A map from medieval times showing what was once thought to be the extent of north Africa, which is one of the exhibits coming to Sharjah next month Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A rare collection of centuries-old royal manuscripts, maps and other historical volumes are travelling out of Spain’s prestigious El Escorial Library for the first time to arrive at Sharjah for a first-of-its-kind exhibition from April 2 to 9.

The product of a partnership between Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) and the Spanish Historical Heritage Institute, the exhibition is being organised with the authorisation of the Royal Palace.

Rare works

The event presents an unprecedented opportunity to students, researchers, academia, cartographers, and collectors of rare books, as well as history and language enthusiasts, to access 14 rare manuscripts hundreds of years old. The oldest of them is Al Bakri’s Roads and Kingdoms, which dates from the 13th century.

Among the most important manuscripts, documents and books that the exhibition makes available to visitors is a manuscript entitled ‘Diwan of Ibn Al Khayat’, ‘Al Jawaher Al Magmo’a wa Al Nawader Al Masmo’a’, the book ‘E’rab Al Quran’, the manuscript book of ‘Al-Majmoo’ al-Faaiq min Hadith Khatam Rasul al-Khaliq’ and the book ‘Anatomy of the Law’ and the Diwan of Shams al-Din al-Hanafi.

The collection spans diverse fields of science and knowledge, including philosophy, history, geography, and astronomy, in Arabic, showcased outside the El Escorial Library for the first time in its history.

El Escorial Library Image Credit: Supplied

Cultural movement

Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Amer

Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA, said: “This exhibition is an unprecedented cultural accomplishment for the UAE, and a fruit of the visionary leadership of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed AlQasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. Through this event, SBA aims to continue fostering our partnerships with like-minded institutions worldwide to stimulate dialogue and communication with European and global counterparts and also advance the Arab cultural movement”.

He added: “The exhibition presents an unparalleled opportunity for researchers and enthusiasts of knowledge and history to closely observe and appreciate these invaluable works, which are considered Spain’s best Arabic manuscript collection. We thank our friends at the El Escorial Library for embracing Sharjah’s cultural vision and for partnering with the SBA to organise this first-ever showcase that will turn the spotlight on humankind’s collective culture and knowledge heritage, which have been treasured and safeguarded for centuries for successive generations to benefit from.”

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Close ties

José Luis del Valle Merino, Director of the Royal Library of El Escorial, said: “I attended the Sharjah International Book Fair twice, where I realised the book fair’s status as the most important of its kind in the region. My knowledge and experience of Sharjah and its status has helped support the loan of a selected collection of Arabic manuscripts from the Escorial collection, considered the best Arabic manuscript collections in Spain to be displayed in Sharjah.”

José Luis del Valle Merino Image Credit: Supplied

He added: “On the other hand, the memory of [Shiekh Sultan’s] visit to the El Escorial Library in 2019 during the participation of Sharjah as a guest of honour in Liber international book fair in Madrid, is still vivid in our minds. These visits assert the strong cultural ties that bind the Royal Library of El Escorial to the emirate of Sharjah.”