Ayoon wa Azan (World Heritage in Arab Countries).
The most beautiful of all - I am not saying the most important - was "World Heritage in Arab Countries," by ALECSO (the Arab League Education, Culture and Science Organization) and Bahrain's Ministry of Culture. It had an introduction by the minister, May Al-Khalifa, while the accompanying text to the photos, in English and Arabic, was by ALECSO.
The book is as heavy as the other 14 put together, and is large, with heavy glossy pages; the pictures by the French photographer Jacques Gilbert dispense with the explanations.
Some of the antiquities are known, such as the Giza Pyramids, Petra, Palmyra and Baalbek. However, I confess that much of the material was new to me, although I had believed that I knew the Arab countries, from the Atlantic to the Gulf.
The book begins with photos from Abu Mina, near Alexandria, which is a site of the remnants of a Coptic city around the grave of Saint Mina; it ends with photos from Al-Dariya, northwest of Riyadh. I noticed the interior view of the Salwa Palace complex and a tower that looks over Al-Turaif Citadel, which became an integrated system of fortifications, and a photo of the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Mosque.
In between, I discovered many ruins, from North Africa to the Arab East, which I had not heard of before, and others about which I knew a bit.
I will select, from the middle of the book, pages about Qairawan, which contain photos of one of the Aghlabid pools and another of the Great Mosque; then, the Casbah of Algiers and photos of the Ketchaoua Mosque, with its minarets, and the city of Zabid in Yemen, and a photo of the Eastern Shabarek Gate, and the palaces of Wadani, Shanqit and Kshit and the old manuscripts and homes in Mauritania, and the Tadarat Akakus site in Libya, and rock drawings of men dancing, and other geometrical ones in the rock itself. There is also the site of Hatra in Iraq, and a carved face decorating the temple of Shamash, and pillars of the Great Temple and the Iwan of the Temple of the god Shayro.
It is all beautiful, and I do not believe that the book is available for sale; one must order it through the AOES or the Culture Ministry.
Sheikha May Al-Khalifa gave me another book, called "Sufferings of Hope," by the Bahrain author and poet Qassem Haddad, published by the Arab Organization for Studies and Publishing in Beirut, and the Bahraini Culture Ministry.
The writer talks about the democracy of listening; it is not enough to accept the other. One must listen to him, and this is my opinion too, based on my experience in journalism, especially after the uprisings of the Arab Spring.
I reviewed, along with my colleague Abdo Wazen, Qassem Haddad's work and found that Abdo considered him the most important poet in Bahrain and the Gulf. I will add that Haddad's policy is to avoid a foreign agenda; he strives for "accord" [Ar. Al-Wefaq] among people. I wish those who falsely bear this name would work for this end.
In the book, I read about the departure of poetry from verse after 14 centuries, to arrive at the new poetry experience, since that of the prose poem. Qassem Haddad is among our finest poets who have written rhymed verse as well as prose poetry.
I visited the Manama Book exhibition, and Nadim al-Hawa gave me his book, "London Memoirs," and when I arrived in Beirut, I found a copy waiting for me.
Nadim accompanied his leukemia-stricken brother for treatment in London in 1984, and the brother stayed at one of the best hospitals and was treated by one of the most famous specialists, and Nadim remained there until his brother's death in 1986.
The writer paints a painful picture of a brother in his agonizing final days as Nadim read suras from the Quran on the night of their farewell. I was taken by the fact that the treatment cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, and the writers says that Prince Sultan bin Abdel-Aziz, God rest his soul, donated the sum. He earned the title "the prince of good works" from such acts.
In this book, there are funny chapters, even if the topic is a battle in Soho or a crime in Piccadilly. I do not know how Nadim confesses to what he has done, if this is true. The important thing is that during his short stay in London, Nadim "achieved" with his brother what I have failed to achieve in 37 years living there.
2012 Media Communications Group
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