His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, head of the Al Turath Foundation, lectured at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies at Oxford University, UK, on “The dimensions of heritage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” in the auditorium of the center.
In his lecture, Prince Sultan pointed out that the historical emergence of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not a mishap; rather, its current political and economical status is tangible evidence to its ancient civilization and cultural heritage. HRH referred to the Kingdom’s special attention to heritage and developing it culturally and economically to add a new dimension to what the world already knows about the Kingdom’s religious, political, and economic dimensions.
He indicated that the Kingdom is currently experiencing a large and bold transformational phase, adding that these developments are lead by a brave and visionary King, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, who is charting new directions for the Kingdom and building on the great accomplishments of his predecessors with full support of HRH Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who has great initiatives in the field of national heritage.
HRH added that: “Although we are identified with the Islamic tradition and its values, we must consider that Islam did not arrive into a vacuum; rather, it was founded over existing layers of civilization and flourished in a culturally-versatile society. The nature of society at the time was fluid and mobile, with the Makkah pilgrimage and Okaz market providing a focal point in western Arabia of an expansive network of communications and transportation, facilitating the rapid spread of Islam, much like the effect of the Internet today.”
Referring to long-term and close relations with the Center of Islamic Studies, HRH said: “I am pleased to be here with you this afternoon. I am honored to have the opportunity to address this venerable forum at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, which enjoys the patronage of many notables, among them the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah. I am also humbled by the roster of luminaries who have preceded me at this podium.”
HRH added: “The recently-completed gallery named after HRH Crown Prince Sultan of Saudi Arabia in the Ashmolean Museum is further testimony to the strong ties between our two cultures. All this reflects a shared desire to promote the understanding of Islam’s culture and heritage.”
HRH, in his speech, referred to the most significant archeological sites in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia such as Al Showaihitia at the north, as well as many other sites across the Kingdom dating back to prehistory ages such as the ancient city of Tayma (1200 BCE). Its great defensive walls were built over many centuries as a result of the gradual development of the Tayma oasis into a center of trade. Indeed, so important was Tayma, that for a period in the 6th century BCE it served as the capital of the Babylonian Empire during the reign of King Nabonidus (7th century BCE). And in the midst of the Nafud dunes of northern Saudi Arabia, is the extraordinary landscape around Jubbah (7000–BCE to the present) with its many rock engravings, unique in the country. “We are, in fact, contemplating submitting the Jubbah antiquities to UNESCO for consideration as a World Heritage site,” added HRH.
“Another remarkable archaeological discovery in Saudi Arabia is the Qaryat al-Fau (300 BCE–400 CE), excavated over many years by archaeologists from King Saud University. To scholars of Arabian archaeology, al-Fau was an entirely fortuitous discovery and caused a major re-assessment of Arabian antiquities in the pre-Islamic centuries during the age of the kingdom of Kindah,” said HRH.
Regarding international efforts of SCTA to introduce the heritage of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, HRH said, “On the international level, we have begun to showcase our antiquities and culture in a series of national and international exhibitions, of which the first is the Saudi Archaeology Exhibition at the Louvre in mid-July 2010, which will eventually tour other museums around the world.”