The Arab-Islamic civilization is famous for the diversity of cultures, arts, crafts and customs inherited from one generation to the next. It is also considered one of the most literary and longest lasting civilizations in the world.

During the 16th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Cultural Heritage, held from December 13-18, the Committee on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) examined 55 applications for registration submitted by member states.

Arabic calligraphy at UNESCO

And last Tuesday, UNESCO included Arabic calligraphy in its intangible heritage, a law that allows the preservation of this ancient artistic practice on a large scale.

This project was defended by 16 countries, led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, namely: Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, Kuwait, Algeria, Lebanon, Oman, Mauritania, Jordan, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, UAE, Yemen and Iraq.

The government news agency quoted Saudi Culture Minister Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan as welcoming the decision, saying that it "will help develop this cultural heritage and enhance a valuable aspect of authentic Arab culture."

Kuwait's permanent representative to UNESCO Adam Al-Mulla praised this project, which was presented in March 2020, noting that it is a "historic joint file between 16 Arab countries."

In turn, Abdul Majeed Mahboub, Executive Director of the Society for the Preservation of Saudi History, a non-governmental organization concerned with the project, told Al Jazeera Net that "Arabic calligraphy represents an important symbol of the Arab-Islamic world, but the number of people who master it has greatly decreased due to technological progress."

Mahboob continued, "The inclusion of Arabic calligraphy in the UNESCO list will help preserve it from extinction."

Arabic calligraphy is a human creativity handed down by generations since ancient times, reflecting a great awareness of the importance of heritage and the promotion of cultural diversity (UNESCO)

artistic legacy

Calligraphy refers to the artistic practice of writing the Arabic language by hand to express harmony and beauty. It was originally designed to make writing clear and easy to read, and then developed into an Islamic Arabic art used in traditional and modern works.

This artistic creation provides a wide space and endless possibilities for a single word, as letters can be lengthened and transformed into different styles.

In an interview with Al Jazeera Net, the regional official for the Arab countries in the Living Heritage Entity at UNESCO, Rasoul Samadov, said that "Arabic calligraphy meets all the conditions for inclusion in the list of intangible heritage. the whole world".

Samadov notes that the added value of such a multinational nomination lies in sharing heritage across borders, raising awareness about other forms of intangible heritage, and stimulating other future initiatives.

The regional official for the Arab countries at UNESCO confirmed - to Al Jazeera Net - that the organization does not bear the responsibility to preserve the items on the list, as much as the countries that enjoy these cultures that shape their sense of identity and belonging.

UNESCO Cultural Heritage

UNESCO defines intangible cultural heritage - or living heritage - as "traditions and living expressions inherited from our ancestors", and includes "oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive occasions".

“For a cultural practice to be defined as an intangible cultural heritage, the practice must be dynamic, that is, it must have meaning in people’s daily lives,” says UNESCO Convention Secretary Tim Curtis on this topic, adopted since 2003.

Intangible cultural heritage works to preserve cultural diversity in light of the increasing globalization, and contributes to enriching dialogue between societies, and encourages respect for the ways of life of the other, according to Curtis.

Palestinian embroidery and Moroccan Taburideh art

UNESCO added a group of Arab heritage arts and crafts to its list of intangible cultural human heritage, such as the Palestinian embroidery tradition, which varies from one region to another since the rule of the ancient Canaanites and Phoenicians.

The Palestinian women's dress is usually embroidered in the chest and sleeve area, and is characterized by prints symbolizing birds, flowers, trees, and others.

This cultural recognition comes a week after the Miss Universe contestant was accused of "appropriating Palestinian culture" and attributing it to the occupying state, by attending an event to promote tourism in Israel, where the Israeli representative wore the traditional Palestinian embroidered dress.

UNESCO also added the "art of the taborida" or fantasy to 12 recorded Moroccan heritage elements, which is one of the most ancient folk arts in the country and a Berber Arab cultural heritage dating back to the 16th century.

This Moroccan heritage is part of the performing arts in which the knights stand in their traditional uniform, and each one of them carries a miniature copy of the Qur’an and an Arab sword, and they ride horses to perform the Taborida show.

The Moroccan Ministry of Youth and Culture commented on this event, which would "highlight the cultural practices, skills and knowledge associated with the race, trace its social functions and touch its symbolic dimensions."

UNESCO added the art of Palestinian embroidery to its list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (French)

From Iraq and Syria to Bahrain

UNESCO included the waterwheel industry - an authentic Iraqi heritage - on the list of the intangible heritage of traditional craftsmanship and arts.

The noria is a wooden wheel that rotates on its axis to deliver water from rivers to the land to irrigate agricultural lands. It is called “the waterwheel” in Egypt.

The water fountain consists of 24 pillars of sticks made of wood, and 24 pottery jugs tied with ropes of palm fronds. It is usually erected in Iraq on the banks of the Euphrates River, which is known for its lower water levels than the surrounding lands.

In addition, the 19th century Bahraini art of "Al-Fajri" or "Al-Fujiri" joined the UNESCO list, and it is one of the famous arts in the Arabian Gulf that was traditionally performed by divers, to express the hardships they face in extracting pearls from the depths of the sea.

This singing color formed part of the pearl fishermen community until the mid-20th century, and its origins date back to the island of Muharraq, far north of Bahrain, according to UNESCO.

In the same artistic context, Al-Qudud Aleppine was registered in the list of human cultural heritage of humanity, less than a month after the departure of the King of Al-Qudud Aleppine, the Syrian artist Sabah Fakhri.

This lyrical style is an integral part of the culture of Aleppo, and it consists of lyrical systems built on what is known as Qad, that is, on the basis of a popular song.

The Syrian Ministry of Culture said in a statement that this announcement represents an additional step to protect and preserve the national identity, noting that Al-Qudud Al-Halabi is a mirror of the depth and authenticity of the Syrian artistic identity.