Winter 2008 Vol. VI, No. 2
A Haven for Excellence and Joy
Raghid Nahhas (BS ’73)
The early 1970s was a period when Beirut was in its prime
and AUB was one of the best places to be. Half-Lebanese myself, Beirut
was my city and AUB was my abode. Until the unfortunate events that started
in 1975, we had it all. AUB was about quality of education and life—a
life that was lived abundantly, thanks also to a bunch of beautiful friends,
men and women from all walks of life, regions, nationalities, political
entities, religions, and personal philosophies. AUB was a true democracy,
for no matter how good education was it would have meant nothing if it
had not instilled in us free thinking and motivated us to explore our
own creativity with no strings attached. Aside from being an institution
of excellence, AUB added value to each student by providing a wealth of
knowledge that extended beyond one’s field of specialization, allowing
ample space for self-enhancement.
I was a biology major, but one of my favorite courses was on Islamic philosophy
given by Nadim Naimi, who was a master lecturer, able every time to convince
the audience of the validity of the ideas of the philosopher in question,
only to reveal their absurdity when, in the next lecture, he adopted another
philosopher. Twenty years later, I had the chance to meet Professor Naimi
here in Sydney when he was invited by the Arabic Heritage League in Australia
to receive their Gibran International Prize for his academic achievements.
The civil strife in Lebanon caused me to spend an extra year completing
my master’s degree in marine sciences. I spent 1975-76 between Damascus
and Beirut trying to summarize my research, type my thesis, and find an
opportunity when the supervisors and administrators were available to
sign the necessary papers to make things official.
After several glorious years in England, my wife and I spent 1981- 88
in Syria where I worked for the Supreme Council of Sciences, the Marine
Research Centre, and other scientific organizations. We migrated to Australia
in 1988, settling first in Melbourne where I was an adviser to the Environment
Protection Authority and the head of its Marine Research Group. We moved
to Sydney in 1990 where I was the head of Estuaries and Beaches in Sydney
Water until 1996.
For seven years I published Kalimat, an international periodical of creative
writing. Although it had started as a hobby, it soon became a major responsibility,
and I stopped publishing due to time and financial constraints. My goal
with Kalimat was to penetrate western culture at its highest intellectual
level by publishing and translating works of individuals from all backgrounds
with a focus on enhancing Arab-western understanding through literature.
It was a refereed journal with distinguished advisers and well-known writers,
but my greatest satisfaction was providing emerging writers with the opportunity
to get published. In addition to the Gibran International Prize, I received
an Australia Day Medal in 2003. The Arab Council Australia awarded me
an Honorary Life Membership in 2005. I continue to publish occasional
articles and am currently working on my first novel.
For more information about Kalimat and Raghid Nahhas, you can visit his
website at www.kalimatinternational.com.
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