4 ex-presidents among hundreds at Barbara Bush’s funeral

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Former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush arrive as they pass by former first lady Hillary Clinton (L to R), former President Bill Clinton, former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Barack Obama and first lady Melania Trump at St. Martin's Episcopal Church for a funeral service for former first lady Barbara Bush in Houston, Texas, U.S., April 21, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush arrive at St. Martin's Episcopal Church for a funeral service for former first lady Barbara Bush in Houston, Texas, U.S., April 21, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Photo showing former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Barack Obama and first lady Melania Trump at St. Martin's Episcopal Church for a funeral service for former first lady Barbara Bush in Houston, Texas, U.S., April 21, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Photo showing the funeral ceremony for former US first Lady Barbara Bush at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas, April 21, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 21 April 2018
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4 ex-presidents among hundreds at Barbara Bush’s funeral

  • President Trump's misses out on attending former first lady Barbara Bush's funeral
  • Former US presidents and their spouses attend the funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush

HOUSTON: Four former presidents joined ambassadors, sports stars and hundreds of other mourners on a gray, rainy day Saturday at the private funeral for Barbara Bush, filling the nation’s largest Episcopal church a day after more than 6,000 people paid their respects to the woman known by many as “America’s matriarch.”
President George H.W. Bush was helped into the cavernous sanctuary with a wheelchair behind his sons, former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and other Bush relatives to remember his wife of 73 years who died at their home Tuesday at age 92.
Also seated near the front of the church, in the same pew, were two other former presidents — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — along with their wives and current first lady Melania Trump.
Flags were flown at half-mast for the wife of the nation’s 41st president and mother of the nation’s 43rd as the service began at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, as the choir sang “My Country Tis of Thee.” The church is adorned with sprays of yellow garden roses, yellow snap dragons, antique hydrangeas and other flowers.
Among the other roughly 1,500 guests were former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, and professional golfer Phil Mickelson, along with Karl Rove, and other former White House staff. Many were seen embracing in the church before the service.
President Donald Trump isn’t attending to avoid security disruptions and “out of respect for the Bush family and friends attending the service,” according to the White House. He released a statement Saturday saying his “thoughts and prayers” are “with the entire Bush family.”
A burial will follow at the Bush Library at Texas A&M University, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) northwest of Houston. The burial site is in a gated plot surrounded by trees and near a creek where the couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953, is buried.
The family has said Barbara Bush had selected son Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, to deliver a eulogy along with her longtime friend Susan Baker, wife of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, and historian Jon Meacham, who wrote a 2015 biography of her husband.
The funeral program shows that her grandchildren will also play prominent roles: her granddaughters will offer readings during the service and her grandsons will serve pallbearers.
On Friday, a total of 6,231 people stopped by the church to pay their respects. Many of the women wore the former first lady’s favorite color, blue, and trademark pearls.
After seeing how many people had lined up to pay their respects to his wife, former President George H.W. Bush decided to attend — he sat at the front of the church in a wheelchair, offering his hand and smiled as people shook it, for about 15 minutes.
Barbara and George Bush were married longer than any other presidential couple when she died Tuesday at their home in Houston. She was 92.
One of just two first ladies to have a child elected president, Barbara Bush was widely admired for her plainspoken style and her advocacy for causes including literacy and AIDS awareness.
Barbara Bush was known as the “Enforcer” in her family, the glue who kept the high-powered clan together. Eight of her grandsons will serve as pallbearers.


Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

Updated 24 May 2018
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Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

  • Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish
  • Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy

KABUL: One of the only Qur’ans ever made from silk fabric has been completed in Afghanistan — a feat its creators hope will help preserve the country’s centuries-old tradition of calligraphy.
Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish.
Bound in goat leather and weighing 8.6 kilograms, the Qur’an was produced by Afghan artisans, many of them trained at British foundation Turquoise Mountain in Kabul.
“Our intention was to ensure that calligraphy does not die out in this country — writing is part of our culture,” Khwaja Qamaruddin Chishti, a 66-year-old master calligrapher, said in a cramped office inside Turquoise Mountain’s labyrinthine mud-brick and wood-paneled complex.
With the Qur’an considered a sacred text, calligraphy is highly venerated in Islam and Islamic art.
“When it comes to art we cannot put a price on it. God has entrusted us with this work (the Qur’an) ... and this means more to us than the financial aspect,” Chishti continued.
Using a bamboo or reed ink pen, Chishti and his fellow calligraphers spent up to two days carefully copying Qur’anic verses onto a single page — sometimes longer if they made a mistake and had to start again.
They used the Naskh script, a calligraphic style developed in early Islam to replace Kufic because it was easier to read and write.
The decoration around the script, known as illumination, was more time-consuming, each page taking more than a week to complete.
A team of artists used paint made from natural materials, including ground lapis, gold and bronze, to recreate the delicate patterns popular during the Timurid dynasty in the 15th and 16th centuries in the western city of Herat.
“All the colors we have used are from nature,” Mohammad Tamim Sahibzada, a master miniature artist who was responsible for creating the vibrant colors used in the Qur’an, said.
Sahibzada said working on silk fabric for the first time was challenging. The locally sourced material — all 305 meters (1,000 feet) of it — was treated in a solution made from the dried seeds of ispaghula, or psyllium, to stop the ink from spreading.
Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy.
It hopes the silk Qur’an will generate demand for more handmade Islamic religious texts that could create employment for its artisans and help finance the institute.
“We will show it to other Islamic countries to see if it is possible to create job opportunities for graduates to work on another Qur’an,” said Abdul Waheed Khalili, the organization’s Afghan director.
For now, it will be kept in a specially made hand-carved walnut wooden box to protect its delicate pages from the elements at Turquoise Mountain’s offices, which are in the restored Murad Khani, a historic commercial and residential area in Kabul’s oldest district.
There Turquoise Mountain has trained thousands of artisans with the support of Britain’s Prince Charles, the British Council, and USAID.
“The copying of the Qur’an onto silk is very rare,” country director Nathan Stroupe said.
He said the project has been “an amazing way to train our students at an incredibly high level in a very traditional type of work.”
“If a book collector in London... was interested in it, we would be thinking in the $100,000 to $200,000 (price) range,” he added.