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1,000-year-old Islamic manuscripts digitized

Cairo, August 28, 2011

More than 50,000 valuable manuscripts and eight million pages dating back to over 1,000 years have been successfully preserved in electronic format under the grand Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Project in Dubai.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Project involved documenting and preserving manuscripts of Al Azhar including 63 sections in various arts and science disciplines dating back to beginning of Islamic history, in addition to 53,000 printed copies, the most recent of which was printed 60 years ago.

At a ceremony held to mark the successful completion of the project and publish them online, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai said that conserving the rich Islamic scientific heritage and propagating it around the world are vital in promoting cultural dialogue.

The project is a contribution to preserve science and the rich legacy of Arab scientists as well as that of Al Azhar, which remains a beacon of knowledge and learning for Muslims around the world, observed Sheikh Mohammed.

The project not only archives the manuscripts, but also makes 125,000 references available electronically through a dedicated website, in addition to establishing an internal communications network to link the main Al-Azhar institutes.

'We extend our sincere gratitude to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for launching and funding this project, which we consider as a valuable gift to the Islamic nation,” said Dr Ahmed El-Tayeb, Imam of Al Azhar.

“The project will provide the opportunity for Al Azhar to reach the largest possible number of students and researchers all over the world wishing to take advantage of references from Al-Azhar. There are more than 9,000 Al Azhar Institutes around the world with more than 70 faculties and 2.5 million students,” he added.

“The project represents the fascinating relations between the UAE and Egypt, which opens many doors of joint efforts in all areas, and invites us to take advantage of the capabilities and potential in both countries,” said Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, UAE’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs.

“The scientific and cultural cooperation between the State of UAE and Egypt has not emerged recently but dates back to the days of the country’s inception under the leadership of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.”

During the ceremony Al Azhar launched its electronic library that stores scientific books and references within the website alazharlibrary.gov.eg, allowing researchers and students around the world to browse a huge collection of Islamic intellectual reserves.

The initiative was launched to preserve the rare manuscripts using the latest technology, thus protecting the treasures of Islamic culture and scientific heritage without any damage for centuries and to provide an opportunity for all Muslims to take advantage of this Islamic intellectual legacy.

The technical infrastructure for the project will be developed by IBM to ensure the highest global standards in document storage and archiving with the help of the latest equipment and advanced technologies. IBM was chosen for their expertise in this area and experience in working on similar large scale projects around the world, such as the Vatican Archives and the Congress Library.

'A team from Al-Azhar will update the site regularly and do the necessary maintenance and follow-up. A specialised company has been contracted to monitor and protect the contents of the site. Over and above, a special security system is utilised during the process of programming and entering data,” said Jamal Bin Hoirab, general supervisor of the project.

The project called for different phases of work and dedicated infrastructure including a special building to house equipment. High-resolution, high sensitivity, scanners and servers to store data were installed on the fifth floor of the new building of Al-Azhar.

Specially trained staff was also deployed to handle photocopying of the manuscripts and converting them into electronic format. More than three million pages have been copied until today and work is still under way, a statement said. – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Dubai | Cairo | Al Azhar | Islamic manuscripts | Electronic format |

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