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Sat 17 Nov 2012 09:48 AM

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Saudi artefacts go on show in Smithsonian

Roads to Arabia exhibition opens at world's largest museum in Washington DC

Saudi artefacts go on show in Smithsonian
Artifacts from the Roads of Arabia exhibition.

A major exhibition of ancient objects recently excavated in Saudi Arabia will be opened on Saturday at the Smithsonian's Arthur M Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC.

Roads of Arabia: Archeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, organised by the Sackler Gallery and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, includes about 300 objects, ranging from alabaster bowls, gold earrings and bronze statues to early 20th-century photographs of Makkah, Madinah and Riyadh.

Officials said they hope the exhibit will enhance understanding of a nation often viewed simply as the world's largest exporter of oil.

The exhibition will focus on the impact of ancient trade roads that traversed the peninsula and allowed for the exchange of objects and ideas, and it will examine the development of pilgrimage roads that converged on Makkah with the rise of Islam.

One of these major commercial hubs of the time was Qaryat al-Fau, the capital of the Arab Kingdom of Kinda.

Artefacts from the site demonstrate the influence of cultures in their imagery, such as drinking cups made of dark blue glass, popular throughout the Roman Empire.

"This is a new window to see a country that has never been thought of or seen in the arena of heritage, development of civilisation, and culture," said Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, president of the Saudi tourism commission in comments published by Saudi Press Agency.

"We've always been at the crossroads of civilisation, and we are now at the crossroads of international affairs and economic affairs," he added.

The exhibit runs until February 24 at the Smithsonian. It will then travel to museums in Houston, Chicago and Boston through early 2015.

An earlier version of Roads of Arabia was developed last year by the SCTA in collaboration with the Louvre. It was exhibited in Paris, the CaixaForum in Barcelona, the Hermitage in St Petersburg and the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

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