Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and in partnership with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), Louvre Abu Dhabi hosts ‘Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia’, the second international exhibition on November 8 as part of museum’s new cultural season.
The exhibition will explore the rich history of the Arabian Peninsula through archaeological and cultural artefacts, including a selection of rare pieces from the UAE.
The exhibition was conceived through cooperation between SCTH and the Musee du Louvre in Paris, where it was first exhibited in 2010. It is one of the most renowned Saudi exhibitions on a global scale, introducing Arabia’s cultural and historical heritage to over five million visitors worldwide. The exhibition has presented 14 acclaimed editions throughout Europe, the USA and Asia, sharing the story of this unique region with audiences around the world, before coming to Louvre Abu Dhabi where it will be enriched by selected pieces from the UAE.
“The UAE and Saudi Arabia have always been connected by a common heritage and history,” says Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi. “This year’s edition of the exhibition will be a reflection of the rich, shared cultural heritage and deep-rooted history between the two nations.”
Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia explores five chapters in the history of the Arabian Peninsula, spanning early prehistoric settlements; maritime exploration; caravan trading routes that linked the region with Asia, Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean; routes of holy pilgrimage emerging in the 7th century CE; and the social and economic developments between the 14th and 16th centuries that set the stage for the modern day region.
“The Arabian Peninsula has been a place of exchange, culture and civilisation since earliest Antiquity, and Louvre Abu Dhabi is deeply rooted in the region’s unique history and context,” says Manuel Rabate, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi. “The exhibition is an important opportunity for us to re-examine and celebrate this rich heritage through a remarkable series of artefacts, expanding on the regional pieces in our permanent collection to tell an Arabian story from a new perspective.”
Jamal S. Omar, Vice President of Antiquities and Museums Department at STCH, underscores the significance of the exhibition, given the special relationship between the two neighbouring countries and their shared cultural and historical heritage. It is especially notable, he adds, in that this is the exhibition’s first showing in the Arabian Peninsula outside of Saudi Arabia, shedding light on the ancient civilisations and trade routes of the Arabian Peninsula.
The exhibition has been followed closely by Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President of the STCH, in view of the esteem that Saudi Arabia has for the United Arab Emirates, its rulers and its people. “Although the exhibition focuses on Saudi Arabia’s civilisations, it also highlights the civilisations of the Arabian Peninsula including major hubs along the ancient trade routes, which were important links in the cultural and historical narrative of this highly strategic region,” Omar explained.
“From overland camel caravans and maritime trading routes to paths walked by religious pilgrims, the roads of Arabia have always been of vital importance to economic development, early settlement and the exchange of ideas, customs and cultures across the region and beyond,” says Dr. Souraya Noujaim, Scientific, Curatorial and Collection Management Director at Louvre Abu Dhabi. “These roads are the thread of this exhibition, which presents a journey retracing exchanges, circulation and encounters in the Arabian Peninsula. Dynamic archaeological research in recent years has shed new light on the longstanding history and diversity of the region, and excitingly, the exhibition now includes a selection of objects from the UAE.”
The expanded exhibition to be displayed at Louvre Abu Dhabi is curated by Omar, Dr. Noujaim, and Noemi Dauce, Chief Curator for Archaeology at Louvre Abu Dhabi. Louvre Abu Dhabi is assisted by two scientific advisors from the Musee du Louvre: Marianne Cotty from the Department of Near Eastern Antiquities and Carine Juvin from the Department of Islamic Art.
For the first time, the exhibition will feature important archaeological pieces from the UAE, including a pearl found in Umm Al Qaiwain dating from 5500-5300 BCE (loaned by Umm Al Qaiwain Museum); a stone decorated with a wild camel from the late 3rd millennium BCE (loaned by Al Ain Museum), a remarkable 1st millennium BCE pieces from Saruq al Hadid (loaned by Dubai Municipality), as well as objects from Julfar (loaned by the National Museum of Ras al-Khaimah).
These will be displayed alongside significant artefacts from Saudi Arabia, including outstanding funerary Neolithic stela, a 3rd-century BCE bronze statue head (loaned by the Department of Archaeology at King Saud University); a 1st-century BCE gold funerary mask from Eastern Province (loaned by the National Museum in Riyadh), 9th-century engraved steles (loaned by King Fahad National Library); 4th-millennium BCE Anthropomorphic stele (loaned by the National Museum in Riyadh); a door of the Kaaba dating to 1355 (loaned by the National Museum in Riyadh), and a key of the Kaaba (loaned by the Department of Islamic Art at the Musee du Louvre).
Alongside the exhibition opening, Louvre Abu Dhabi will organise a three-day celebration featuring a performance called “On the Roads of Arabia” – a creation from music, dances and poetry by 80 artists from the Arabian Peninsula, Africa, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, India, Indonesia and China with a contemporary, calligraphic street art drawing designed by Tunisian artist Koom. The cultural programme accompanying Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia will also feature film screenings selected by Hind Mezaina, curatorial talks, as well as a range of education workshops and guided tours related to the exhibition.
Entrance to the exhibition is free with the museum ticket. Visitors can tour the exhibition through a multimedia guide that is available in Arabic, English and French.