His holdings amount to 7,000 pieces from different eras

Ali Al Hammadi: My passion for calligraphy led me to establish a museum at home

  • Calligraphy led Al-Hammadi after a while to learn gilding and then acquire. Photography: Youssef Al-Harmoudi

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A story of passion for the world of calligraphy and its tools, which prompted Emirati Ali Al Hammadi to create a special museum for the tools of this authentic Arab art in his home, increasing the number of collectibles he collected to 7,000 pieces of manuscripts, Qur’ans, inkwells, and reeds, dating back to different eras and countries.

The calligrapher Al Hammadi collected these pieces over a period of 17 years, and to this day he continues his journey with rarities, through which he has become a guest at special exhibitions to introduce the public and calligraphy lovers to these collectibles.

Letters were the beginnings of Al-Hammadi’s first passion, which led him after a while to learning gilding, leading to acquisition, as he confirmed in his interview with “Emirates Today,” adding, “I began studying the art of Arabic calligraphy with individual effort, and the beginning was not with writing with reeds, as it did not exist.” At that time in the country, I deliberately learned geometric scripts, including Kufic, and we can talk about 30 types of it, most of which depend on geometry and do not need reeds and ink.

He explained that he initially learned the Fatimid Kufic script using the imitation method, and moved from it to Square Kufic, then Mamluk Kufic, and then Nisaburi Kufic, all of which were scripts based on geometry. With the passage of time, there became centers that embraced the calligraphy and cared for it, and now there are specialized professors who come to... Emirates to teach Arabic calligraphy, and then Al-Hammadi studied the “Riq’a”, which is the bridge to other scripts, as it is the basis for reed scripts and transfers the calligrapher to all the remaining colors, as it is considered a good exercise for the hand and writing, according to the Emirati calligrapher.

Gilding and decoration

At the next stop, Al-Hammadi moved his experience to gilding and decoration, as he believes that calligraphy is a friend of decoration, and so he intended to learn this art independently at first, but the information provided by the books in this context is insufficient, indicating that he benefited greatly from the experiences of the decorators. Al-Hammadi described decoration as a vast sea, just like the art of calligraphy, as it contains multiple areas and various materials, citing ancient manuscripts that were in the Levant and Egypt, which highlight the interest in gilding, especially in the Qur’ans, specifically the Mamluks.

A vast world

From this passion for the vast world of calligraphy, whether with writing or gilding, Al-Hammadi set out to create his own museum in his home, as he began collecting 17 years ago, collecting more than 7,000 pieces, most of which were inherited and put up at auctions, pointing out that the first piece in his large collection was A copy of the Holy Qur’an by the calligrapher Ahmed Qarahisari, the calligrapher of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the Ottoman Empire. It weighs 25 kilograms due to the weight of the paper and the amount of decoration and gilding it contains. It was written over a period of 13 years, to the point that the calligrapher who wrote it died before completing it.

Al-Hammadi noted that collecting these pieces required a large budget from him, so after purchasing the Qur’an, he went to acquire inkwells and pens, and was keen to purchase pieces that were used by ancient calligraphers so that they would be distinguished in their historical value, as he began the stage of collecting tools from Turkey and Egypt.

Regarding the method of caring for these collectibles, Al-Hammadi said that they indeed require a special kind of attention, as the place in which they are stored must be at a certain temperature and cold, as well as the humidity must be non-existent so that the pieces are not affected, and this requires a huge space, revealing that preserving the pieces requires consulting him. Specialists, especially Qur’ans and manuscripts that need special care.

Al-Hammadi owns a collection of rare pieces, including an inkwell dating back to the Seljuk period, dating back 800 years, as well as inkwells and pencil cases from the Ottoman Empire dating back 700 years, in addition to collectibles dating back to the Bukhari era, and “pens” dating back 650 years.

He also owns very old inkwells, which the calligrapher used to hold in his hands and cannot be placed on a table, explaining that some of these pieces are undated.

Al-Hammadi also has a collection of rare Qur’ans, including the “Bey Senghor” Qur’an, which dates back to the era of Tamerlane, indicating that Bey Senghor was one of the sultans, and his grandfather was Hulagu, but the Qur’an is incomplete. He pointed out that he was waiting for the Yaqut Qur’an to reach him, which is one of the very rare Qur’an.

In addition to keeping these pieces in his home, and opening them to anyone who wishes to learn about them, Al-Hammadi presents many of his possessions in exhibitions, as he is invited to present them, in universities and cultural destinations, especially on religious occasions such as the holy month of Ramadan, when Islamic arts are celebrated.

• 17 years, during which Al Hammadi collected the rare pieces he owned.

Ali Al Hammadi:

• Collectibles require a special type of attention, as the place in which they are stored must be at a specific temperature.

• Ornamentation is a vast field, just like the art of calligraphy, as it contains multiple fields and diverse materials.

Participation in exhibitions

Calligrapher Ali Al Hammadi stressed that participating in exhibitions requires studying the nature of the pieces that will be presented to the public, and how to highlight them in a distinctive way, and at the same time without causing any damage to them, especially since some exhibitions are in public places and crowded with visitors.

Journey discoveries

The calligrapher Ali Al Hammadi said that he encountered a group of strange things during his journey to collect his belongings. He discovered the calligrapher Muhammad Bedstopi, who asked his father to learn Arabic calligraphy in his childhood, and the father refused because the son was born without fully developed limbs, but at his insistence he practiced calligraphy by attaching the pen to the ulna. During that period, which dates back to the late Ottoman Empire, he was considered one of the most important writers of Arabic calligraphy. He pointed out that this story is similar, but in an earlier period, to the daughter of Al-Khuduri, who lived in the Abbasid era, and her handwriting was considered among the most beautiful at that time, and she was also born without limbs.