SHARJAH-How do we see? What’s an Elephant Clock? Who invented the numbers we use? Why are they written the way they’re written? These questions and a lot more are answered in the international interactive exhibition 1001 Inventions held at the Sharjah Expo Center.
This is the first time that the exhibition is held in Sharjah in celebration of the Sharjah’s selection as Capital of Islamic Culture 2014. The exhibition is part of the Sharjah’s Children Reading Festival but will continue till May 15th, 2014.
Upon entering, visitors are greeted with a 13 minute film “1001 Inventions and the Library of Secrets” starring Oscar-winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley. The movie follows a group of students on an assignment in a library as they start looking for the contributions of the so-called “Dark Ages” to humanity. As they find out, those 1000 years from the seventh to the seventeenth century were actually the Golden Ages of discoveries and inventions in the Muslim civilization that ranged from Spain to China.
Sir Kingsley plays the role of the librarian who takes the children on a tour of the scientific heritage of Muslim civilization, changing their views about the Dark Ages.
Later the children discover that the librarian is Muslim scientists Al Jazari a genius engineer who invented the Elephant clock. “Through scholars and scientists of various faiths some of the most important discoveries known to man were made at this time. Discoveries that drew on the knowledge of the ancients but have more connection with your modern world than you could possibly ever imagine,” Sir Kingsley told the students in the film.
Speaking about Sir Ben Kingsley’s involvement Ahmed Salim, Producer and Director of 1001 Inventions Exhibition and the film said that they were looking for a lead actor who could “deliver a compelling performance that would be commanding and respected. Someone globally recognised with a great voice and ideally who had a mixed heritage.” This is how Sir Ben Kingsley was selected. “We wrote him a letter explaining the need to fill the important gap in the history of science being taught in so many schools and he fully supported our objectives,” said Salim, adding that working with him was wonderful. Over 33 million people have since seen the short film that won 24 awards at film festivals in Cannes, London, New York and Los Angeles, according to Salim. He added that there are creating a series of new productions that feature well-known and talented people.
After watching the film, visitors enter the exhibition hall where they are greeted by local actors playing the roles of the featured scientists. “They are young locals most of whom never acted nor performed in public before. It is really amazing to see how with just 7 days of intensive training, they’ve transformed into confident educators passionately bringing back to life heroines and heroes from the Muslim Civilisation,” said Salim, adding that an experienced drama coach trained the actors and they then went through an extensive orientation program delivered by their content experts.
The exhibitions features interactive displays and shows visitors many inventions that the Muslim scientists were responsible for in many fields including mathematics, astronomy, engineering and medicine. Many of these inventions and discoveries form the basis of the industrial revolution and consequently modern technology.
Speaking about the exhibition, Salim said that their presence in Sharjah is part of a series of international major events that 1001 inventions has produced and which reached over 70 million people. “Over the years we’ve faced probably every challenge you can possibly think of! But we have been extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to partner and work with the world-class team at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival who helped make this one of the best ever 1001 Inventions exhibitions. One of our biggest challenges starts now, we need as many schools as possible to visit the exhibition before it closes on 15th May,” he said.
Islamic Nashid singer Sami Yusuf will conduct a reading session today (Tuesday) at the exhibition. According to Salim, there’s a role for everyone to support this educational outreach. “Parents can encourage their children to read ‘1001 Inventions’ books. Teachers can use ‘1001 Inventions’ educational materials to enrich their classes. Businesses can partner to help expand our range of 1001 Inventions productions. There’s a role for everyone,” he said.
The response for the exhibition has exceeded the organizer’s expectation with “an overwhelming message of appreciation from thousands of visitors,” said Salim. “We were honoured by His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Al Qassimi who came and opened the exhibition. The team organising the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival were very professional and dedicated creating an important educational success story for this wonderful city,” he added.