Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), stressed the importance of “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Marvelous Masterpieces Exhibition’ as a window on Saudi culture and heritage to the outside world while formally opening the expo in Washington D.C. on Thursday.
The exhibition was organized by the SCTA in collaboration with Sackler and Fryer Museum, an affiliate of Smithsonian Foundation for Museums and Research.
“People know only about Saudi Arabia’s religious, political and economic dimensions that make noticeable marks on the outside world, but the cultural dimension of the Kingdom has been confined to the realm of experts, scientists and researchers,” the prince said.
The series of Saudi antiquities exhibition was first launched under the aegis of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah at the Louvre Museum in Paris in 2010 with the aim of highlighting the splendid cultural features of the Kingdom to the outside world.
"During the past stops in France, Spain, Russian and Germany, the exhibition attracted more than 1.5 million visitors,” the prince added.
Chairman of the Board of Directors of King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel Al-Jubeir, Secretary-General of the Smithsonian Foundation for Museums and Research G. Wayne Cliff, Director of Sackler and Fryer Museum Julian Rabie, a number of princes and Saudi and US dignitaries apart from a number of Islamic and Arab diplomats were present at the opening ceremony.
The exhibition includes some 320 masterpieces illustrating the history of the Arabian Peninsula from the Stone Age to the modern times.
In his welcome speech, Cliff expressed his pleasure at the Saudi authorities selecting the museum to launch the first leg of the exhibition’s US tour.
“The exhibition would provide a rare opportunity to the US public to enjoy various aspects of the Kingdom’s history and civilization, which were not known to them except to a few antiquities experts and scientists,” Cliff said. Rabie also spoke on the occasion stressing the importance of the event.
During the opening event, the hosts and guests exchanged memorial gifts as a mark of the official opening. The exhibition will receive visitors from Saturday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The guests toured the exhibition and listened to interpretations and explanations from the museum guides.
Cultural and arts activities will also be staged on the sidelines of the exhibition.
The last show of the exhibition, organized early this year, was hosted by Berlin’s Pergamon Museum.
“This exhibition shows the cultural and civilized dimension of Saudi Arabia, which is saying to the world today that it is indeed a country that embraces many civilizations. It also shows that the role that the Kingdom and its leadership are playing today is in fact a historical genuine role that was crowned in the past by Islam, which by the way, did not eradicate these civilizations,” a German visitor commented after viewing the exhibition.
The exhibition’s two-year world tour has been undertaken after receiving approval of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.
It was hosted in Paris by the Louvre Museum, La Caixa Forum Museum in Barcelona, Spain and Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
“The exhibition showcases 300 archaeological findings including some excavated 10 years ago reflecting the civilization that existed in the Arabian Peninsula,” Rabie, who is also former professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at the Oxford University, said while addressing a press conference attended by more than 70 US media persons on Wednesday.
Ali Al-Ghabban, deputy chairman of the SCTA, took the journalists around explaining to the history of each showcased piece. Some of the artifacts are more than a million years old while some others are of the modern of Saudi awakening, he said.