The Middle East is playing a significant role. The National Library and Archives of Iraq are contributing, among other things, a selection of yellowing newspapers and periodicals from the 19th and 20th centuries written in Arabic, English, Kurdish and Ottoman Turkish. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University and the Qatar Foundation are also taking part, while the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, already a leader in the race to digitise cultural treasures of the Arab world, is providing volumes and plates from the Description of Egypt, a work of scientific observation carried out by French scholars during Napoleon's military foray into the country in 1798.
Dr Sohair Wastawy, chief librarian at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, said the WDL could prove to be an effective and original means of cultural rapprochement. "So much of the recent problems between the west and the Islamic and Arab worlds has come from misunderstanding," she said. "This project will allow us to show where we come from, our culture and our literature. Being able to communicate this will foster greater dialogue and allow us to introduce Arab culture to the rest of the world."
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