HH Shaikh Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qassimi’s speech at the inauguration ceremony of the Centre

HH Shaikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qassimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, said during the opening of the Dr Sultan Al Qassimi Centre for Gulf Studies that the centre would allow researchers access to documents, maps and images they otherwise might have travelled far and wide to examine.

In his inaugural speech, HH explained that the Centre contained a collection of original maps, not copies, which he had himself assembled over 25 years. He was so passionate about this endeavour that he had collected several prints of the same maps.

“And while many may consider this a waste of money, there are in fact several institutions across the globe very interested in exhibiting them. This exhibit you see today has also been seen in Washington, Britain and many other places”, he added.

HH said that each map has a summary description of its contents and origin posted underneath its display, while further details were available in the computer database. He spoke briefly about the maps, highlighting the oldest one in the collection, which dates back to 1493, and others taken from the works of famous geographers such as Ptolemy and, more recently, the era of the British survey of the Gulf. He explained that the names on many of the earlier maps are clearly taken from other researchers, scientists, historians and geographers.

He continued, “There is an important map that did not include Kadhima. Later I noticed that the maps drawn by the same cartographer started placing the name Kazma in the Kuwait area. I discovered that he had read some books by Ibn Hauqal translated into French; then he looked at his maps and realized he had not marked Kuwait”.

HH added, “There are a large number of images, thousands of them, that we could not put up for the time being. All of them will be available at the Centre soon”.
Also available for researchers are 1.5 million pages of documents accessible through the database, and while HH will be keeping some of the ones on which he is currently working, he said he hoped all his remaining documents will eventually be available at the Centre.

HH mentioned the database search engines available for visitors and researchers, which make it a simple process for anyone to locate and view any document, map or image quickly and free of charge. He added that there is also a rich library full of rare books about the Gulf region, “…however, displaying them in the Centre and allowing people to handle them would cause them to be irreparably damaged. For that reason an agreement has been made with an establishment to make them available in electronic form”.

HH stressed that this Centre was for everyone, not just the geographers and historians, and welcomed all those interested to visit and utilize the available resources, hoping that the Centre would become a beacon of knowledge.
In his conclusion, HH thanked all those who took part in the inaugural ceremony and expressed his hope that there would be other similar institutions opening up soon around the Arab World. By way of example, HH said he was a researcher and regular visitor at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, (the National Library of France in Paris), stating that it was a huge library with massive resources, all of which were now available electronically.

The inauguration ceremony of the Dr Sultan Al Qassimi Centre for Gulf Studies, located at the University City, began with HH’s arrival at the Centre, where he was received by HH Shaikh Sultan bin Muhammad bin Sultan al-Qassimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, and a number of Shaikhs, Ministers and high-ranking officials. Following the traditional cutting of the ribbons, HH went on a tour of the halls of the two-floor building containing documents, images, books, maps, tools, model and 3-D replicas of the history and civilizations of the Arabian Gulf region in general, and the United Arab Emirates in particular. All of the items in the Centre were from the his personal collection.

HH’s tour began with a visit to the maps and documents hall and included a brief history of the history and evolution of maps. The hall contained an assorted collection of old and new maps and noticeably impressed the audience. HH then toured the first floor containing the documentary library that houses the huge collection of rare books, which are to be transferred to electronic form in the future.