Family and friends gathered in Jafet Library on the evening of Friday, September 20 for the opening ceremony of a special book exhibit in remembrance and loving memory of the late Dr. Talal Toufic Farah, displaying a selection of books, all graciously donated by the Farah family.
The exhibit is only a small fraction of the donated books collection, which will be accessible to students, faculty, and researchers. The full donation consists of more than 12,000 books from Farah’s personal library, spanning most areas of history, but especially that of the Middle East and the Gulf.
It was the late Talal Farah’s desire that these books live on in the hands of AUB students for generations to come, and a fitting tribute that a part of his legacy will remain at AUB and at Jafet Library, where he actually started his academic life.
During the event, Dr. Lokman Meho, University Librarian, and Dr. Mariette Atallah, Associate University Librarian for Collections welcomed the attendees and thanked the Farah family, and namely Dr. Farah's sons, Toufic and Elias. They also extended their thanks to Dr. Imad Baalbaki, Vice President for Advancement, who played a great role in ensuring that the collection ends up at the AUB Libraries. They then thanked the library team and the office of communications, who have worked tirelessly on organizing the exhibit.
Dr. Meho addressed the audience by congratulating the Farah family for the "incredible effort and avid readership necessary to bring together and maintain such a book collection, proving indeed, how much Talal Farah loved History", adding "I hope that this gesture will encourage many of you, your friends, relatives, colleagues, and others to follow suit and consider donating their own collections to the AUB Libraries."
Dr. Baalbaki then said a few words about Farah's legacy, and about how well he knew him in person and how much he admired him. He spoke about how Farah is mentioned in every intellectual or cultural event in the AUB community, remembering a few recent occasions and anecdotes and sincerely ending his speech with "الله يرحمه - May he rest in peace".
It was then Dr. David Abdo who addressed the audience, telling them stories about how Farah rescued the AUB UK Chapter back in 2005, and had kept it alive ever since. "If I have to pick an attribute or two out of the many that Talal had which distinguished him from the rest, the first one must be his un-negotiable attitude with Wrong (with a capital W)...his other distinctive attribute must be his charisma and his out-reach to so many people".
Talking about the UK Chapter, Abdo added "We continue the roadmap that Talal drew...We hope that Talal is looking down at what we do with satisfaction...However, we still miss Talal's energy and enthusiasm..."
After that, Elias, Talal Farah's son, spoke emotionally about his late father, smiling and remembering how his books meant the world to him. He talked about how he moved all the books along with him every time he left a country, although he moved around quite a lot. He remembered all the many, many shelves in their home, increasing in number and size each year, and stocking more and more books year after year. He joked about how Farah always asked friends and family members who were traveling anywhere around the globe to get him this book, or that, many times having to pay fees for the extra weight in their luggage, thanks to Farah.
The AUB Libraries are extremely thankful for making available material that could not have been accessible for library patrons if it were not for the generous gift made by the Farah family.
The book exhibit will remain on display in Jafet Library's lobby until October 11.
About Dr. Talal Farah
Dr. Talal Toufic Farah was born in Baghdad in 1939 into a prominent Lebanese family from Hamat, Batroun. He spent his early years in Iraq where his father, a medical doctor, was stationed.
Educated at the Tripoli School for Boys, Talal completed his BA in Political Sciences and Public Administration in 1962 at the American University of Beirut (AUB).
Following his graduation, his first job was to take up assignments at AUB’s Jafet Library, where he also worked closely with Dr. Kamal Salibi, the renowned historian. This work-relationship became a great friendship and sparked his passion for history. After teaching classes at the International College in Lebanon and working at the Ford Foundation in Saudi Arabia, Talal decided to return to AUB to complete his Master's degree in History in 1970.
History was his first love, and he pursued it in London, where he attended the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 1972 and completed his PhD in 1979.
During this period, Talal worked as a historian, lecturer, and consultant, and he established Talis House, a research institute based in London. His PhD thesis would later form the foundation of his book Protection and Politics in Bahrain 1869 -1915.
The research for this book was partially financed by the British Council and published by AUB in 1985. This work elucidated the particular growth of British Protection over the Sheikhdom of Bahrain between 1869-1915. Dr. Farah’s distinctive methodology relied exclusively on British sources to unfold the exhaustive historical survey of that period in history. His book demonstrates how Bahrain became an outstanding example of a principality over which British authority was maintained indirectly.
He married his true love, Leila Zakharia, in 1976. With the civil war escalating in Lebanon, he decided to settle in London and had two children, Toufic and Elias. Sadly, Leila passed away in 1981.
Although he dedicated much of his time to bring up his two sons, Dr. Farah was still a very active member of the Lebanese and AUB communities in London. He was one of the founding members of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the UK, and in 2006, he became the Chairman of the Worldwide Alumni Association of the American University of Beirut (WAAAUB) UK Chapter. During his reign, he managed to re-invent the chapter and reach out to fresh and young alumni in the UK.
He soon became a member of the WAAAUB Board of Trustees, overlooking projects to support alumni worldwide. His work and dedication to the UK chapter were honored and recognized with the Outstanding Chapter Award in 2015.
Dr. Farah was a warm and generous person with a big heart, which he devoted to his family, his friends, and his beloved AUB. During his lifetime, he amassed a library of some 12,000 books spanning most areas of history, but especially that of the Middle East and the Gulf. It was his utmost desire that these books live on in the hands of AUB students for generations to come, and a fitting tribute that a part of his legacy will remain at AUB and the Jafet Library where he started his academic life.