Arabic calligraphy: knowledge, skills and practices
Inscribed on December 14, 2021 as a joint file submitted by Saudi Arabia and 15 other countries, Arabic Calligraphy is the artistic practice of handwriting Arabic script in a fluid manner to convey harmony, grace and beauty.
The practice, which has been passed down for generations through formal and informal education, is written from right to left using the twenty-eight letters of the Arabic alphabet.
It is the ninth element present in Saudi culture to be inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Architects, designers, and more have used Arabic calligraphy to transmit knowledge while enhancing artistry, and it can be found adorning buildings, embroidery, everyday objects, and more. It is widespread in Arab and non-Arab countries and is practised by men and women of all ages. Skills are transmitted informally or through formal schools or apprenticeships.
The fluidity of Arabic script offers infinite possibilities, even within a single word. Letters can be stretched and transformed in numerous ways to create different motifs.
Traditional techniques use natural materials, such as reeds and bamboo stems for the qalam, or writing instrument. A mixture of honey, black soot and saffron is used for the ink, and the paper is handmade and treated with starch, egg white and alum. Modern calligraphy commonly uses markers and synthetic paint, and spray paint is used for calligraffiti on walls, signs and buildings.