Dubai: It’s half past 10 on a Friday evening and a pair of eight-year-old twins can’t wait to peer through a telescope installed at the entrance to Dubai Mall. “I want to see the moon,” gushes one of them while her lookalike echoes her words with an excited nod. There are others, young and old, who have also gathered around the optical wonder made available for public viewing as part of an ongoing exhibition called 9Hijri till the end of Ramadan.
“9Hijri is very symbolic,” Dubai Astronomy Group CEO Hasan Al Hariri, who has set up the telescope, says, as it is used to denote the holy month in the Islamic calendar.
“You see, the calendar that we used in the past is still followed today and continues to pave the way for the future. It is relevant, practical and eternal. In fact, astronomy is deeply rooted in our Islamic history, culture and religion.”
The telescope is one of the many displays of the Dubai Astronomy Group at the mall, although the rest of its showcases are in a dedicated Science Zone inside the Souq Dome. They include videos on science, Google Cardboard and Oculus stargazing apps. There are eight other zones highlighting the rich Arabic heritage in literature, numerics, knowledge, calligraphy, films, art, fashion and design. With activities aplenty, each zone puts the focus on select Islamic scholars, veterans and craftsmen and their valuable contributions.
The Numerics Zone for instance presents the genius of Al Khwarizmi, Al Kindi and Al Misri, who shaped the modern understanding of mathematics and algebra. From addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to extracting the root to the very concept of zero, the zone has an iconic art installation.
Equally eye-catching are the calligraphy displays in the Art and Calligraphy Zones. Diaa Allam, an Arabic calligraphy artist, who has presented 22 of his masterpieces, in a rare gallery says, “9Hijri effectively connects people to the spirit of Ramadan. My works on display are part of my collection The Immortal Language.”
He also talks about how he has given an abstract and modern twist to Arabic calligraphy so the present generations can relate to it. There’s something special to see in every zone: the House of Wisdom in the Knowledge Zone which documents the takeaways from rare Islamic manuscripts; the traditional usage of geometry in art in the Design Zone; an insightful selection of short films by leading Arab and Muslim directors in the Film Zone; rich Arabic literature, from the Golden Age of Baghdad to poetry nights in the gardens of Al Andalus in the Literature Zone and so on. One major attraction at the exhibition is the chance to get up close with insightful personalities, whether it is Hasan Al Hariri in the Science Zone or storyteller Idris Mears of Alserkal Cultural Foundation’s Book Corner or Emirati authors Alia Al Shamsi and Omar Ghobash in the Literature Zone.
“This is my first time in Dubai and I am amazed by the sheer depth of Islamic art and literature,” says European tourist Sara visiting Dubai Mall with her husband Smith. Another visitor from Sydney adds, “I was told there’s so much to see and do at the world’s largest mall. This exhibition was a pleasant surprise and ended up being the highlight of my trip.”
The exhibition is open from 10am to 3am daily throughout Ramadan.