Posted by on November 05, 2012 in Blog

By Vieshnavi Rattehalli

2012 Fall Intern

Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia comes to the Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC this winter, opening November 17th. With over 300 artifacts excavated over the last 40 years from the Arabian Peninsula, the exhibition spans from the 4th millennium BCE to the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Tracing ancient trade routes and caravan trails on the Spice and Incense Roads to pilgrimages to Mecca, the exhibit covers modern day Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and other Mediterranean cultures. Docents will lead tours on weekdays at 2 pm, no tickets required.

Roads of Arabia is set up in three parts, examining the impact of trade routes carrying frankincense and myrrh to Mesopotamia and the Greco-Roman world, the impact of Islam and the outward expansion of the Muslim world and simultaneous convergence of the “Roads” toward Mecca, and the creation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932. The exhibit’s artifacts provide a glimpse into the pre-Islamic history of the region and the impact of the development and spread of Islam in a time period for which very little literary record exists.

Roads of Arabia’s artifacts include photographs, travel books, and maps alongside stone steles, monumental statues of humans, gold masks, and bronze statuettes of Roman gods. Contrasting art from the pre-Islamic era, anthropomorphic sculpture, to the literary works produced following the revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet Mohammed provides a glimpse into the impact of Islam. The arrival and spread of Islam changed the focus on the “Roads” of most importance from the outwardly expanding trade routes to the roads leading inward to Mecca.

The Sackler Gallery exhibition will be the first display of Roads of Arabia in the US. The works were first made available to the public in 2012 when the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities collaborated with the Musee de Louvre in Paris. Other European venues for this exhibit include the CaixaForum in Barcelona, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The exhibition would not have been possible without the sponsorship from ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, The Olayan Group, Fluor Boeing, Alturki, SABIC, and Saudi Arabian Airlines.

The exhibition runs from November 17, 2012 through February 24, 2013, during which time the Sackler gallery will hold related events to enhance the experience. On opening day, there will be a Symposium entitled “Crossroads of Culture” at which international experts will present the latest archaeological findings, talk about preservation techniques, and the background and history of the artifacts on display as part of the exhibit. Alongside the symposium is a cultural Family Day event in which participants can try their hand at calligraphy, learn about the incense trade routes, and listen to stories and music from Arabia. The ImaginAsia calligraphy workshop and frankincense and myrrh workshop events are scheduled to take place several times during the exhibition’s run. Finally, there are two classical music performances: Karima Skalli on vocals and Simon Shaheen’s Near East ensemble. All events are free, but the music performances require tickets. Program details for all events are available here.

Further information and directions to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery can be found here.

comments powered by Disqus