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Saudi Arabia: Unveiling Centuries of Heritage at the 33rd Abu Dhabi International Book Fair

The 33rd Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF), organized by the ALC, expects over 1,350 exhibitors from 90 countries, up from last year. The theme, "Where the World’s Tales Unfold," reflects diverse country representation. Held at ADNEC from April 29 to May 5, it features 145 new exhibitors and 12 additional countries. Naguib Mahfouz is honored as the Focus Personality.

Excerpts from the collection presented by Peter Harrington, a rare-book dealer based in London, at the UAE event.

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‘Ibn Saud press photograph’

A rare photograph sourced from The Times archives captures a pivotal meeting in Hejaz featuring Ibn Saud, founder of Saudi Arabia, and Sir Gilbert Clayton, a British representative. This led to the Treaty of Jeddah in 1927, crucial for defining Saudi Arabia's northern borders, and addressing complex issues with neighboring states.

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‘Map and Overview Presenting the Hejaz Railway Route’

This 1903 map illustrates the extensive Hejaz Railway project, spanning from Syria to Makkah, covering Palestine, Sinai, and the Arabian Peninsula. It details existing and under-construction sections, proposed extensions, and key routes. Despite political challenges, the railway facilitated safe Hajj pilgrimages until its termination in Madinah in 1908, just before World War I.

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‘Material from the library of Peter O’Toole by T.E. Lawrence’

Described by Peter Harrington as a profound collection documenting Lawrence's evolution from a pivotal figure to an unwilling icon, this archive, once owned by Peter O’Toole, encapsulates the enduring legacy of the iconic actor's portrayal in David Lean's 1962 biopic. The centerpiece comprises an unpublished letter and a photograph gifted to O’Toole, shedding light on Lawrence's complex relationship with fame and his critical view of his acclaimed work, "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom."

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‘Oil Region in the Desert of Saudi Arabia’

This 1950 picture is part of a series for German school curricula and is based on a painting by German artist Michael Mathias Kiefer. It depicts Arab figures alongside modern industrial elements like drilling rigs and oil storage tanks, symbolizing the intersection of tradition and modernity in Saudi Arabia's oil-centric economy. Bedouins rest while camels drink, while in the background, travelers approach an oil installation.

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‘Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Mecca’ by Richard F. Burton

In this three-volume first edition, richly illustrated, Richard Francis Burton, a British explorer, writer, and linguist, chronicles his Hajj journey—a remarkable feat in the 19th century, undertaken in disguise as a Muslim native. His detailed narrative, surpassing prior Western depictions of Islam's holy cities, garnered fame and acclaim, hailed by T.E. Lawrence as a valuable masterpiece. Burton's deceit went unnoticed as he carried out all of the Hajj rituals in Makkah.

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