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Historical Treasures from Ancient Mexico on display at Qasr Al Watan Library


A stunning new exhibition of priceless historical treasures from ancient Mexico was unveiled today at Qasr Al Watan Library. Codices of Mexico: The Old Books of the New World, on display until 30 September, has been organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico and the Embassy of Mexico in the United Arab Emirates.

Codices are ancient manuscript texts in book form. The Codices of Mexico exhibition brings to the region, for the first time, a number of priceless pre-Hispanic examples dating from the 3rdto the 16th centuries. The codices on display are some of the most important and best-preserved surviving examples of their kind, on loan from the collections of esteemed institutions from around the world including the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City, the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, and Italy’s Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, in Florence.

The treasures featured in the Codices of Mexico exhibition are one of the most significant sources of information about the ancient cultures of Mexico. They preserve the ancestral wisdom of the native peoples of the nation and are a repository of their high degree of cultural, scientific and artistic development.

Written and painted on varied materials such amate (tree bark) paper, skin, maguey fibre, cotton and European paper, they represent complex systems of beliefs and knowledge that cover all areas of life: geographical, historical, economic, calendrical and symbolic records.

Codices were an integral part of the daily life of Mesoamerica for centuries. In them, the known world was recorded, shaped and understood. Through their pages and materials were evoked the rites, lineages and cycles that were part of the thought structure of their civilisations.


The validity and importance of these documents is not limited to the past; even today, communities and scholars refer to them as a historical source, as legal support and as a symbol of identity.

Historical Treasures from Ancient Mexico on display at Qasr Al Watan Library


“We are very proud to be hosting this significant exhibition in our newly opened landmark, Qasr Al Watan Library. The splendour of the Presidential Palace is an appropriate setting for a display of objects of such great historical and cultural significance,” said HE Saif Saeed Ghobash, Undersecretary of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi. “Codices of Mexico is an excellent example of embracing and appreciating the culture and history of another country, as we are keen to display priceless treasures from around the world under one roof to the public, in order to further enhance the values of understanding, dialogue and communication with all. We strive to provide a suitable environment for cultural growth and prosperity, which is consistent with the principles of the Year of Tolerance.”

Francisca Mendez Escobar, Ambassador of Mexico to the UAE, said: “The Mexican codices were a dynamic element in the life of the pre-Hispanic civilisations. They were not only historical books that portrayed the daily life of the ancient Mexican peoples, but also contain their ancestral knowledge, wisdom, traditions, art and culture. At the same time, the codices reflect pre-Hispanic art and literature in a graphic, pictorial and written way.

“In the strict sense of the word, the Mexican codices are literary and artistic jewellery that include the mystique and essence of our ancestors and the knowledge of highly developed societies.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico and the Embassy of Mexico in the United Arab Emirates are proud to promote this exhibition in collaboration with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, and to exhibit the codices in Qasr Al Watan, an incredible and unique landmark in the region. In this Year of Tolerance, we are convinced of the paramount importance of transmission of knowledge between generations and nations.

“Mexico and the United Arab Emirates share many values; among others, the importance of investing in knowledge and of preserving the cultural heritage of our ancestors in a world of tolerance, understanding and peace. This exhibition is a demonstration of these values.”

Codices of Mexico: The Old Books of the New World is open at Qasr Al Watan Library through 30 September 2019. Admission is free.

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