Sharjah: Under the directives of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Book Authority, to extend the hosting of the University of Coimbra’s exhibition in Sharjah, House of Wisdom opened its doors to “The Portuguese in the Gulf, 1507-1650: An Interlinked History,” from November 17 to January 26, 2024, offering the community a unique opportunity to closely explore the established relations between the Gulf and Portugal during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The exhibition, originally part of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) 2023, showcases a carefully curated collection of over 60 artifacts from the historical archives of the University of Coimbra in Portugal.

Among the exhibited items are a rare 17th-century astrolabe and an intricate map of the Arabian Gulf and the western Indian Ocean, dating back to 1571. These pieces represent artistic and scientific achievements and also symbolise the centuries-long ties between the Gulf region and Portugal.

This exhibition is a testament to the 30-year bond between the renowned European institution, and the Emirate of Sharjah, as emphasised by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, during his inaugural speech of the 42nd SIBF.

The inauguration of the exhibition witnessed the presence of HE Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer, CEO of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq); Marwa Al Aqroubi, Executive Director of House of Wisdom; and Roger Lee de Jesus, Exhibition Curator and Researcher at University of Coimbra’s Centre for History of Society and Culture.

Introducing generations to the history of the region

House of Wisdom’s hosting of this exhibition reaffirms its commitment to fostering global knowledge exchange and intellectual dialogue. The exhibition raises awareness on the Gulf-Portugal historical cross-cultural interactions in the realms of commercial, artistic and cultural exchanges, some of which had a deep-rooted impact on a global level, particularly the West.

Visitors will embark on a seven-section journey starting from Lisbon, Portugal's historic port city. The exhibition offers an invaluable experience, featuring Lisbon's landmarks, ship models, maritime expeditions, and nautical tools, including a mariner’s compass and rare astrolabe. It showcases manuscripts, books, maps, engravings, and correspondences, revealing trade dynamics, cultural exchanges, and the Portuguese interest in Gulf horses and pearls, as illustrated by a 1553 oil painting of Princess Joanna of Austria adorned with Gulf pearls.

Sponsored by the Sharjah Book Authority, the "Portuguese in the Gulf" exhibition stresses the significance of Sharjah as a crossroad for the world’s cultures, while recognising its pivotal role in building bridges of understanding between diverse cultures and nations.