Jefferson Quran returns to US as Dubai Expo 2020 winds down

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A rare, two-volume Quran owned by US President Thomas Jefferson found itself carefully packed away Wednesday for a return flight to America after being on display at Dubai’s Expo 2020, a sign that the pandemic-affected world’s fair is beginning to wind down.

The Quran, along with an insert map of Arabia, had been in a climate-controlled display at the US pavilion at the Expo. The book had been under 24-hour guard as part of its first trip outside of America since a young Jefferson purchased the tome as a law student in 1765.

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After a brief ceremony and questions from journalists, Yasmeen Khan of the Library of Congress gently picked up the books, placing each inside of its own special box. Khan, the head of the library’s paper conservation section, earlier told The Associated Press that she would fly with the artifacts back to America as they received special care due to being “so rare and so delicate.”

It was “acquired by the third president of the US because it was a book of value and it held valuable knowledge that he and his associates were going to use as they crafted what, you know, the rights and liberties of the American people were going to be,” she said.

Movers then carefully placed the Quran and map inside of specialized wooden crate “with four inches of padding and customized trays with more padding, along with a sensor that detects vibrations and temperature changes,” the library said.

A similar crate moved the Quran to Dubai, the skyscraper-studded city-state on the Arabian Peninsula that wasn’t even mentioned in Jefferson’s insert map.

The two-volume Quran is a second edition of a 1734 translation by George Sale. Jefferson’s copy was published in London in 1764 and brought to America, where he bought the book in Williamsburg, according to the library.

Historians believe Jefferson used the Quran, along with other major world religious and political texts, when he worked on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the main pillars of America’s democracy.

Its return comes as the six-month Expo nears its end on March 31. While organizers initially hoped for 25 million visitors, the coronavirus pandemic and other challenges has affected the event. So far, Expo organizers say they’ve recorded 11 million physical visits to the site.

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