Postcards of culture and history

Sharjah Stamp Exhibition offers fascinating glimpses into postage and communication evolution over the last century and more

17:37 November 14, 2017
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NAT 171114 STAMPS-2 Exhibition of 7th annual Sharjah Stamp
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Sharjah: To many people, stamps and postcards are associative of the memories of yesteryears when these objects played a central role in communication, but for others, these are pieces of history that depict the traditions and cultures of different regions marking the progress of nations.

At the five-day Sharjah Stamp Exhibition (SSE), which opened at Mega Mall on Tuesday, collectors and exhibitors from 17 countries gathered to showcase different cultures and traditions as they developed over the last century and a half through stamps, postcards and aerogrammes.

“If more people collected stamps, the world would be a better place,” said Peter Singer, a septuagenarian collector with over 28,000 stamps.

Singer, an American who is taking part in the SSE for the eighth year running, says stamps help bring people together and understand the diversity of cultures.

“Over the last six decades, buying and selling stamps from different parts of the world, I have made many friends from different faiths. I have seen that my experience has brought me closer to [other] traditions and customs and helped me understand them better. There is a greater need of this today than ever before,” added Singer, who bought his first stamp at the age of 13.

Spread over 120 displays and divided into 46 different themes, the exhibition includes some of the oldest stamps and postcards that reveal the evolution of postage and communication.

From a stamp issued by Queen Victoria in 1850 to those representing the earliest Ottoman postal communication as well as the pre-Saudi stamps of Hejaz and Najd, the exhibition is steeped in the history of the region.

“If you look closer, you can actually visualise the progress of history through stamps and postcards. It will show how people communicated before the advent of modern technology and the emotions and values attached to these communications. If you study philately, you will realise the importance of these small paper objects,” said Sandra Weaver, an exhibitor from Zimbabwe, who has brought a collection of Flame Lilly-themed stamps that tell the story of her nation and neighbouring African countries.

The display also includes World War I and national stamps of headgear and comics.

An exhibit dedicated to the evolution of stamps in Abu Dhabi displays the first stamp issued in 1964 to those issued in 1972.

“Before 1964, British and Indian stamps were used in Abu Dhabi and other emirates in what were then the trucial states. The exhibits here shows how the postal system evolved in this region, from the earliest times to today,” said Joachim Duster, a German collector specialising in Omani and UAE stamps.

The first set issued from Abu Dhabi included 11 stamps valued in Indian currency ranging from 5 paisa to 10 rupees.

During the 1964-1972 period, Abu Dhabi issued 95 stamps.

Duster’s interest in philately began in his teenage years, when everyone in Germany was collecting stamps, but very early in his journey, he came to know of Oman, and thus began his love affair with the region.

“As a schoolboy, I found a stamp from Oman and until then, I had no knowledge of the country or this region. So I began to study more about this region and got hooked and this has helped me become one of the few specialists on the stamps of this region,” said Duster, who is now based in Muscat.

Sharjah Stamp Exhibition is open to public until Saturday, November 18.