‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition in Riyadh museum breathes new life into ancient sites 

Prince Badr bin Abdullah Al-Saud
Updated 21 April 2019

‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition in Riyadh museum breathes new life into ancient sites 

  • National Museum in Riyadh hosts digital show that tells the story of Mosul, Palmyra, Aleppo and Leptis Magna

JEDDAH: An exhibition that uses digital technology to revive the region’s ancient sites and civilizations that have been destroyed or are under threat due to conflict and terrorism opened at the National Museum in Riyadh on April 18.

“Age-Old Cities” tells the story of four historically significant cities that have been devastated by violence: Mosul in Iraq, Palmyra and Aleppo in Syria, and Leptis Magna in Libya. 

Using stunning giant-screen projections, virtual reality, archival documents and images, and video testimonials from inhabitants of the affected sites, the immersive exhibition transports visitors back in time and presents the cities as they were in their prime. 

It charts their journey from the origins of their ancient civilizations to their modern-day state, and presents plans for their restoration and repair. 

The exhibition has been organized by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. Riyadh is the first stop outside the French capital on the exhibition’s global tour. 

The exhibition follows last month’s unveiling of the Kingdom’s new cultural vision, which included the announcement of several initiatives, including a new residency scheme for international artists to practice in the Kingdom and the establishment of the Red Sea International Film Festival. 

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, minister of culture, said: “I am delighted to welcome the ‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition to Riyadh. 

“It highlights the importance of heritage preservation, particularly here in the Middle East, and the vulnerability of some of our historic sites. 

“It must be the responsibility of governments to put an end to this damage and neglect, and to put heritage at the heart of action, investment, and policy.

“I will be encouraging my fellow members of government to attend this eye-opening exhibition in our National Museum, and hope to work in the future with partners, governments and experts to do what we can to secure our region’s heritage.”

The exhibition carries a significant message about the importance of preserving and protecting these precious but fragile sites — one which resonates strongly in the week when one of the world’s most-famous heritage sites, Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral, went up in flames.


Saudi desert art expo puts AlUla’s natural, cultural gems under global spotlight

Over the past year AlUla has been welcoming artists to the desert site, and their art creations are aimed at providing visitors with works that reflect the rich culture of the area. (SPA photos)
Updated 13 February 2020

Saudi desert art expo puts AlUla’s natural, cultural gems under global spotlight

  • The exhibition has taken its cue from the extraordinary landscape of the ancient site

RIYADH: A Saudi desert exhibition inspired by AlUla’s natural and historic surroundings has been taking the art world by storm.
Desert X AlUla, the first site-responsive contemporary art display of its kind in the Kingdom, has brought together an international collaboration of artists for a cross-cultural exploration of desert culture.
The expo, which runs until March 7, has taken its cue from the extraordinary landscape and historical significance of the ancient site.
Some of the artists taking part in the project have been involved in the creation of Desert X installations in California, and their experience has helped produce stunning artworks based on AlUla’s ancient civilizations, natural beauty, sands and rock formations.
The expo, which has been held in cooperation between the Royal Commission for AlUla and Desert X, is part of the Kingdom’s push to promote Saudi art and culture on the international stage.

The exhibition represents AlUla’s cultural spirit as we continue to preserve and promote its natural and historical marvels.

Amr Al-Madani, CEO of Royal Commission for AlUla

Over the past year AlUla has been welcoming artists to the desert site, and their art creations are aimed at providing visitors with works that reflect the rich culture of the area, where caravans once traveled the old incense road.
AlUla was built by successive civilizations over thousands of years and was a place for cultural exchange due to its location at the confluence of three continents, serving as a link between the East and the West. Desert X AlUla has been designed to bring that cultural heritage back to life.
Amr Al-Madani, the CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla, said: “Desert X AlUla has become a new element of AlUla’s heritage through the use of art’s transformative power. Through it, we can promote the link between different points of view and find new fruitful cultural exchange opportunities to enhance friendliness and understanding among people.
“The exhibition represents AlUla’s cultural spirit as we continue to preserve and promote its natural and historical marvels. Culture and heritage are of big importance and we are proud to have a royal commission that supports creativity and unleashes new forms of interaction between society and the world.”
The commission is working to revitalize, protect and preserve the region through a fundamental and sustainable transformation with the participation of the local population.
American artist Lita Albuquerque has taken part in Desert X AlUla with an installation called “Al-Najma” (Star), which recalls the cosmic myth of an astronaut that landed on Earth to spread light and knowledge as a symbol of the return of life and the birth of astronomy.

FASTFACTS

• The expo, which has been held in cooperation between the Royal Commission for AlUla and Desert X, is part of the Kingdom’s push to promote Saudi art and culture on the international stage.

• The exhibition will continue until March 7.

• Some of the artists taking part in the project have been involved in the creation of Desert X installations in California.

Rashed Al-Shashai, an artist from Saudi Arabia, has created an artwork titled “Concise Passage” that tells the story of the commercial caravans that have passed through the region down the ages.
Using 40 steel rings, Lebanese artist Ryan Tabet’s work focuses on the pipelines of the Arabian Pipeline and Services Co. which connect the Arabian Peninsula.
Riyadh-based Muhannad Shono’s “The Lost Path” display represents the Kingdom’s youth as the source of new energy flowing through the country along a decomposed pipeline semi-submerged under moving sand.
Saudi visual and land artist Zahrah Al-Ghamdi has produced “Glimpse from the Past,” a feature that highlights a sparkling flash from thousands of date boxes, once the agricultural treasure of AlUla.
Sarab’s art piece throws the spotlight on the fertility and generosity of AlUla’s oasis toward traders crossing the arid landscape, while Manal Al-Sawayan’s work features artificial lakes where objects and images fade into the natural landscape.