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Islamic Arts Magazine | Arabic Version

Exhibition opening at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque on 20 September includes a rare selection from fifteen local and international institutions and personal collections
Hajj_Memories of a Journey
Abu Dhabi, September 12th 2017: The Hajj: Memories of a Journey exhibition celebrates the rich legacy of the spiritual journey of Hajj to the Sacred House of God in Mecca, through the display of more than 182 artefacts on loan from a range of institutions, as well as donations of personal Hajj memorabilia. Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, the exhibition is organised by the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre (SZGMC), on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi). It will open to the public from 20 September 2017 and run until 19 March 2018.

At the press conference held today at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center, HE Yousif Al Obaidli, Director General of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center, said: Hajj: Memories of a Journey exhibition aligns with our leadership’s vision and efforts towards establishing a society of peace, tolerance, and acceptance of all cultures and religions.”

“The opening of this exhibition marks yet another milestone in a remarkable series of successful cultural and social initiatives presented by the centre. We are committed to maintaining valuable principles and acting as a beacon for Islamic civilization; in so doing we sustain a platform for cultural dialogue amongst all peoples, regardless of their differences.

“Today, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is holding the most prominent cultural event in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Carrying the name of the founder of the nation, the Mosque occupies a very special place within the Emirati community, and carries on with the diligent efforts of its namesake that were not merely limited to the structural development of the country, but extended to nurturing minds and further instilling the upheld values and principles of Islam in the UAE.

“Hajj: Memories of a Journey’s unique narrative focuses on Sheikh Zayed’s own Hajj journey, highlighting the religious and humanitarian visions in the life of an extraordinary leader, who led his life as he saw the life of the nation, true to the values of Islam.”

“This exhibition is a truly distinctive chance to promote the universal concepts of Islam that center around tolerance, cultural dialogue and openness amongst different generations and visitors to the country. Through narrating the story of Hajj with a wide range of artefacts and objects, we are introducing the historic legacy of the UAE, and the spiritual aesthetics of Islam. It is by organising such significant cultural events, that we convey the Center’s vision, one inspired by Sheikh Zayed’s undying ideals”, HE Al Obaidli concluded.

HE Saif Saeed Ghobash, Director General of TCA Abu Dhabi, added: "The launch of an exhibition of this calibre, exploring the history and legacy of the journey that pilgrims undertake to the sacred land of Mecca, underpins TCA Abu Dhabi’s commitment to preserving, promoting and sharing the emirate’s rich cultural past and historic heritage. Hajj: Memories of A Journey documents the development of the Islamic civilisation over the years and the unique narrative of Hajj in particular, bringing to life the profound significance of the holy practices, while also reinforcing the evident attributes of tolerance, equality and the vast diversity to be found in Islam. It also represents the same principles that reinforce the culture of openness of the UAE that the late Sheikh Zayed adapted, calling for tolerance, acceptance and establishing coexistence amongst more than 200 nations. The exhibition provides tangible evidence of the diversity of the Islamic faith, while reinforcing solidarity and a wider cultural dialogue.

"Each of the exhibition sections showcase the universal values that characterise Islam and the ones associated with Hajj, reminding us of the diversity of cultures, traditions and customs of Muslims from around the globe. The exhibition’s programme of educational workshops, talks and film screenings will allow the public to further explore this unique narrative, and will provide them with an opportunity to experience the journey of Hajj in a captivating surrounding,” he continued.

HE Ghobash praised the fruitful institutional cooperation that was carried out at a high level to gather together the exhibition collection and the formation of the curatorial narrative. Fifteen local and international institutions, as well as a selection of private collections and personal possessions, contributed to the selection of manuscripts, archival photographs, artefacts and personal souvenirs. This includes contributions and collaboration by Abu Dhabi Media Center, Zayed Center, Dubai Municipality, Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation, Umm Al Quwain Archaeology and Heritage Department, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, Dar Al Athar Al-Islamiyya in Kuwait, Benaki Museum in Greece, Khalili Family Trust, and Farjam Foundation. Private collections were loaned by the HH Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif Al Nahyan, HE Mohammed Al Murr, and the Nour Ali Rashed Archive.

Through its six sections, the exhibition traces the historical narrative and chronological timeline of the innovations made to facilitate Hajj practices throughout the ages, including the advent of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula, through a documented presentation of the archaeological sites associated with pre-Islamic practices, in The Coming of Islam section, as well as the development of mosques in the UAE.

The second section of the exhibition, titled Islam: Belief, Book and Practice, explores the Islamic faith, the Holy Qur’an and the Islamic rituals, tracing the evolution of copying and codifying the Holy Qur’an with the development of Arabic calligraphy. It presents a rare collection of Qur'anic pages, including a blue-painted leather print with gold, silver and other coloured ink from 900 CE. This also includes a collection of documents related to the pilgrimage, such as the Ottoman “Dala’il al-Khayrat”, a sketch of Mecca and Medina in the famous prayer manuscript of Abu Abdullah Muhammad al-Jazuli (died 1465).

The third section, titled Journeys, is dedicated to a historic account of the evolution of the Hajj routes, recounting the physical journey that pilgrims undertook across the Arabian Peninsula and the world – especially at the time of the pilgrimage of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, in 1979. The section also displays historic photographs documenting the arduous and challenging routes of the pilgrimage, while at the same time recording the evolution of the routes and means of transport such as rail and ships.

The fourth section is devoted to the presentation of documents and collections related to Mecca. The Mecca the Blessed section reconstructs historical aspects of the ancient city through photographs and drawings, and through the traditions and rituals of the pilgrims. This includes a documentary of a Mahmal convoy in Cairo in 1938 before it headed to Mecca, as well as niches that covered the Kaaba during different periods of time, a replica of the key to the Kaaba from the late twentieth century, and other important artefacts.

In a segment dedicated to Medina, the Medina the Illuminated section showcases some of the gifts presented to the Prophet's Mosque throughout different eras, texts in the praise of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), original models of the noble ornaments, as well as historical photographs of the city that monitor its architectural development.

Finally, the “Souvenirs” section, houses a collection of souvenirs and keepsakes collected during personal Hajj journeys, or were gifted by family and friends upon their arrival from Mecca, such as postcards, jewellery and postage stamps.

In addition, the exhibition presents a collection of contemporary artworks influenced by Hajj, including two specially commissioned works. The first is by the Emirati artist Mohammad Kazem, titled "Makaan” (The Place), showcasing photographs of the Kaaba and its surrounding buildings and natural features. The second, titled Hajj Post Office), by Nassir Nasrallah, is an interactive work featuring a selection of postcards to send to pilgrims. The third work, titled "Apex" by Salwa Al Khudairi and Nadi Al Mulla, embodies the gradual and solid approach adopted by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan to balance the development with the preservation of the authentic cultural values in the UAE.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a number of public programmes, educational workshops and talks inspired by the exhibition’s concept and message. A dedicated publication will also be produced for the exhibition and will include specifically commissioned essays by renowned scholars.

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