A visit to Qasr Al Watan’s House of Knowledge is a must for students, history buffs, or those who just wish to steep themselves in some of the most precious historical records the UAE has to offer.
The House of Knowledge offers an unparalleled collection of artefacts and antiquities documenting the Islamic Golden Age, which helped inspire the European Renaissance.
The exhibition is housed in the East Wing of Qasr Al Watan in Abu Dhabi, the newly launched section of the presidential palace open to the public. It contains manuscripts that represent some of the earliest Arab contributions to various intellectual fields including science, arts and literature.
Many of the documents are rare for their age, some, for their scarcity and others because of their subject matter. When visiting the collection here are some of the highlights you will discover:
The Birmingham Quran
This priceless document is an official replica of the original parchment manuscript kept at the University of Birmingham. The document is particularly significant as one of the earliest surviving records of the Holy Quran. It’s written in Hijazi, an early form of Arabic script.
The original has been radiocarbon dated to CE 568–645 which means it’s very likely it was created towards the end of the lifetime of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). At the time of testing, David Watson, a professor of Christianity and Islam at the University of Birmingham said “these portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Quran read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration”.
This replica on show was presented to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in 2016 by Britain’s Prince Charles.
The first modern map of Arabia
This 1561 map of the Arabian Peninsula was engraved by Italian cartographer Giacomo Gastaldi in Venice. It covers the entire Middle East, stretching from Egypt to the western coast of India.
Gastaldi used information plotted by Portuguese explorers, and corrected the shape of the Arabian Gulf from the rectangular one proposed by Ptolemy in Greco-Roman times to a form similar to the one we know today.
Gastaldi’s map was copied many times over the years and was particularly accurate in its plotting of coastal areas. It’s thought to have been the first example of Abu Dhabi appearing on a map. It wasn’t quite as accurate with inland features however, it includes a very artistic interpretation of a lake in the middle of the Rub al-Khali desert, called Stag lago. This was also copied many times by other map-makers in the decades to follow.
The Atlas Manuscript on Astronomy
The Atlas manuscript contains astronomical tabulations, coloured drawings, and maps of the four sides of Earth as well as maps of ancient continents. This reproduction of the manuscript is thought to date back to the late 13th century AH.
Explanation of Lamiat Al-Zukak on law and judiciary rules
A rare manuscript, it was composed by Mohammed bin Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Dulaimi Alwerzazi Al-Der'ei who died in the year 1166 AH. This is a transcript of law studies and judicial practices.
The ‘Historia Naturalis’ encyclopaedia
Otherwise known as Pliny’s Natural History, this exhibit is considered of the masterpieces of the collection. The encyclopaedia consists of 37 books in ten volumes. It was compiled in Latin by Roman scholar, Pliny the Elder, who lived from 23–79 CE.
It includes around 20,000 entries, and considered one of the most complete sources of knowledge in ancient times.
Pliny only began writing it in 77 CE and did not write a final entry before his death in the eruption of Vesuvius, so it’s an incomplete project, despite being one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire.
Three holy books
In honour of the 2019 UAE Year of Tolerance, three holy books – the Holy Quran, the Holy Bible and the book of David’s Psalms are displayed together as a symbol of tolerance.
His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE has proclaimed 2019 to be the Year of Tolerance. The federal government is actively working from the top down to enshrine this concept in public life by incorporating tolerance in its legislation and policies.
This display of the three Holy Books together in the House of Knowledge is an embodiment of the values of coexistence and openness to different cultures.
For more info and buying your tickets online visit: https://www.qasralwatan.ae/en/booking