Celebrating World Arabic Language Day

Arabic and AI on Arabic Language Day 2019

Arabic is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world from North Africa to the Middle East and Southwest Asia, and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, a fact that is celebrated each year on 18 December with World Arabic Language Day.

Arabic Language and AI

The theme of World Arabic Language Day 2019 is Arabic Language and Artificial Intelligence, which will examine the role of AI in promoting and preserving the Arabic Language, and also look at issues relating to the computerisation of Arabic language.

The SOAS Library contains a large digital collection of Arabic material, including a Catalogue of the Arabic Manuscripts in the Library of the India Office.

Introduction to Arabic Literature

Wen-chin Ouyang, Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at SOAS University of London, suggests three books to read for someone interested in learning about Arabic language, literature, politics and culture.

Memory for Forgetfulness by Mahmoud Darwish.  Tr. Ibrahim Muhawi.

The 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the shelling of Beirut are the setting for this sequence of prose poems.  Mahmoud Darwish vividly recreates the sights and sounds of a city under siege.  As fighter jets scream overhead, he explores the war-ravaged streets of Beirut on 6 August (Hiroshima Day).

Gold Dust by Ibrahim al-Koni.  Tr. Elliott Colla.

Gold Dust is a classic story of the relationship between one man and his camel, the thread of companionship that is all the difference between life and death in the desert.  It is a story of the fight to endure in a world of limitless and waterless wastes, and a parable of the struggle to survive in the most dangerous landscape of all: human society.

The Tiller of Waters by Hoda Barakat.  Tr. Marilyn Booth.

This spellbinding novel encompasses more than seven thousand years of history in a nutshell.  Barakat weaves into her sophisticated narrative elements of scientific discourse about herbal plants and textile crafts; customs and manners of Arabs, Armenians, and Kurds; mythological figures from ancient Greece, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, and Arabia; the theosophy of the African Dogon people and the medieval Byzantines; and historical accounts of the Crusades.

All three books are studied on the modules Modern Palestinian Literature and Politics and Aesthetics in Modern Arabic Literature.

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