Arabic calligraphy enscribed into UNESCO heritage list

UNESCO on Tuesday added Arabic calligraphy, a key tradition in the Arab and Islamic worlds, to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

A total of 16 Muslim-majority countries, led by Saudi Arabia, presented the nomination to the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation, which announced the listing on Twitter.

“Arabic calligraphy is the artistic practice of handwriting Arabic script in a fluid manner to convey harmony, grace, and beauty,” UNESCO said on its website.

“The fluidity of Arabic script offers infinite possibilities, even within a single word, as letters can be stretched and transformed in numerous ways to create different motifs.”

Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud welcomed the decision and said it would “contribute to developing this cultural heritage”, in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Abdelmajid Mahboub from the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, which was involved in the proposal, said calligraphy “has always served as a symbol of the Arab-Muslim world”.

But he lamented that “many people no longer write by hand due to technological advances”, adding that the number of specialised Arab calligraphic artists had dropped sharply.

The UNESCO listing “will certainly have a positive impact” on preserving the tradition, he added.

According to the UNESCO website, intangible cultural heritage “is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalisation”.

Its importance “is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next”.

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