On the evening of Thursday, September 23rd, 2021, the DAAD Regional Office held a public lecture entitled “The German-Egyptian Digital Library for Oriental Manuscripts” organised by COSIMENA.

This public lecture developed insightful perspectives on preserving and digitizing cultural heritage, as a result to the 3-day conference in November 2020 with the title “Cultural Heritage between Digitalization and Pandemic”.

Ms. Isabell Mering, director of the DAAD Regional Office Cairo, acknowledged the fruitful and long-term cooperation between the DAAD and Prof. Dr Albrecht Fuess from the Philipps-Universität Marburg (UMR) and elaborated the importance of the project “Cultural Heritage in Cyberspace”. Philippe Maupai, Head of Science and Protocol at the German Embassy in Cairo, added that “Egypt is a central place of cultural knowledge” highlighting that digitization enables unlimited access to valuable knowledge throughout the world.

The public lecture was presented by Prof. Dr Fuess: project manager at “Cultural Heritage and Cyberspace” who has been passionate about Egypt and cultural heritage in the Middle East for 30 years. Observing the fact that there has been a lack of shared resources, bilateral scientific exchange and joint knowledge creation between Germany and Egypt, Prof. Dr Fuess along with his project team took the initiative to change these parameters through digitization in the framework of an elaborative long-term project approach. While “Cultural Heritage in Cyberspace” aims at the creation of a comprehensive binational academic network that ensures sustainable collaboration between Germany and Egypt in the field of cultural heritage, the project is undertaking various phases to accomplish this goal.

One of the project objectives is the creation of a “German-Egyptian Digital Library for Oriental Manuscripts”. Renowned partners such as the Egyptian National Library and Archives, the State Library of Berlin or the Philipps-Universität Marburg with its Library and Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies – to name only a few – are actively contributing to accomplish this shared vision.

During the presentation Prof. Dr Fuess remarked “So far a lot has been achieved and without the support of the DAAD, the project would not have come as far as it is”, acknowledging the recently received DAAD long-term funding under the umbrella of the German-Egyptian Progress Partnerships. This funding will allow increased mobility for staff and scholars as well as help providing further training and workshops in line with summer schools and internship opportunities. The design of a German-Egyptian M.A. degree programme focused on research-based digitization of oriental manuscripts and heritage information systems is planned in the future, too.

Ms. Isabell Mering (down), Prof. Dr Albrecht Fuess, Ms. Nermine Abdelaty (from right to left)

Throughout the public lecture, Prof. Dr Fuess elaborated the projects’ objectives on an infrastructural and academic level on which he demonstrated the vast potential of “Cultural Heritage in Cyberspace” ensuring cultural preservation and extended access to knowledge within the society while contributing to the academic discourse. The project cultivates a highly intercultural environment that allows a dynamic digital exchange and new qualitative research while fostering sustainable collaboration through joint knowledge creation.

The digitization of cultural heritage marks the beginning of a continuous journey, raising awareness and unravelling further the importance of cultural heritage, especially among younger generations. While the public lecture took place in the issue-driven cluster Cultural Heritage, COSIMENA offered once again a platform to connect the scientific community and to foster research collaboration between Germany, Egypt and the whole MENA region.