Spanish Arabist celebrated in Amman

More than ever, the world needs to introduce spiritual elegance and beauty to all aspects of human culture, HRH Prince Hassan of Jordan said on Thursday. 

The prince’s call for humanising culture was made at a ceremony to name the Instituto Cervantes in Amman library after Emilio García Gómez, a Spanish Arabist, literary historian and critic whose talent as a poet enriched his many translations from Arabic. 

In his speech, the prince also highlighted García Gómez’s achievements as an ambassador of Spain in several Arab countries, and his friendships with Arab politicians and intellectuals including King Abdullah I.

The works of García Gómez enriched Spanish and Arab cultures with intellectual forays into Arab Andalusian poetry and Islamic Arab culture in general, Prince Hassan said. 

Speaking at the ceremony, Spanish Ambassador to Jordan Santiago Cabanas Ansorena said the library was named after García Gómez at the suggestion of Prince Hassan, and an annual cultural event about the literary figure and his work will be held in Jordan starting in 2017. 

García Gómez is one of the best-known Spanish academics and diplomats, who was keen to illustrate the compatibility between different cultures and joint heritage in his work, the ambassador said. He also worked to spread the Spanish language, the diplomat added. 

The head of Instituto Cervantes in Amman, Antonio Lazaro, said that in addition to naming the library after the Spanish scholar, the library also has an exhibition of the Spanish orientalist’s works. García Gómez, who died aged 90 in 1995, received a scholarship to Cairo where he studied under professor Ahmad Zaki Pasha and the Egyptian writer Taha Hussain, Lazaro said. 

His doctoral thesis on the Alexander legend in the Maghrib won the Fastenrath Prize, and in 1930 he became professor of Arabic at the University of Granada, before returning to Madrid in 1944. 

A major focus of García Gómez’s academic work was Arabic poetry, and he acted as a literary historian and critic as well as translator. He served as the Spanish ambassador to various countries in the Middle East, including Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. 

By Khetam Malkawi
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