A pile of colourful vintage Arabic school books in Liwan's library.

Liwan Library

The Liwan library plays a crucial part in preserving the legacy of Umm Almo'mneen Primary School, formerly known as Banat Al-Doha.

On display are old children's storybooks showcasing some of the best late 20th-century typography, illustration, and design from the Arab world –including iconic illustrations and designs by Helmy El Touny and Burhan Karkoutly. Bedtime fables, cookbooks, animal stories, and religion guides – some dating back from 1956, have been carefully selected and archived and are now on display.

The archive is home to the work of a generation that directly inspired so much of the contemporary art and design culture in the Arab world.

Researchers, artists and designers are welcome to visit and use the library. 

The library is open to the public.

Follow us @liwan.archive

History of the library

Following the development of Qatar’s modern education system in the 1950s, the state relied heavily on imported textbooks from other Arab countries for many years.

In 1958, Qatar applied the same Arab national unity curriculum as in Syria and Egypt. Committees were developed to pick up books from neighbouring countries. An agreement was formed between the Ministry of Education in Egypt and the Educational Department in Qatar, especially for primary and secondary school levels and as a result, many textbooks were printed in Egypt and sent to Qatar; eventually, the teachers followed.

As there was such a low number of Qatari teachers, there was a demand for teachers travelling from Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and Sudan to teach there, and they eventually brought their preferred books with them.

The Umm Almo'mneen Primary School library contained well over 2000 books. 850 of these books have now been carefully archived and are on display for visitors.

Library with children books and a conference-style table with chairs.

The Liwan library. On display are old children's storybooks showcasing some of the best late 20th-century typography, illustration, and design from the Arab world.

A pile of colourful vintage Arabic school books in Liwan's library.

The library houses books from some of the most iconic Arab publishing houses. The Lebanese Dar Al-Fata Al-Arabi and the Egyptian Dar al-Hilal are just a few of the publishing houses featured in the library.

An old school paper register written in Arabic and viewed from above.

The original book register from Umm Almo'mneen Primary School library.

A selection of vintage Arabic children's school books displayed to show the interior covers.

Books belonging to Umm Almo'mneen Primary School, formerly known as Banat Al-Doha, were all stamped with this classic imprint.

A decorative vintage Arabic children's book showing a giant bird of prey on the cover.

Some of the oldest Arabian folk tales are on display in our library, including the legendary story, “The Seven Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor.” Set during the Islamic Golden Age, the story revolves around Sindbad’s Homeric travels from shipwrecks to ferocious beasts, the Old Man of the Sea, and other dangers. Students at Um Almo’mneen School would have read these tales and other stories from the “One Thousand and One Nights” collection that is currently on display in the library.

Title: The Seven Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor
Illustrator: Mustafa Hussain
Publisher: Dar Al Shurouk, Cairo, 1984

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