A 200-year-old Polish manuscript attract visitors at book fair

Abu Dhabi: A 200-year-old Polish manuscript pertaining to Arab culture, traditions and sacred monuments is attracting a large number of visitors at the 28th edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

More than 500,000 books from various libraries and publishers are on display at the fair. A large number of students and their parents are seen browsing their favourite titles at the fair, which will conclude on Tuesday.

The pavilion of Poland, which is the guest of honour this year, has been attracting many book lovers. It showcases hundreds of books which have been translated from Polish into Arabic, English, French, German and Chinese languages.

A rare manuscript about Arabs, called ‘Sur Les Chevaux Orientaux et Provenants des Races Orientales’, which means “About the oriental horses which come from oriental races’, is the main attraction at the Polish pavilion. It is written by Waclaw Seweryn Rzewuski.

Speaking to Gulf News, Artur Sobolewski, owner and publisher of Manuscriptum company in Warsaw, which has brought a copy of the manuscript to the fair, said: “The original manuscript is at the National Library of Poland in Warsaw. A few years back, Saudi Arabia wanted to buy the rare original manuscript of Rzewuski but the library refused to sell it.”

Talking about the author’s love for the Arab region and culture, Sobolewski said: “Rzewuski never visited Makkah but had read and heard a lot about it and its other scared places in the Arab world. He lived with Arabs and adopted their culture and traditions and even accompanied them in wars in the region in 18th century.

He said Poland is celebrating 100th anniversary of it independence this year and the UAE is celebrating the Year of Zayed to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He said Poland got independence in 1918 from Germany, Austria and Russia.”

“So 2018 marks three celebrations — 100th anniversary of Poland’s independence, Year of Zayed and 200th anniversary of the rare manuscript written by Rzewuski in 1818,” Sobolewski said.

The manuscript details the Arab culture, traditions, cuisines and attire. The author even learnt Arabic music and compiled lyrics in Arabic. Rzewuski also drew a map of the Kaaba, the Grand Mosque in Makkah and its surroundings even though he had not visited the place ever.

“This is a rare and important piece of literature by a non-Arab from the early 18th century. At that time, there were no established modes of communication. People used to receive information from person to person. Rzewuski noted all this information in his diary, which later was compiled as a manuscript,” Sobolewski said.

Rzewuski spent two years in the Gulf region from 1818 to 1820 and mingled with the local community and adopted their culture, traditions and learnt a lot about the day-to-day lifestyle of Arabs.

“As many as 200 copies of the original manuscript have been made so that we can tell the world about Poland’s links to Arabian Peninsula.” Copies of the original manuscript are on sale at the fair for €7,900 each.

He said the copies of the manuscript was presented to Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Friday.


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