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Oman-French relations rooted in history


Paris: Dr Abdulmunim bin Mansour al Hasani, Minister of Information, visited the French National Library, which dates back to the 15th century.

During the visit on Sunday, which is part of the Sultanate’s Participation in Paris Book Fair as a special guest, the minister was accompanied by Sayyida Dr Mona bint Fahd al Said, Assistant Vice-Chancellor for International Cooperation at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), Shaikh Hamad bin Hilal al Maamari, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, and members of the delegation.

The minister and the delegation toured the library’s building, which includes the most specialised collections of books, maps, pictures, manuscripts, coins and medals. He visited the section dedicated to the Sultanate’s publications in the library, which was set up as the Sultanate’s participation as a special guest in Paris Book Fair.

The library has more than 14 million books, including 5 million books that can be browsed online for free and in all languages. It includes 250,000 manuscripts, 360,000 periodicals, 800,000 maps, 2 million musical pieces, one million audios and tens of thousands of film materials and photographs.

The Oriental manuscripts of the library include rare collections of manuscripts in history, astronomy, marine sciences, some human and philosophical sciences, as well as copies of the Holy Quran written in various Islamic eras that has been collected for centuries by French merchants, travellers and diplomats in Arab and Islamic countries.

The library’s building has 7 floors for offices and 11 floors for books.

At the 39th Paris Book Fair, a seminar on “Omani-French relations: Past and Future” was held on Sunday.

Foreign Affairs, Jean-Marie Bockel, President of the French Senate Friendship Group with the Gulf countries, Renaud Salins, French Ambassador to the Sultanate, the historian Xavier Began Bellockuk and Mark Lavernier, researcher in Omani and Gulf affairs gave lectures.

The Secretary-General of the Foreign Ministry started with a quotation for His Majesty Sultan Qaboos who said at the opening of the Oman and the Sea Exhibition in Paris in 2013. “It is our hope that this exhibition will help spread knowledge and deepen convergence and understanding among civilisations.” Sayyid Badr said that one of the most influential means of human culture is the book.

He pointed to the cultural and knowledge links between the Sultanate and France, which dates back to about 400 years. He said that in the eighteenth century the Omani-French trade grew after Muscat became an increasingly important port for trade in the Indian Ocean region. He said Oman decided to grant France official rights to establish a trade centre in Muscat in 1775 and the right to appoint a diplomatic representative in 1786.

“Although France did not appoint its first consul in Muscat until 1894, these first links formed the background to Napoleon’s historic written message to the Sultan of Oman dated January 1799, inviting Oman to trade freely and safely with Suez.”

After that, a session was held entitled “a Writer in the Mountains of the Sultanate of Oman,” in which Jean-Christophe Rufin, a traveller, writer, member of the French Academy and the former ambassador, spoke about the details of his visit to the Sultanate.

Said al Saqlawi, Chairman of the Omani Society for Writers and Literates, presented a lecture entitled “The Diversity and Evolution of Poetry and Literature in Oman”.

Dr Aisha al Darmaki, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Cultural Club, delivered a lecture titled “The Foundations of Culture and Values of Knowledge in Oman”.

After that, a musical performance entitled “Omani Tunes Touring the World” was staged by violinist Tahira Jamal and the pianist Zahra al Lawati. The second day ended with the performance of Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra. — ONA

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