“Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of Saudi Arabia,” the Kingdom’s acclaimed exhibition of remarkable artifacts testifying to its central role in civilization for thousands of years, rolled into Houston —hometown of Aramco Services Company (ASC)
— in mid-December, following stops in Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh.
ASC honored Prince Sultan ibn Salman Al Saud, chairman of the board of directors and president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) at a dinner on Dec. 17, the day before he formally opened the exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH)
Prince Sultan called Saudi Aramco, cosponsor with ExxonMobil of the exhibition’s five-city U.S. tour, “an excellent partner throughout the history of this endeavor.” He termed the show’s launch in Houston “a very special occasion.”
ASC president Nabeel Amudi welcomed the prince and 150 guests, including Houston Mayor Annise Parker and business, academic and community partners. He also welcomed as “special guests” nine former employees or former employees’ family members who recently returned artifacts to the Kingdom through Saudi Aramco’s “Antiquities Homecoming Project.”
Amudi called the prince “a strong advocate for Saudi Arabia’s culture and history” and said his “drive and vision had made ‘Roads of Arabia’ a reality.”
Abdulrahman F. Al-Wuhaib, Saudi Aramco senior vice president of Downstream, introduced Prince Sultan at the dinner, saying, “Saudi Aramco is proud to be part of the launch and sponsorship” of the exhibition.
Al-Wuhaib noted the “marvels of ingenuity” discovered along ancient trade routes by Saudi archeologists, and by Saudi and expatriate explorers, that are featured in “Roads of Arabia.” “We can be grateful that vital trade between Arabia and far-away places on the planet continues to this day,” he said.
He lauded Prince Sultan’s vision and the SCTA’s work to uncover, study and display the Kingdom’s archeological heritage. “I know that everyone who visits the exhibition will come away enriched with new learning about both the diversity and unity of human civilization,” he said.
“Roads of Arabia” originally opened at the Louvre in Paris in 2010. Featuring about 270 artifacts, some dating as far back as 1.2 million years, it runs until March 9 in Houston. Items on display include delicately chopped arrowheads and scrapers, elegant alabaster bowls and fragile glassware, heavy gold earrings and monumental statues, testifying to a lively exchange among civilizations.
Prince Sultan said the exhibition unveils “a new dimension” of Saudi Arabia. The artifacts showcased in “Roads of Arabia” show the Kingdom “as one of the most important countries in terms of civilizations and history,” rather than empty desert, he explained.
“This exhibition shows that Saudi Arabia stands on the shoulders of great cultures,” he told an audience of more than 100 who gathered for a gala opening at HMFA on Dec. 18.
Nina Myer, one of the individuals with company connections who were honored for returning antiquities to the kingdom through Saudi Aramco’s “Antiquities Homecoming Project,” called the exhibition an “eye-opener.” She said it presented a “new Arabia,” one that played “such an important part in ancient civilizations.”
Myer, who attended with her brother, Robert, had donated dozens of pottery shards, coins, glass bracelet pieces and beads that her mother, Hope McBride, collected near Jubail in the 1960s. Her father was Jackson McBride, and the family lived in Dhahran from 1955-68.
Since 2011, more than 26,000 antiquities discovered by expatriates — the vast majority by former company employees from the United States — have been returned to the Kingdom through the Antiquities Homecoming Project.