#QATARILITMONTH: The Heritage Library at Qatar National Library

Treasures of the Arabic and Islamic Worlds at Qatar National Library

The Heritage Library’s location at the heart of Qatar National Library reflects its important role as the guardian of the nation’s history and heritage. The extensive collection of heritage and historical materials traces scientific, artistic, social and economic development throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds. It also highlights the evolving relationship between the Middle East, the Far East and the West, and illustrates the critical role of the Islamic world in advancing global scientific knowledge. Among the rarest items in our Heritage Library are 16th-century Arabic books and European translations of Arabic books dating to the second half of the 15th century, when printing first arose in Europe. In addition to printed books, the collection also includes manuscripts, photographs, periodicals, maps, atlases, globes, travelers’ instruments and archival documents about Qatar and the region. 

The Permanent Exhibition  

The Heritage Library Permanent Exhibition, “It All Began with ‘Read’”, displays more than 400 of the rarest and most valuable items from our Heritage Library collections. It reflects the uniqueness of Arab and Islamic culture, the interactions between the East and the West, and the deep history of the State of Qatar and its relationships with the rest of the world. The Permanent Exhibition is organized in 12 sections.

Virtual Tour into the Permenant Exhibition

The Heritage Collection  

  • Arabic Books and Periodicals  

The Arabic books collection comprises 35,000 works that encapsulate the history of publishing in the fields of literature, religion, sociology, law and history. It includes works by Muslim scholars, such as The Canon of Medicine, by Ibn Sina (Avicenna), and The Recension of Euclid’s “Elements”, as well as the complete printed collection of Ibrahim Müteferrika Press, one of the first printing presses in the Islamic world, and items from the libraries of Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah Al-Thani and Khayr al-Din al Zerekly. The collection contains nearly 400 Arabic magazine and periodical titles, which represent the origin and development of contemporary Arab thought and journalism. 

  • Books in Foreign Languages  

Our Heritage Library contains around 25,000 books printed in foreign languages, especially European languages, including Latin. Among these rare books are translations of Arabic texts in medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry and other sciences, as well as literary and religious studies and Orientalism. The collection also holds writings by Western travelers to the Middle East and European translations of the famous One Thousand and One Nights 

  • Maps, Atlases, Globes and Travelers’ Instruments  

Our Heritage Library has more than 1,400 sheet maps, many showing Arabia and Qatar, including the 1478 Ptolemy map of Arabia, the first printed map to mention Qatar. The collection contains some of the rarest maps in the world, including the Ottoman Turkish Hajji Ahmed world map and the Cedid Atlas, as well as many atlases, globes and travelers’ instruments such as compasses, toolkits and surveying equipment. The collection traces the history of cartography, with special emphasis on European encounters with the Arab and Islamic world and Islamic cartographic and geographic traditions. 

  • Manuscripts  

Our manuscript collection includes about 3,500 Oriental manuscripts and about 500 calligraphic panels. The collection has important manuscripts on Arabic language and literature, Islam, history, geography, medicine, chemistry, astronomy and optics. The section also contains a large collection of Qur’anic manuscripts written in China and East Asia. 

Al Jazari Mohammed, Manuscripts…

  • Archival Collection  

Our diverse archival and documentary collection contains around 20,000 items of legal documents, government and individual correspondence, rare cinema documents and posters, Arabic newspapers, and multimedia archives that capture the region’s culture and history. The archival collection has a section dedicated to the history of Qatar, including private letters, government and commercial documents, photographs, and rulers’ correspondence. These discuss trade, commerce, the discovery and early production of oil, and the urban development of Doha. 

  • Photographs  

Our Heritage Library houses a collection of more than 80,000 photographs. With a special focus on Qatar, the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, this section contains the first photographic accounts of the region, North Africa, Andalusia, Egypt, the Levant (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan), Iraq, Iran, Turkey, former Ottoman lands in the Caucasus, and Central Asia The collection includes photographs from scientific and archaeological expeditions, Orientalist studio photography, early photojournalism, documentary photography covering important historical events in the area (World War I, World War II, colonial rule, infrastructure development), and examples of amateur photography that offer unique depictions of daily life in the Middle East. 

The Services at the Heritage Library  

Access our Heritage Library collections for your study or research. However, the items may not be borrowed or removed from the Reading Room. • Our librarians can answer your questions about the Heritage Library collection. We also provide research services for students, researchers and the public. • Items from the Heritage Library collection are listed in the Library’s online catalog, and many items are available for further study in the Reading Room, which houses valuable reference books related to Qatar’s history and culture. • We provide guided tours of the Heritage Library in Arabic and English. Visit http://www.qnl.qa/en/events/tours for dates and times. • For more information about our collection and services, please write to heritagelibrary@qnl.qa 

Books about Qatar at the Heritage Library

Bedouins of Qatar

Book by Klaus Ferdinand

(1993) Thames & Hudson; 1st Edition

ISBN: 978-0500015735

The Danish Expedition To Qatar, 1959

Book by Jette Bang, Klaus Ferdinand

(2009) Qatar Museums Authority

ISBN: 9992161132

Content Prepared by

The Heritage Library Team at QNL. Originally published for QNL website.

For more information about the QNL Heritage Library and its activities, follow the below Instagram page:


World Map at the Heritage Library

#QatariLitMonth is curated by Abeer S. Al-Kuwari

Abeer works as director of Research and Learning Services at the newly established Qatar National Library (QNL). Abeer’s work focuses on engaging library researchers in the Qatari community to explore archival and libraries as Memory institutions and documentary heritage. She is a founding member of the Library and Information Association in Qatar (LIA-Q), which was established in 2014.

Abeer S. Al-Kuwari

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