Job in Dubai & UAE Europe and Middle East’s shared history key to future

Europe and Middle East’s shared history key to future:

Abu Dhabi, UAE: Europe and the Middle East can learn to better coexist by looking to deep historical links between the regions, according to a leading historian at Paris Sorbonne University-Abu Dhabi.

Dr Yann Rodier, one of the leaders of an international conference held in the capital this week, said the event tackled the evolving relations between the regions involving trade, diplomacy, culture and religion to be able to better understand today’s societies.

“It is very important to study history, especially the origins and the routes regarding globalisation and globalised societies in the world and especially in the UAE,” he said. “It is a way to highlight the peaceful exchanges between the Middle East and Europe because we have a tendency to focus on the [poor] relations and we need to remind [ourselves] that the exchanges between both regions were also fruitful exchanges in science, commerce, diplomacy and culture.”

The landscape in the Gulf, along the Arabian coast, features a number of Portuguese fortresses – a symbol of heritage of the Early Modern Times between 1500 and 1820.

“This is proof that you have different periods of cohabitation, sometimes conflictual sometimes peaceful, between Christian Europeans and Arab tribes at that time,” he said. “It is key to understanding how societies are built, to be able to apply this today.”

The conference, themed The Middle East and Europe: Cross-cultural, Diplomatic and Economic Exchanges in the Early Modern Period, promotes coexistence, namely due to today’s regional turmoil and the portrayal of the Middle East in European media.

“The trend is to focus on the issues and geopolitical conflictual context but, often, we forget that relationships between east and west were also fruitful and peaceful through diplomatic, commercial and cultural relations,” Dr Rodier said.

“The will to understand the other and find a solution to cohabitate between different communities is the beginning of globalisation so people should learn from history and it’s a way to remind [them of] the different ways to better understand the other and to build something together.”

Dr Ingrid Perisse, the university’s head of archaeology and history of arts, said the conference was about the connection and relationships between east and west.

“It’s a way to show that the connection and links between the two parts of the world are not something new,” she sad. “They go back centuries and this connection goes very deep.”

Dr Perisse spoke about archaeologists-travellers and the discovery of Arabian heritage from the 16th-18th century.

“I am an archaeologist so my source isn’t a manuscript, it’s the objects and monuments,” she said. “What was important in the early modern days about travellers is when they travelled from Europe to the Levant and to the Arabian peninsula, they discovered they had a close connection regarding the heritage of monuments, like in Baalbek in Lebanon and Palmyra in Syria. In the renaissance period, they discovered buildings were very similar to those from Rome so they realised they shared the same routes of knowledge and of the evolution of humanity together.”

Dr Paulo Lemos Horta, associate professor at New York University-Abu Dhabi, spoke about cosmopolitan misreadings.

“My own paper shows the importance of the hypothesis that [the 16th century Portuguese poet] Luís Vaz de Camões spent time in the Gulf, on Hormuz Island.

“In his epic poem about Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a route to India, Camões has Ibn Majid, the legendary navigator born in Ras al Khaimah, lead the Portuguese from Muscat to India, a claim that proves controversial to this day.”

The conference brought together scholars who work on all sides of cross-cultural exchanges in the Middle East to yield insights into how European travelogues can help archeologists know where to look for the foundations of old structures. For instance, a reference in an English travelogue led to a successful excavation of the foundations of a mosque in Ras al Khaimah. An exhibition is running in parallel at the university’s library until March 16, illustrating the same topics in different forms, such as travel stories, maps, linguistic treatises, reports and diplomatic documents from a variety of historical sources.

The exhibition, which focuses on occidental and oriental sources to renew visitors’ vision of history, also contains the first Quran translated into Latin for scholars by a German theologian in 1692.

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