Over the past decade, the world has watched as China has expanded its economic presence in the Gulf region, becoming the biggest trading partner and external investor for many Middle Eastern countries.
Yet what many forget is that China’s relationship with the Arab world dates back to antiquity — to the time of the Silk Road and the birth of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula.
Thanks to Arab explorers, such as the 14th-century adventurer Ibn Battuta, and the expansion of trade activities in Europe, business and cultural exchange flourished between China and the Arab world.
What many analysts refer to as China’s “new Silk Road” is, in essence, a return to this shared past, one that is explored through the exhibition “Dragon and Phoenix: Centuries of Exchange between Chinese and Islamic Worlds,” on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi until Feb. 12, 2022. 
The show includes over 200 masterpieces from the Louvre Abu Dhabi in partnership with the Guimet Museum in Paris and showcases the cultural and artistic exchange between the two civilizations for more than 800 years up till the 18th century. 
The exhibition pays tribute to the Dragon, representing China, and the Phoenix, referring to the Islamic world, with artifacts dating back to the establishment of the first Arab merchant colonies in the trading city of Canton in the 8th century.