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Exhibition: Geniza in the Gulf

Team Member Dr Sally Abed with a copy of a copy of Kalila wa-Dimna from the Genizah
Team Member Dr Sally Abed with a copy of a copy of Kalila wa-Dimna from the Genizah
Ben Outhwaite
Wed 22 Mar 2023

The Arabic Poetry in the Cairo Genizah project (APCG) recently embarked on a tour of the United Arab Emirates, showcasing its collection of poetry manuscripts to scholars and the public in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Dr Mohamed Ahmed, head of the project, organized the tour in the Gulf with the aim of highlighting the significance of the Cairo Genizah as a repository of Arabic literature and an important – but little known – resource for Arabic textual history.

Viewing the manuscripts in Dubai

The tour's first stop was at New York University Abu Dhabi, where the team was hosted by Dr Nathaniel Miller, a humanities fellow at NYUAD (formerly of Cambridge) and an expert on medieval Arabic poetry. The team installed an exhibition of Arabic fragments, titled 'Geniza in the Gulf,' in the Arts and Humanities Building, which remained on public display for a month. The exhibition showcased some of APCG's discoveries in the Arabic poetry corpus, such as medieval Jews reading poetry by the Islamic thinker and jurist Al-Shāfiʿī and attempting to emulate the works of Al-Maʿrrī. The exhibition also featured some of the most famous fragments in the collection, including petitions to Saladin and the Caliph Al-Mustansir, the letter of Maimonides, and the first leaf of Ben Sira. Finely crafted facsimiles produced by Facsimile Editions of London were used to display these valuable items, enabling them to be placed in public areas without the constraints of climate control and security (and alongside NYUAD’s excellent catering).

Ben and Mohamed at the public lecture in NYUAD

Ben and Mohamed at the public lecture in NYUAD

The APCG team next proceeded to Dubai, where they organized a two-day event titled 'Hidden Literature'. The event was in co-operation with Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education, Dundee, and took place in Dubai's International Academic City. The whole APCG team, along with Dr A.G. Abubaker, the head of Al-Maktoum College, and Mirza Al Sayegh, its chairman, welcomed more than 100 visitors, including Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, and Hind Al Mualla, Chief of Creativity, Happiness, and Wellbeing of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, UAE. The event was a great success, with a superb turnout, and showcased the richness of the Arabic poetry corpus of the Genizah.

The APCG project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement no. 851411).

The exhibition catalogue can be seen here.


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