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Archeological treasures from Saudi Arabia displayed at Russia’s Hermitage Museum

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Some 347 items representing the art and culture of civilizations on the Arabian Peninsula from Paleolithic times to the early 20th century—when the contemporary Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was formed—are on display at Russia’s fabled Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

“This exhibition has an important message to give: that Saudi Arabia’s history is not new,” Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), said. “It is a great opportunity to strengthen bilateral cultural relations. Saudi Arabia’s rich heritage has surprised the world, and the exhibition reflects the growing global interest in the Kingdom’s cultural dimension.”

The exhibition, titled “Arabian Routes: Saudi Archeological Masterpieces Through the Ages,” earlier visited Paris and Barcelona. Tens of thousands of people went to the show.

The exhibition noted that more than 10 languages were spoken in the Arabian Peninsula in ancient times. Constant movement along the trade routes encouraged contacts between different Arabian tribes, and their cultures and social customs gradually led to mixture of languages and writing, artistic traditions.

Such exchanges also paved the way for the rapid extension of Islam, which originated in the early 7th century in the northwest of Arabia in Hejaz. Trade routes turned into ones for pilgrims, connecting the most important cities of the Muslim world with Mecca and Medina.

The exhibition features items from various museums of Saudi Arabia, including ceramics, coins and jewelry, funeral steles, colossal statues of emperors, dishware from silver and precious jewelry, reflecting many thousands of years of Arabian history from the Paleolithic Age up to the 20th century. The exhibition is organized into seven sections: the first five sections present exhibits of pre-Islamic time, the last two are dedicated to Islam and the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina as well as to establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

(Ikram Al Yacoub, a writer at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: Ikram.yacoub@mbc.net)