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Arabic Calligraphy Seals Its Spot on Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List


Photo: Sam Rawadi

Unesco has officially added Arabic calligraphy to its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. In an official statement, Unesco shared that Arabic calligraphy is “the artistic practice of handwriting Arabic script in a fluid manner to convey harmony, grace and beauty.” Like most age-old scripts, the written form of Arabic has played a massive part in the spread of Arabic culture, and is a source of pride to Arabs across the globe. Over time, the Arabic script has also moved from being a means of communication to an intricate art. Today, Arabic calligraphy can even be found in the form of grafitti.

The proposal to add Arabic calligraphy to Unesco’s list was made by 16 Arabic speaking countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. It was helmed by Saudi Arabia, which also declared not one, but two years—2020 and 2021—the years of Arabic Calligraphy. In celebration of the moment, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, Minister of Culture of Saudi Arabia said, “We welcome the inscription of Arabic calligraphy, which is the result of the Kingdom championing this treasured aspect of authentic Arabic culture.” Next year, the 16 countries that have worked so hard for this milestone will come together once again to create a report on the progress of the art form over time.

In case you haven’t come across the name before, Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list celebrates cultural practices that may not be physical in nature, like world heritage sites. The list includes games, dialects, foods, traditional folk dances, and hunting practices too. Along with Arabic calligraphy, falconry has also been added to Unesco’s list this year.

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