Never So Near

by Danilo Brunetti

Discover the cultural and archeological heritage of Saudi Arabia in a new international exhibit. Tiffany Parks shares her review.

Explore one of the most fascinating and little-known corners of the world at a new exhibit at the Baths of Diocletian, a seat of the National Roman Museum. Roads of Arabia: The Treasures of Saudi Arabia is an international traveling exhibit that has toured 14 museums across Asia, Europe, and North America so far, introducing the rich culture of the Arabian Peninsula to more than five million people in the process. Now visitors in Rome can discover first-hand historical and archeological treasures that have been hidden away in inaccessible collections until now.

The exhibit showcases archaeological masterpieces and iconic works of art spanning centuries of Arab history. The works on display tell the story of the development of the Arabian Peninsula over the millennia and explore how their unique cultural elements represent a fusion of tradition and modernity. Incredibly, the exhibit covers over a million years of history, from prehistory all the way to the formation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, illustrating the depth and breadth of Arab civilization. More than 450 rare artifacts are on display, brought to light thanks to important archaeological excavations across the peninsula.

The exhibit is divided into seven fascinating categories, from an informative introductory section that provides useful context for the rest of the show, a prehistoric section that displays archaic artifacts such as stone tools up to a million years old, “Dilmun, Tarout, and Gerrha,” showcasing pottery from the third and fourth millennia BC, “Tayma, Al-‘Ula, and Qaryat al Faw,” with its intricately carved and painted pottery of the first and second millennia BC, “Makkah and Pilgrimage,” featuring inscribed Islamic tombstones from the 9th and 10th centuries AD, and “Formation of the Kingdom,” displaying artifacts from the last hundred years.

On all month.