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UNESCO Puts Arabic Calligraphy on Intangible Cultural Heritage list

The United Nations cultural agency, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has added Arabic calligraphy to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Sixteen countries with a Muslim majority, initiated by Saudi Arabia, had presented the nomination for the 2021 candidates. The announcement was made on Tuesday.

“Arabic calligraphy is the artistic practice of handwriting Arabic script in a fluid manner to convey harmony, grace and beauty,” UNESCO said. Arabic calligraphy skills are transmitted informally or through formal schools or apprenticeships, according to the UNESCO website.

“Originally intended to make writing clear and legible, it gradually became an Islamic Arab art for traditional and modern works. The fluidity of Arabic script offers infinite possibilities, even within a single word, as letters can be stretched and transformed in numerous ways to create different motifs. Traditional techniques use natural materials, such as reeds and bamboo stems for the qalam, or writing instrument. A mixture of honey, black soot and saffron is used for the ink, and the paper is handmade and treated with starch, egg white and alum. Modern calligraphy commonly uses markers and synthetic paint, and spray paint is used for calligraffiti on walls, signs and buildings,” according to information about Arabic calligraphy on the UNESCO website.

The nominating countries are: Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.