Emirati performers stage a traditional music and dance performance at India Gate in New Delhi. Image Credit: Supplied

New Delhi/Sharjah: Traditional Emirati performances on the streets of New Delhi marked Sharjah’s selection as the guest of honour at the 27th edition of the New Delhi World Book Fair.

Covering landmarks such as India Gate, DLF Promenade Mall in Vasant Kunj as well as the NDWBF venue at Pragati Maidan, the plethora of cultural activities shedding light on the UAE’s rich heritage has drawn huge crowds.

The Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) also highlighted the bridge between India and the Arab world through the travel writings of several Arab explorers during its participation at the book fair on January 7.

How Arabs see Indians hasn’t changed. Our friendship pre-dates the propagation of Islam and our ties are based on several pillars, including trade, culture and knowledge exchange

- Nasser Al Daheri

In a session titled ‘India in Arab Travel Literature’, leading Emirati authors, Nasser Al Daheri, Sultan Al Amimi, and Dr Mohammad Bin Jarsh, emphasised how Arab travellers visited India starting pre-Islamic times. It looked at chronicles on the everyday life in the nation up until the medieval period when Ibn Battuta entered the subcontinent through Afghanistan, and in the years that followed.

“What have the Arab travellers said about India and its culture?” session moderator, Shaikha Al Mutairi, questioned the panellists.

“When Indo-Arab relations are compared to the relations between other countries we see consistency through the ages. How Arabs see Indians hasn’t changed. Our friendship pre-dates the propagation of Islam and our ties are based on several pillars, including trade, culture and knowledge exchange,” said Al Daheri.

The author also mentioned Kalila wa-Dimna (Kalila and Dimna), the widely circulated collection of Oriental fables of Indian origin, composed in Sanskrit possibly as early as the 3rd century BC, and translated into Arabic in the eighth century by the Persian Ibn Al Muqaffa, a highly educated writer.

Al Daheri went on to focus on some examples of the mention of the Indian subcontinent by Ibn Battuta. “His travel writings extend focus into territories like Bangladesh, Maldives, and others, and offer us a great glimpse of traditional Indian practices, wedding customs, celebrations, down to the detail of India’s famous pan-eating tradition,” he added.

Dr Mohammad Bin Jarsh also read excerpts from a few works of Arab travel writers chronicling their own personal journeys and the experiences of merchants, pilgrims and others in India and the larger subcontinent. “Saudi Arabian author, Mohammad Bin Nasser Al Aboudi, wrote Al Rehalat Al Hindiya Fi Wassat Al Hind (Indian Journeys in Central India), which beautifully describes journeys taken by our people of the past and stories passed on from one person to another,” he said.