In 2022, we lost a valued friend and honorary member of Darat al Funun’s advisory board, Dr. Hisham Al Khatib, an intellectual, engineer, economist, historian and avid collector.
For forty years, Dr. Khatib patiently and professionally researched, documented, and collected works of art, including hundreds of watercolor and oil paintings, as well as thousands of unique etchings, lithographs and engravings, numerous photographs, as well as maps, atlases, and valuable plate books, making it one of the largest collections still in private hands.
Born in Akka in 1937, Dr. Hisham lived in Jerusalem until 1974. The collection, therefore, starts in Jerusalem and extends to the whole of Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, and the region under the Ottomans. The content and variety of the collection provide priceless documentary and historical value, most of which records life, monuments, and landscapes as they existed during the Ottoman period.
In the collector’s own words: “The pieces have been mainly acquired through knowledge, devotion, and perseverance rather than financial clout. Therefore, the Collection does not contain the expensive exotic oriental scenes of the harem, the colorful souks, and the hammams.”
In this exhibition, we take a journey into the mind of Dr. Hisham al Khatib, the collector, and get a glimpse into the many images of beautiful landscapes, maps, and books that occupied his visual lexicon and interests. The selection of works on display looks beyond the highly stylized and orientalized images depicting the people and culture, and focuses more on the relationship to the ‘Holy Land’ itself; through geology, botany, geography, and cartography.
Dr. Khatib's extensive knowledge of the antiquities and topography of the place played a pivotal role in finding and acquiring valuable and rare pieces. The richness of the collection is attributed to Dr. Khatib's knowledge, persistence, and patience.
Dr. Khatib previously held the positions of Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Minister of Water, and Minister of Planning. Dr. Khatib is also an expert historian and a collector of art, with many publications on the subject, such as his books “Jerusalem, Palestine & Jordan”, and "Palestine and Egypt under the Ottomans", which are published in Amman, Cairo, London, and New York. He was also the Honorary Vice Chairman of the World Energy Council, Head of the Management Committee of the Arab Thought Forum. He was also a member of many international and regional committees on energy, environment, and technology including the UN CSTD, World Federation of Scientists, and other Middle East and Holy Land Studies and Travel Societies.
Image: Panoramas of Jerusalem. Copperplate print, hand-colored. Janson (1657). Dr. Hisham Al Khatib Collection.