A Saudi library in Beijing

Turki Aldakhil
Turki Aldakhil
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The title seems like a far-fetched dream or like a translated Chinese story; The oldest Arab proverbs highlight the importance of seeking knowledge, even if in faraway lands, such as China!

A book fair in Riyadh was once the dream of every publisher until it became a reality, and now Saudi Arabia is building a library in China. The vice-president of the Beijing University – Lee Yan Soung – said during a cornerstone-laying ceremony that this is a branch of King Abdulaziz’s library. He added: “This is not an ordinary cornerstone; it is a representation of the friendship between two countries. It paves the way for further cultural exchange between Saudi Arabia and China.” He confirmed that this cultural project will have a huge impact on the development of cultural relations between both countries.

Saudi citizens go to the international Book Fair in Riyadh, where intellectuals meet and writers compete to finish their books and send them to publishers so that they can feature them in the fair, while a library is being inaugurated in Beijing in the name of the founding king. The public library of King Abdulaziz in Beijing is huge; it covers 13,000 square meters, in a gigantic building of six floors. It includes reading rooms that can receive 100 researchers or visitors. In its Arabic and Chinese departments, the library can embrace 3 million books and manuscripts over an area of 500 square meters. It also includes a conference hall for exhibitions, in addition to an Arabic and Chinese research center, a department dedicated for old manuscripts in the Beijing University and administrative offices for more than 40 employees.

The oldest Arab proverbs highlight the importance of seeking knowledge, even if in faraway lands, such as China!

Turki Aldakhil

Indeed, a library in Beijing shows that we have come from the desert that became a cradle of writers and publishers. We express our love to you by translating our books for you. We are the grandsons of Mohammad, the Arabian prophet who was known for his eloquence. We are the sons of Abi Tayyib, Aasha and Mobser al-Moara al-Kabeer. We are the knights that have offered the Chinese empire a rare book about Arabian horses that was published in 1848. Hao Ping, chairman of the Beijing University council, said during the ceremony: “the library is the optimal way to spread knowledge and science, especially in Arabic; it is one of the cultural exchange bridges between the two countries”.

Not lost in translation

Today there is no better bridge than translation. Translating one work from a language to another is like choosing an ambassador to represent you in a friendly country; the ambassador might change but the letters are eternal; this is why the kings of this country were keen on translating works from living languages to Arabic and then, from Arabic to other languages.

Every translator is a bridge and every translation is a passport between two languages. This is why the Saudi king was keen on promoting translation as an embassy, equivalent to the diplomatic embassy that represents his country in a new nation of translated books. Dear new friends, even if we are now signing a commercial agreement, the bibliophile king wanted to offer this facility as a public library in the name of his father the founding king, so that knowledge becomes internationally reachable, even in lands as far as China.

This article was first published in Okaz on March 25.

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.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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