Last year had been an eventful one. With the global economy still in the doldrums, we had to battle the H1N1 influenza virus which has killed thousands worldwide, while devastating typhoons swept through Taiwan and the Philippines and an earthquake levelled much of Padang, Indonesia. As we usher in the new year with new beginnings and new hopes, let us not forget those who have suffered from the virus and the natural disasters.
Singapore’s association with the Arabs can be traced as far back as 1819 when they first arrived. Most of the Arabs who settled in Southeast Asia were from Hadhramaut located at the southern end of the Arabic Peninsula (present-day Yemen), and are known as Hadhramis. The influence of Arabic culture and customs on the local Malays has been significant. Many Malays are also descendants of the Arab migrants who came during Raffles’ time. The “Spotlight” article in Malay highlights the contributions of several Arab immigrants in the literary fields of Malay journalism, publishing and printing from the 1900s to the 1960s. They include prominent Arab personalities such as Syed Sheikh Ahmad al-Hadi, Syed Alwi al-Hadi, Syed Hussein Ali Alsagoff, Syed Abdullah bin Abdul Hamid al-Edrus (Ahmad Lutfi) and Syed Omar Alsagoff. We applaud their efforts in inculcating a love for reading in the Malay community through their writings and works.
In recognition of the close ties between Southeast Asia and the Arab community, the National Library will be staging an exhibition Rihlah — Arabs in Southeast Asia (Rihlah means journey in Arabic) from April to October. The exhibition aims to introduce visitors to Hadhramaut, and the history and culture of the Arabs in Southeast Asia. Supporting activities include a conference, a business seminar, heritage trails, drama performances and a Middle Eastern bazaar. Please make a note to register and attend these events which will be held from April to August. Before that, please enjoy Cheryl-Ann Low’s article as she takes you on an interesting journey to Hadhramaut and reveals her experience eating camel meat.
Our Lee Kong Chian Research Fellow Desmond Wee has published his research findings in this issue. He considers how tourist practice is assimilated in the context of the every day through “local” consumption, which transforms into tourist identities and vice versa.
We are pleased to present three of our donor collections in this issue — the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) Collection, the Jamshed & Parvati Fozdar Collection and the Lee Kim Long Collection. The SGX Collection is the largest single donation in terms of volume in recent years, comprising 13,000 print publications and 8,000 CD-Roms of annual reports and circulars. The Jamshed & Parvati Fozdar Collection is a compilation of the personal memoirs and chronicles of the Fozdar family. The late Mrs Shirin Fozdar founded the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations and was instrumental to the establishment of the Syariah Court and the Women’s Charter. The late Chinese physician Professor Lee Kim Long specialised in acupuncture and was a respected physician in the medical circle. A total of 300 titles from his collection is available for public viewing at the Donors’ Gallery on Level 10 of the National Library.
Happy reading! We look forward to receiving your comments and feedback.
Ms Ngian Lek Choh