19 April 2009
During the first three days of this month the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) held its Science Festivity, a huge public event which celebrated science as a prominent force in the human community, and offered people of all ages and cultural backgrounds the opportunity to question, discuss, and explore.
The overarching theme of the Science Festivity 2009 was “Energy”, the most pressing challenge of the 21st century. The hub of the Science Festivity was the Science Village, which hosted a large diversity of hands-on and interactive exhibits, in addition to the always intriguing Super Science Show. Some 50 scientific projects submitted by Egyptian, French, German, and US research centres, as well as by different Egyptian universities and schools, took part.
BA director Ismail Serageldin said the event honours 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy, marking 400 years since Galileo began to stargaze with the astronomical telescope he had invented.
For his part, the education minister thanked the efforts of the BA in making knowledge attractively accessible to Egypt’s 16-million-strong student body, and announced the establishment of a science village in Cairo. This, however, angered Alexandrians, who thought Alexandria had been overlooked for such a project in favour of the already congested Cairo. They had hoped Alexandria could host the new science village, which would serve to boost the city’s economy through all the incoming guests and activity generated.
The event was held under the auspices of the ministries of Petroleum, Education, and Scientific Research.
In honour of the festivity, a concert was held at the BA Plaza in which the modern Egyptian music band Masar Egbary performed to an enthusiastic, enthralled audience.
First Alexandrina World Music Festival
The BA Arts Centre collaborated with the European Commission to organise the First Alexandrina World Music Festival earlier this month. Six Euro-Mediterranean countries took part: Algeria, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Italy and Macedonia.
The BA seeks to make the festival an annual, prominent event that aims to enhance cultural dialogue and increase interest in world music. Conductor Sherif Mohieddin, who heads the Arts Centre, said the festival was a good opportunity for Alexandrians to enjoy and interact with the music and dance of other places in the world. Some of the sounds and instruments used, he said, are absolutely new to Egyptians’ ears; a few offer heritage music that is no longer easy to come by.
The festival opened with a performance by the Egyptian al-Tanboura band which offers modern Egyptian music that draws heavily upon folklore. Audiences were then treated over a full week to Algerian music by the Nour Eddin Saoudi Group, ethnic Macedonian music, Nubian music, as well as German, Greek, and Italian music by the Schaal Sick Brass Band, the En Chordias Ensemble, and Officina Zoe Group. The festival ended with a concert of fusion music by the Italian, Greek, and Egyptian bands.
The bonding between the audience of all ages and the troupes was astounding to witness. Obviously, the event succeeded in arousing the curiosity, interest, and involvement of the public.
Humanism in Islam
The BA, in cooperation with the Goethe Institute in Alexandria and the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI) in Essen, Germany have held an international symposium on “Humanism in Islam: An Intercultural Discourse”. The Symposium emerged from the KWI Project on “Humanism in the Era of Globalisation: An Intercultural Dialogue on Humanity, Culture and Values”, with the aim of creating an understanding of mankind in the era of globalisation. The project encompasses all civilisations, while at the same time emphasising their particularity and diversity.
The BA symposium sought to contribute to the dialogue of civilisations by thematising the traditions of countries deeply influenced by Islam. It discussed the peculiarity of humanism in the context of these conditions and their topical importance for the lives of the people. It tackled the highly debated issue of the interrelationship of religion and secularism in respect to modern humanism.
Heritage Publishing between Orientals and Orientalists
The Manuscripts Centre of the BA is used to organising an annual international conference on heritage and manuscripts. This year’s conference, scheduled from 5 to 7 May, will tackle heritage publishing and will discuss, according to the BA official release, several topics among which are: “what did we publish here in the Arab/Islamic world? And what did European Orientalists publish on the other hand? And how the process of publishing a manuscript becomes known here and there or, more accurately, there and here. Actually, the primacy of the ‘there’ stems from the fact that European Orientalists were way ahead of us in publishing Arabic heritage. Last but not least, was there ever an overall plan or strategy of publication concerning Arabic/Islamic heritage?”