Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Roads of Arabia - Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the Louvre from 07-14-2010 to 09-27-2010

I would strongly encourage anyone with a reading knowledge of French to read the previous post, about this exhibit, which was officially opened by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Prince Saud Al-Faisal (acting in place of King Abdullah, who had planned to attend but couldn't) on July 12, and open to the public on July 14.

The exhibit is comprised of 320 pieces, two thirds of which pre-date Islam. They are from various regions of Saudi Arabia, and some benefited from restoration by the team at the Louvre. Most are directly from the National Museum in Riyadh, the Archeological Museum of King Saud University, and regional museums. Most have not been seen by the public either in the West or in Saudi Arabia. The exposition is the culmination of a collaboration begun in 2004 between the Louvre and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.

Here is a glimpse of the exhibit based on the information provided by the Louvre.

Unfortunately. to date an English language version of the excellent exhibition notes is not yet available on line. I have included below a translation of the headings for the historical periods, the pictures associated with each in the French version, and links to the full French text for each section. All text below pertaining to the exhibit is from the Louvre website, and the full credits for it and the images can be viewed there, along with all the photo captions.

Thematic exhibitions
from 07-14-2010 to 09-27-2010

Roads of Arabia - Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Antiquités orientales et Arts de l'Islam

Three hundred works reveal the archaeology and the history of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia from prehistoric times to the dawn of the modern world.

This exhibition offers a journey through the heart of Arabia, orchestrated by photographs of the region's sumptuous landscapes. It takes the form of a series of stopovers in some of the peninsula's extensive oases, which in ancient times were home to powerful states or which, beginning in the 7th century, became Islamic holy places. The three hundred items chosen, most of which have never left their country of origin before, provide an original panorama of the different cultures that succeeded each other within the kingdom of Saudi Arabia from prehistoric times through the dawn of the modern world.

They reveal in particular the little-known past of a dazzling, prosperous Arabic world now being gradually discovered by archaeologists. Moving Neolithic funerary stelae, colossal statues of the kings of Lihyan (6th – 4th century BC), and silver tableware and precious jewelry placed in tombs testify to the dynamism of this civilization. Despite a hostile natural environment, the inhabitants succeeded in taking advantage of their country's geographical situation as a crossing point for the roads linking the shores of the Indian Ocean and the horn of Africa to Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Mediterranean world. Early in the first millennium BC this trans-Arabian trade flourished, bringing prosperity to the caravan cities and permeating the local culture with new fashions and ideas from the great neighboring empires.

The second section of the exhibition highlights the role of Arabia as the cradle of Islam. The roads became crowded with pilgrims as well as traders; a first group of exhibits evokes the pilgrim paths and Al-Rabadha, one of the principal stopping-places. Following this road as far as Mecca, a second group comprises a selection of funerary stelae illustrating the evolution of writing and ornamentation between the 10th and 16th century and providing precious information on Meccan society at the time. Muslim sovereigns vied with each other in their generosity towards holy places, with buildings and such ventures into embellishment as this monumental door from the Ka’ba, the gift of an Ottoman sultan.

This exhibition enjoys the generous support of the Total Foundation and Al Rubaiyat (Saudi Arabia).

Curator(s) : Curators: Béatrice André-Salvini and Françoise Demange, Department of Near Eastern Antiquities, Musée du Louvre; Carine Juvin, Department of Islamic Art, Musée du Louvre; Dr Ali Al Ghabban, Vice President of the SCTA (Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities) for Antiquities


Antiquity-North-East Arabia

North-West Arabia

Incence Caravans

South-West Arabia

The Islamic Period-The Appearance of Islam

Pilgrimage Routes



Holy Sites



Arrival in Makkah

Pilgrims around the door of Kaaba

Gold plated Ottoman door of the Kaaba, since replaced

The key hole of the Prophet's house 

Inscription in the name of Soliman

Bibliography - The Roads of Arabia

National Museum in Riyadh

This exhibit in Paris is the second stage in the cultural collaboration begun in 2004, with the first being the exhibit in Riyadh in 2006 of "Masterpieces of the Islamic Arts Collection of the Louvre". King Abdullah and then President Jacques Chirac opened that exhibit. The Louvre has been the beneficiary of donations from the Saudi royal family for the construction of new exhibition halls for the department of Islamic Arts, notably of 17 million Euros from Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal.

Your impressions?


Susanne said...

Very nice! I enjoyed seeing the photos! Thanks for sharing!

Chiara said...

Susanne-thanks for your comment, and I'm glad you enjoyed this! :)


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