Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, yesterday emphasized the importance of the “Roads of Arabia” exhibition in Washington, saying it would highlight the Kingdom’s cultural and historical significance.
“This is a new window to see a country that has never been thought of or seen in the arena of heritage, civilization and culture,” said Prince Sultan, who is in Washington to launch the exhibition at the Smithsonian Sackler Museum.
“We’ve always been at a crossroads of civilization, and we are now at a crossroads of international affairs and economic affairs,” said Prince Sultan, who is perhaps best known to Americans for his 1985 flight aboard the space shuttle Discovery, which made him the first Muslim and Arab and the only royal to go into outer space.
Prince Sultan underscored the multiple dimensions of the exhibition, which has come to the US for the first time. “It will help people understand Saudi Arabia, its future and its role in the world,” he said, adding that it would convince visitors that “Saudi Arabia was not a country that was discovered with the discovery of the first oil well.”
About 320 precious relics of historical importance from the Arabian Peninsula are on display at the show entitled “Roads of Arabia: Archeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” It is organized by the Sackler Gallery and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities as part of the gallery’s 25th anniversary celebrations.
The collection includes more than 200 objects, ranging from alabaster bowls, gold earrings and bronze statues to early 20th-century photographs of Makkah, Madinah and Riyadh.
The exhibit runs through to Feb. 24. It will then travel to museums in Houston, Chicago and Boston all the way up to early 2015. Highlights of the exhibit and photo slideshows, interactive maps and videos can also be seen at roadsofarabia.com. This is the fifth stop in the exhibition’s international journey.
The exhibition presents more than 320 artifacts taken from the National Museum in Riyadh, King Saud University Museum, King Fahd National Library, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, King Abdul Aziz Library in Madinah, in addition to a number of antiquities found in the latest archaeological excavations. The relics cover a period of time starting from the Stone Age (1 million BC), to the present Saudi state.
The exhibition previously visited four European countries drawing more than 1.5 million visitors. The Louvre in France was the first leg of the exhibition in Europe. It then moved to Spain where it was hosted by La Caixa Foundation in Barcelona before being hosted by the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia and the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany, as the final stop in Europe.
The exhibition focuses on the influence of ancient trade routes that crossed the Arabian Peninsula and allowed for trade and cultural exchange between different civilizations. It also features a range of recently discovered relics from ancient trade routes including beautiful glass dishes and pottery, heavy gold earrings, in addition to highlighting the subsequent developments of Haj routes to Makkah.