UNESCO on Tuesday recognized Arabic calligraphy, the artistic practice of handwriting based on the Arabic alphabet, as intangible cultural heritage.
A total of 16 Muslim-majority countries, led by Saudi Arabia, submitted the bid to UNESCO, which announced the list on Twitter.
“Arabic calligraphy is the artistic practice of handwriting in Arabic in a fluid manner to convey harmony, grace and beauty,” UNESCO said on its website.
“The fluidity of Arabic writing offers endless possibilities, even within a single word, as the letters can be stretched and transformed in many ways to create different patterns.”
Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud welcomed the move and said it would “contribute to the development of this cultural heritage”, in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
Abdelmajid Mahboub of the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, which participated in the proposal, said the calligraphy “has always served as a symbol of the Arab-Muslim world”.
But he lamented that “many people no longer write by hand due to advances in technology”, adding that the number of specialist Arabic calligraphers has dropped sharply.
The UNESCO listing “will certainly have a positive impact” on the preservation of the tradition, he added.
According to the UNESCO website, intangible cultural heritage “is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of increasing globalization”. Its importance “is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that are transmitted there from one generation to the next”.