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Sharjah emir to renovate damaged Cairo library, donate original manuscripts

Sheikh Sultan al-Qassemi, governor of the UAE’s emirate of Sharjah, pledged to carry out all renovation works in the rare documents Cairo library burned down during recent clashes in the Egyptian capital and to donate original manuscripts to make for the losses sustained during the fire.

“All the original documents in my private library I am giving as a gift to the Egyptian Scientific Complex,” Qassemi said in a phone interview from Paris with the independent Egyptian satellite Channel Dream TV.

“I have a rare collection that is not to be found anywhere else.”

Qassemi added that he asked for a complete list of all the books that were damaged or lost during the fire and that he would do his best to look for other original copies and give them to the library, known for its collection of priceless books, maps, and manuscripts.

“What is happening in Egypt is happening to all of us and what I am doing is just a small token of gratitude that all of us, especially people from Sharjah, feel.

Egyptian taught us a lot and we were students in Egyptian universities and no matter what we do, it will not be enough to pay them back,” he said.

Qassemi added that he is overseeing the construction of a documents center in Cairo to house all the documents that are now kept in the Egyptian cabinet building, a place seen as unsafe at the moment because of clashes in Tahrir Square and surrounding areas.

“We will make sure that the documents are safely transferred before more acts of sabotage take place. We have been given the green light by the Egyptian government to do that.”

He added that he would do his best to preserve Egypt’s heritage as Egypt had always preserved the Arab world.

“Egypt has always been offering sacrifices and we will never forget what Egyptians did to liberate Kuwait. This alone is invaluable,” Qassemi said.

The Egyptian minister of antiquities, Mohamed Ibrahim, said he appreciates Qassemi’s initiative.

“Sheikh Qassemi has always supported the library and Egypt.”

Ibrahim added that the French government has also offered to salvage what it can from the Scientific Complex.

Among the documents in Qassemi’s possession is a copy of Description de l'Égypte, written at the time of the French expedition to Egypt (1798-1801) and published between 1809 and 1822. The book, which contains a detailed description of Egypt, was a main cause for the uproar that accompanied the fire at the Scientific Complex.

According to sources at the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, around 20,000 books and manuscripts were saved from the fire and are currently kept in the cabinet and parliament buildings.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)