For years, “Mesopotamia”, “Assyria”, “Sumer” and “Babylon” have existed as mere words in UAE history textbooks and encyclopedias. Students are familiar with the black and white images of gold cups and minimized photos of clay tablets depicting stories of Kings. But not for long. The images have been brought to life for an exhibition ‘Splendors of Mesopotamia’ at Manarat Al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi by the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) in association with the British Museum.
|Carved magnesite statue of Ashurnasirpal II on reddish dolomite stand. From Nimrud, Ishtar Sharrat-nihi temple, 883-859 BCE. © The Trustees of the British Museum.|
The British Museum has a huge collection of artefacts originating from the world’s ancient civilisations. The museum also possesses few Egyptian shrouds (burial cloth) which are inscribed with text from the infamous ‘Book of the Dead’. The same book of ancient Egyptian spells had become a hot topic after Stephen Sommers’ ‘The Mummy’ was screened around the world (Remember Brendon Frasier rescuing Rachel Weisz from a mummy?)
|The East India House Inscription, stone tablet with inscription of Nebuchadnezzar. From Babylon, 604-562 BCE. © The Trustees of the British Museum.|
Exhibits at ‘Splendors of Mesopotamia’ have been borrowed from the British Museum’s Middle East collection and the Al Ain National Museum. TDIC (Tourism Development and Investment Company) are involved with developing major Abu Dhabi tourist projects like the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museum. The exhibition is only a glimpse of the Zayed National Museum, founded in memory of the late President of UAE Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918–2004). Intended to showcase UAE history and the nation’s contribution to the world, the museum is scheduled to open doors in 2014 and is expected to provide an ideal learning experience for expats and students who know so little about UAE.
The four thousand year old civilization ‘Mesopotamia’ (meaning “between two rivers”) was born at the strip of land between the Tigris and Euphrates River (modern day Iraq, Syria and Turkey) Being situated near the rivers proved advantageous for its trade, exchange of knowledge and communication via clay tablets.
|Spouted gold cup, hammered sheet. From Ur, Royal Cemetery, Grave 800, 2600 BCE. © The Trustees of the British Museum.|
‘Splendors of Mesopotamia’ is open to all visitors until June 27 and also features seminars and workshops. Some workshops are specifically designed for teens to build their own version of the Mesopotamian reliefs (projected images on clay tablets) and metallic engravings for handmade bowls and cups. The workshops will be led by specialist art practitioners but require prior registration.
For registration and booking, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call +971 2 657 5900.
Report by Ayesha Akbar Ali