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Database Systems Research in the Arab World: A Tradition that Spans Decades

By Ashraf Aboulnaga, Azza Abouzied, Karima Echihabi, Mourad Ouzzani

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 64 No. 4, Pages 120-123

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From Hammurabi's stone tablets to papyrus rolls and leather-bound books, the Arab region has a rich history of recordkeeping and transactional systems that closely matches the evolution of data storage mediums. Even modern-day data management concepts like data provenance and lineage have historic roots in the Arab world; generations of scribes meticulously tracked Islamic prophetic narrations from one narrator to the next, forming lineage chains that originated from central Arabia.

Database systems research has been part of the academic culture in the Arab world since the 1970s. High-quality computer science and database education was always available at several universities within the Arab region, such as Alexandria University in Egypt. Many students who went through these programs were drawn to database systems research and became globally prominent, such as Ramez Elmasri (professor at University of Texas, Arlington), Amr El Abbadi (professor at University of California, Santa Barbara), and Walid Aref (professor at Purdue University). Some have commented that it was easy to get into database research because it is a microcosm of computer science. The big tent of database research encompasses all: from systems to theory to languages and query optimization.


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