Refaa Al Tahtawi [photo: Wikipedia]
CAIRO – 15 October 2017: Sunday marks the birthday of the legendary Egyptian thinker and translator Refaa Al Tahtawi.
Tahtawi is one of the iconic figures that participated in the modern development of Egypt in the 19th century. He is also one of the founders of the first Egyptian generation of translators.
Tahtawi was born in Tahta city in Upper Egypt. His father encouraged him to recite the Quran, and his mother’s family was full of sheikhs and professors that also inspired him.
At the age of 16, he joined Al Azhar University to study religious sciences and was taught by prominent Al Azhar teachers such as Hassan Al Attar, who was known for his revolutionary thinking. Attar also studied other sciences such as history, geography, and medicine. After six years of studying, Tahtawi became a teacher in Al Azhar.
Attar and Tahtawi established the first newspaper in Egypt called “Al Wakaae’ Al Masriya” [State official newspaper].
Al Wakaae’ Al Masriya Logo [Photo:Wikimedia]
In 1826, El Tahtawi joined the first mission to France. The mission was sent by Mohamed Ali to give elite Egyptian students the chance to make use of western education and means of development.
Through the mission, Tahtawi learnt French and translation. He wrote his most known literary work “Takhles Al Ebreez fy Talkhes Paris” [The Point of View of the French Culture, Society, and Development].
A translator at the School of Medicine was how Tahtawi began his career after returning from France.
In 1842, Tahtawi reformed “Al Wakaae’ El Masriya” newspaper to be published in Arabic and Turkish. He gave priority to Egyptian news, and revived political analysis articles.
Many educational and translation institutions were established by Tahtawi. He recommended to Muhammad Ali Pasha that he establish a school to teach languages and translation which became the School of Alsun.
The school translated different foreign scientific books and contained different departments such as the agriculture management department; in addition to teaching mathematics, physics and history.
He also established an additional department to prepare judges, and another to deal with clerks.
Tahtawi and his students translated a big number of educational books.
Arabic literary heritage revival was one of the biggest projects adapted by Tahtawi. In 1863, he supervised a group while translating French laws. He also supervised an educational magazine called “Rawdet Al Madares” [The World of Schools].
Tahtawi published numerous articles and researches, and wrote a large number of books, while translating more than 20 others.
He died in 1873.
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