This week, Louvre Abu Dhabi launched a landmark exhibition centred on the holy books of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Bringing together some of the oldest and rarest texts of the three religions, it also features artworks, including paintings, trinkets and a light-based installation by Saudi contemporary artist Muhannad Shono.
With more than 240 artworks on display, Letters of Light examines the historical conditions in which the holy books materialised, and how their production techniques changed over centuries, reflecting the technological and artistic sensibilities of their time.
The exhibition also highlights the interplay of designs, showing they were not created in a vacuum, but were the product of shared influence and inspiration. It is curated by Laurent Hericher, head of the oriental manuscripts department at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, along with Souraya Noujaim, director of the Islamic arts department at the Musee du Louvre in Paris.
“Our exhibition is not an exhibition about religion,” Hericher says. “It’s an exhibition about books. It’s really a way of going to the origin of the book.”
Years in the making, the exhibition comes months after the opening of the Abrahamic Family House, an interfaith complex near Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island.
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE COMMITTEE
The 45th extended session of the Unesco World Heritage Committee began a “historic first” event in Saudi Arabia. On the opening day in Riyadh on Monday, several representatives congratulated the kingdom, while also expressing sympathy for the people of Morocco following the earthquake that has killed about 3,000 people and damaged several heritage sites, such as Kharboush Mosque.
However, some good news came the next day when the committee decided to remove the Tombs of the Buganda Kings in Kasubi, Uganda from its World Heritage in Danger List, following restoration work.
Starting on Saturday, the committee will begin evaluating 50 sites that have been nominated for the World Heritage List. We’ve compiled a guide to all eight entries from the Middle East and North Africa that are under consideration, including Saudi Arabia’s Uruq Bani Ma’arid, Palestine’s Ancient Jericho, Tunisia's island of Djerba and several others in Turkey and Iran.
Coinciding with the Unesco World Heritage Committee, this week was also marked by the inaugural AlUla World Archaeology Summit, which runs until tomorrow. More than 60 speakers from various backgrounds are discussing how to promote archaeology on a global level, paving the way for new finds and innovations in the field. When it comes to archaeology, AlUla is best known for the Nabataean tombs at Hegra – but these are just the tip of the iceberg. As the summit continues, we take a look at a recent pair of excavations, which have uncovered fascinating findings dating much further back.
The work is centred on 1,600 prehistoric stone structures spread across northern Arabia known as mustatils. These are large, open-air rectangular structures with low stone walls. They indicate the region’s Neolithic inhabitants were conducting “complex and sophisticated ritual practices” more than 7,000 years ago.
One of the sites, known as the Horn Chamber, was filled with “an exceptional discovery” of horns and skull fragments, packed densely together in a layer rising 30cm from the floor. The other featured a standing stone, around which offerings were scattered – most probably as a way of procuring continued rain and fertility.