi A. Al Said, QNL’s Associate Director for Administration and Planning said: “This year’s Heritage Collection Open Day specially recognised the archaeological site, which UNESCO declared as Qatar’s first entry on to the World Heritage list in June 2013. The array of QNL’s Arab and Islamic Heritage Collection maps and beautiful globes relating to Al Zubarah made a real impact on the public during the Open Day.”
QNL’s Arab and Islamic Heritage Collection regularly attracts diplomats and intellects from all over the world, and was visited by His Royal Highness Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, during his visit to Qatar in February. Nine ambassadors from Argentina, Central African Republic, Costa Rica, Japan, Libya, Morocco, Peru, Switzerland and Turkey, plus representatives from Greece and Yemen enjoyed tours at the Open Day.
His Excellency Ambassador Julio Florian of Peru applauded QNL and encouraged international communities to visit: “It’s a wonder. Peru and Qatar may be 20 hours by plane and geographically far apart, but through cultural events you can build bridges and that is why this place is so important for every society. It’s the way to get closer.”
The Arab and Islamic Heritage Collection’s current home is a temporary location until QNL’s new building in Education City is complete. Known as the ‘heart of the new Qatar National Library’, the Collection will move to its very own special space in the centre of the new building.
Praising QNL’s vision in bridging Qatar’s heritage and its future through knowledge, Dr Abdulla Mohamed Al Sulaiti, member of QNL’s Board of Trustees and Deputy Director of Research and Collections at Qatar National Museum, said: “QNL’s Arab and Islamic Heritage collection is one of the most important ones in the Gulf region because it presents so much information about the Arabian Peninsula and Arab world. It is open for everybody, allowing them to view rare and valuable manuscripts, maps and books.”
Speaking further, Saadi A. Al Said remarked: “QNL is delighted to have welcomed so many families, students, educators and VIPs to the second Heritage Collection Open Day. This is a special place that truly expresses the depth and richness of Arab-Islamic civilisation. Sharing these cultural treasures with the community is what drives the mission of the QNL.”
Before the new building opens, the public is able to access the library’s wealth of online collections by registering their details with QNL. During the Open Day, visitors took the opportunity to do this using a special online booth, and are now eligible to use the wealth of information for study, research or simple relaxation.
Speaking of the popularity of this registration process, Dr Claudia Lux, Project Director of QNL, said: “We are delighted that so many visitors to the Open Day immediately registered to QNL’s online collections. Anyone with a valid Qatari ID or residence permit is eligible to sign up and access these free online resources. Even before the library’s stunning new home is complete, the wealth of content, ranging from modern and classic literature, to online concerts and academic periodicals is a treasure trove for everyone in Qatar to explore, enjoy and benefit from.”
Founded in 1979 by His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Muhammad Al Thani, the Arab and Islamic Heritage Collection includes writings by travellers and explorers who visited the Arabian Gulf region over the centuries, Arab manuscripts, historical maps and globes, as well as scientific instruments and early photography.
QNL’s collection features up to 2,400 precious manuscripts, among them ‘Mushafs’ (Holy Qur’an) and Arabic literature, with a primary focus on sciences such as geography, astronomy, mathematics and others. These are complemented by items from the early European reception (early prints in Latin from the 15th – 17th Century) including the famous ‘Qanon’ of Avicenna (IbnSina).