Some people’s idea about Dubai doesn’t go beyond skyscrapers and huge malls. Of course, this stereotype developed due to shallow visions and some people’s lack of perspectives when viewing the city.
Dubai is a global city which hosts hundreds of nationalities, races, colors, identities and religions, which co-exist and contribute to the rise of this unique city. Dubai did not imitate anyone and no one has been able to imitate it. It broke record numbers, shifted formulas and exceeded expectations. Dubai has, through its complex projects, led intellectual change in the United Arab Emirates and in the Arab world in general.
In my previous articles, I talked about cultural projects. In this article, I will discuss the law which Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum issued last week. The law stipulates establishing a cultural library.
Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid explained the purpose of this project and said the aim is “for the library to be a cultural forum that embraces knowledge and that acts as a civilized center in the region to contribute to enhancing reading and turning culture into a social product that complements the developmental path of the state.”
The library’s aim is bigger than making it a reference for researchers at universities or for those who look into manuscripts or who are addicted to reading and borrowing booksTurki Aldakhil
“The library - thanks to the knowledge it will provide - will activate writing and translating, bring intellectuals and thinkers closer and solidify the culture of dialogue, tolerance and acceptance of others. It will plant the passion for knowledge in children and future generations, and become a gathering place for authors, intellectuals, translators and researchers from all nationalities,” he said.
“It will contribute to preserving the Arabic language and enriching it and encourage writers, authors, promising amateurs and translators to enhance different intellectual works in the Arabic language. The library also aims to preserve and document cultural heritage,” Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid added.
Beyond borrowing books
The library’s aim is bigger than making it a reference for researchers at universities or for those who look into manuscripts or who are addicted to reading and borrowing books. Its aim carries cultural messages such as solidifying the importance of reading regardless of one’s age, spread values of tolerance and positively behave with others.
The library is bigger than a hall that contains hundreds of books as it has responsibilities. When assigning the library’s members of board of directors, who include academics, intellectuals and people interested in publishing books, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid recommended these cultural messages to them and instructed them to include them in the strategy of launching the library.
The library will be established at a cost of more than $270 million and will be built on an area that exceeds one million square feet. It will include 1.5 million books and receive around 42 million people annually from the region and the wider world. In addition to the major library, there will be eight special libraries that include one for children, one for the youth and one for business.
According to the law the Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation will be in charge of the general supervision of the library and will be tasked with carrying out the required duties to achieve the library’s aims. Some of these tasks include devising general policy, developing comprehensive strategic plans to implement the library’s cultural and educational vision, and achieving its aims and improving societies’ awareness in this vision locally, regionally and globally.
Through this library, Dubai will lead a cultural initiative that goes beyond isolated reading, which does not transfer what is read into influential material. The miracles and effects of books know no boundaries. In a young city like Dubai, one needs such a library. During a televised interview with a foreign journalist, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid said most urban projects one sees in Dubai did not exist in the city - which was a barren desert in 2000 - until very recently. We’re talking about a very recent renaissance. Establishing the library does not come late as some claim and it’s rather an extension to Dubai’s huge cultural efforts.
Dubai is not just about markets, builds, skyscrapers and stores which tempt people in to shop. It’s all that in addition to libraries, reading projects, dialogue and platforms for discussion – as well as cultural and intellectual activity. Those who’ve been to the book exhibitions in the UAE and who saw the activity of publishing houses in the country are witnesses to that.
Mohammad bin Rashid’s Library will be another precious jewel that decorates the beautiful city of Dubai.
This article was first published in AlBayan on Nov. 23, 2016.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil