Bug infestation threatens important 19th century Arab manuscripts

Manuscripts written by Refaa al-Tahtawi, a renowned 19th century Arab scholar, face decay due to infestation, warned Bahaa Hassanein, professor of antiquities and museum maintenance at Souhag University.

The professor said that al-Tahtawi's libraries at the cities of Souhag and Tahta, where the rare documents are kept, are under attack by bugs which already managed to damage a large number of manuscripts of high literary and cultural value.

Souhag's governor, Mohsen al-Numani, said he previously requested the Minister of Culture Farouq Hosni to restore al-Tahtawi's libraries and preserve its contents. He added that Hosni, in turn, requested that the manuscripts be transfered to Dar al-Kotob library or the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, but that Souhag's local authorities rebuffed the request.

Al-Tahtawi is a pioneer of Egypt’s scientific renaissance during the reign of Egypt’s Ottoman ruler Mohamed Ali.  He was born in the city of Tahta, Souhag, in 1801. Upon turning 21, al-Tahtawi began working as a teacher at al-Azhar. He travelled to France to study human sciences and returned to Egypt in 1831 before establishing the School of Al-Alsun in 1835. He was famous for the “Paris Profile,” the first book of its kind introducing Egyptians to French societal norms.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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