Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi receives Noura Bint Mohammed Al Kaabi.
Gulf Today, Staff Reporter
On a recent visit to Sharjah's new iconic cultural landmark – House of Wisdom (HoW) – Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, President, International Publishers Association (IPA) received Noura Bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth. During her visit, the minister gained a deeper insight into ways this first-of-its-kind social hub in the region has been built as an immersive space for accessing knowledge and learning, cultural exchange and creative pursuits.
Sheikha Bodour and Al Kaabi were accompanied by Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman, Shurooq; Marwa Al Aqroubi, Director of HoW; Dr Rashid Khalfan Al Nuaimi, Executive Director of Media Regulatory Office; and Aliaa Al Qasimi, Acting Assistant Undersecratery for the Culture and Creative Industries Sector.
The tour offered a comprehensive overview of HoW’s key features – an impressive collection of physical and digital resources including rare books, its multipurpose halls, spaces dedicated for reading, working, hosting events and exhibitions, fabrication laboratories, and an advanced printing facility.
“Societies advance when they are able to learn from and fully appreciate their history and culture, and know more about the individuals whose invaluable contributions in the past laid the foundations fro our present and future. The amalgamation of past achievements with our plans for the future is the premise behind HoW’s overarching vision. That is why this futuristic space for learning is named after the ‘House of Wisdom' in Baghdad, which was a beacon of knowledge during the Golden Age of Islam,” Sheikha Bodour noted.
The International Publishers Association (IPA) President, added: “ HoW is a fitting ode to Sharjah's distinctive standing as a place where books, knowledge and cultural enrichment are at the heart of the public domain – meant to be easily accessed and enjoyed locally as well as by regional and international communities.”
Following her visit, Al Kaabi said: "HoW is one of the grandest contributions to the country's cultural offerings. It embodies the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to invest in human knowledge through books and learning resources. HoW further solidifies the foundations of community development and paves the path for a glorious future.”
The minister added: "The House of Wisdom defines the model of the future library, globally. It is not merely a place for reading and research, but also an immersive space for collaborative learning that provides opportunities for interaction and experimentation to unleash capacities and talents, and foster
During the tour, Marwa Al Aqroubi briefed Al Kaabi on the integration of physical spaces with smart, intuitive and extremely user-friendly technologies at HoW. The monumental library, she added, will be home to 305,000 traditional and digital resources in various formats, languages, and genres. Of these, 105,000 will be physical books and includes 100 Braille books and 2400 large print format books, while nearly 200,000 learning resources are in the digital format.
The minister was also briefed on the Wisdom Vault, which currently contains the first eight volumes of the Historical Corpus of the Arabic Language, a first-of-its-kind project by the Arabic Language Academy that chronicles 17 centuries of development of the Arabic language and spans five distinct periods in history – the pre-Islamic period, the Islamic era, Abbasid Caliphate, development of nation states, and the modern day era. The Wisdom Vault will also host rare books and publications collected from around the world.
Al Kaabi also toured the seven specially designed pods; the Al Rasheed Hall, a high-tech conference room equipped with the latest audio-visual aids; and the Little Reader, a dedicated space to educate and entertain 3 to 10-year-olds in a safe and fun environment.
She visited the Al Jazri Lab or the Fabrication Lab, a makerspace equipped with cutting-edge technologies including state-of-the-art 3D printers, and the “Book espresso machine”, a state-of-the-art on-demand printing and binding machine that can produce a perfectly bound book in just a few minutes. The tour also included a visit to the Ladies Diwan, a dedicated place for women for collaboration and quiet contemplation.
The tour included a visit to Al Khawarizmi Exhibition, a dedicated exhibition space that now hosts ‘168: 01', Iraqi-born, New York-based artist Wafaa Bilal’s fitting monument to the staggering cultural losses endured throughout Iraq’s history, most notably when a fire destroyed more than 70,000 books at the library of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad in 2003.
The minister also toured the artist's 'The Ashes Series (2003 – 2103)' exhibition of photographs that depict painstakingly reconstructed media images of the destruction caused by the war in Iraq.
The officials stopped at the Wisdom Square, the central courtyard, which is also the heart of HoW. Open to the sky and filled with plants, a fully-grown tree and water features, the Wisdom Square brings nature into this essentially modern structure, bathing it in natural light and lending an aura of natural green and calm to the bustling social space.
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