H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, recently visited several libraries in the Portuguese city of Porto (also known as Oporto), on the sidelines of a private visit to Portugal.
The Ruler of Sharjah toured several academic and cultural monuments, including the Municipal Library of Porto, which was founded in 1833, and is one of the biggest and oldest public libraries in Portugal. He then visited the historical Lello Library, which is known as Livraria Lello in Portuguese.
Sheikh Dr. Sultan was accompanied by Mousa Abdul Wahid Al Khaja, UAE Ambassador to Portugal and Dr. Amr Abdel Hamid, Director of Sharjah Research Academy.
Upon his arrival at the Municipal Library of Porto, Dr. Sultan was received by Jorge Costa, Director-General of the library, Monica Gerairio, the manager in charge of cultural affairs in the Municipality of Porto, and Paula Bonifacio, who is responsible for the section of old books and manuscripts in the library.
His Highness toured the halls and stands of the library, which he visited in 2000, when he was working on his book “A Declaration to the Industrious Historians of the Innocence of ibn Majid”.
In his book, Sheikh Dr. Sultan proved the innocence of a renowned Arab seaman, Ibn Majid, and that he did not guide the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama from the African East Coast to India in 1498, a period that marks the entry of European forces to the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Gulf.
The book is the first ever official documentation on the innocence of Ibn Majid. It is based on the original manuscripts from the diaries of the first voyage of da Gama. The manuscripts were found in the Municipal Library of Porto in Portugal, which overlooks the Douro River, and links the city of Porto to the Atlantic Ocean.
Sheikh Sultan said that he reviewed the ancient manuscripts written by historians who lived in the time of da Gama, and explained how these manuscripts have led him to the diaries of da Gama’s first voyage which were found in the Porto library.
His Highness clarified that he analysed and compared the literatures from the time of da Gama and ibn Majid from Portugal and India. He translated the manuscripts from Portuguese into Arabic and English. After spending time studying the facts of the manuscripts, the Ruler of Sharjah concluded that it was not ibn Majid who guided da Gama in his path through the Indian Ocean, rather it was a Christian-Gujarati from India who was in Malindi at the time.
The Ruler of Sharjah, who revealed these findings in his book, noted that some Arab historians still stick to their claims against Ibn Majid. He underlined that his interest in this historical truth and other facts stem from the moral obligation towards finding and communicating facts that is a right to everyone’s knowledge.
He stressed the importance of documenting history with honesty and justice, because history is the study of the past that formulates the present and shapes the people’s understanding, perceptions and emotions towards their cultures and one another. H.H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan urged historians to pursue the search for facts and truths through careful readings and analysis of ancient books and historical manuscripts.
His Highness said that historians should not limit themselves with existing sources of knowledge; they should make it a responsibility to take every means possible to examine and search for the truth, and that distinguishes creative historians from others. The Ruler of Sharjah said failing to search for the truth is unfair for the coming generations whom we must address with a high sense of responsibility. He hailed the efforts of historians who have preserved the collective memory of nations from fading, by documenting history, and called for allocation of funds to support them and encourage them to pursue their research.
Sheikh Sultan highlighted the historical role Portugal played in enriching human culture with various forms of science and arts. He also praised the efforts of local authorities who invested in the care and development of libraries and their contents, and their efforts in granting accessibility to researchers and scholars from around the world.
The Municipal Library of Porto was founded in 1833 and is one of the largest and oldest public libraries in Portugal. It receives a copy of all publications issued in Portugal. The library boasts a treasure of more than 1500000 documents and has an important collection of rare manuscripts and maps.
The importance of the library is not limited to the value of its documentary heritage and its role in organising and indexing documents that are an invaluable part of the historical and cultural legacy of Porto and Portugal. It also encourages readers and researchers to delve into its documents and manuscripts.
The library features an array of mixed-use rooms and facilities to attract the city’s residents, all in a bid to support visitors with resources from traditional to electronic catalogues for research and studies purposes.
During his tour at the historical Lello Library, or Livraria Lello, which was established in 1818, Sheikh Sultan met its director Jozi Lello, who is the son of its founders, and Aurora Pinto, the manager at the library.
The Sharjah Ruler toured the library’s various sections where he was briefed by officials on the contents of numerous ancient manuscripts, books, titles and the first editions of famous international books, some of which date back to the seventh century.
The Lello Library was established in 1881 by brothers Jose and Antonio Lello, who decided to establish a foundation to print, distribute and sell books. The Library, which was renovated in 1906, receives thousands of visitors daily from different parts of the world. It allocates a hall for dialogues between artists and literary figures to share knowledge and ideas that contribute to enriching their literary products.
At the end of his tour, the Sharjah Ruler wrote a note of thanks and appreciation in the guest book at both libraries, praising the immense efforts of the staff working in the two historical libraries that are home to rare and valuable treasures.
Source: UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs