Sheikha Hussa Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah, Director General of Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah on a cultural visit to the State of Qatar, accompanied by a group of employees and volunteers.
The group visited the Qatar National Museum, the National Library, and the Museum of Islamic Art. The trip was organized to promote cultural understanding and cooperation in the future.
Aljoun, with a castle built by Saladin’s nephew, and Kerak, a Crusader fort; Um Qais, one of the Roman “Decapolis” and Amman, a modern city with a rich past; the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth and Petra, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World; Mount Nebo, burial place of Moses, and Bethany, where John baptized Jesus; there’s a lot to discover in Jordan. For a week, a group of Friends of the DAI traveled the country doing just that.
The ancient Arab root for Yemen is ymn, or prosperity. It has also been known as Arabia Felix, Fortunate Arabia by Roman travelers, who were struck by the contrast between Yemen and the surrounding deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. Later, John Milton referred to Yemen as “bless’d Araby.” This country is, in part, peacefully green, lushly mountainous, rugged, vastly sandy, yet at every turn staggeringly beautiful.
Friends of the DAI got to see the staggering beauty for themselves on a very special trip to Yemen. Traveling from south to north, then over to the coast gave the travelers a chance to view the full spectrum of Yemen’s geography and culture. It also allowed them to interact with a good cross-section of the Yemeni population, from the academics who shared a cultural evening with us to the ultimate honey dealer to the old men chewing khat in Old Sana’a.
Best of all, the travelers got to know the children – the ones who wanted their picture taken; the ones that ‘volunteered’ to help them get around the souks; the ones who appreciated a simple pencil and the ones eager to practice their English. Thanks to the children, the participants got to see Arabia Gauisus – Happy Arabia.
Few places have the romantic (and yes, historic) allure of Agra. Built by Shah Jehan as a memorial for his beloved wife Mumtaz,
the Taj Mahal (one of several architectural treasures in Agra) is the most splendid of all buildings and perhaps the most perfect architectural monument in the world. But it is not the only noteworthy creations in the area, the Agra Fort, palaces, pavilions and gardens are almost as spectacular. So it’s no surprise that the itinerary centers on Agra.
Rajput architecture and the stimulating sights and sounds of the old market areas in Delhi and Jaipur were the perfect lagniappe to transform a special journey into an exceptional one.
Inspired by the international exhibition organised by the Kingdom of SaudiArabia entitled ‘Roads of Arabia’ and the lecture given by Dr Maha Sinan on the arts in Arabia from earliest times to the present at the Maidan theatre last October, the hidden wonders of Arabia were the theme of the latest journey taken by a group of DAI friends for a week from 18-24 January. Our adventure started in the holy city of Medina the Radiant (al madina al munawwara) for an overnight stop before continuing the next day to explore the historic sites of Arabia. Part of the group embarked on a nocturnal visit to the Prophet’s Noble Sanctuary (al haram al nabawi al sharif) and had a quick tour of the city of Medina passing by the Ottoman Hijaz Railway Station and the pilgrims mosque facing it.
The Hijaz Railway was laid out by the Ottomans to reduce the journey time and ensure the safety of pilgrims travelling from Damascus to Mecca. It reduced travelling time from over two months to three days, but the railway was not completed to Mecca obliging pilgrims to travel from Medina with the caravans. The next day we set off for Al Ula, 350 kms north of Medina. Our route followed the ancient incense trail that crossed Arabia from Ma’in and the Hadhramaut valley in the south through the kingdoms of Madain Saleh and Petra to the Mediterranean sea and on to all parts of the ancient world. The caravans transported spices from India; gold from Nubia; lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and the most valuable commodities of the time, myrrh, frankincense and aromatic resins from the kingdom of Saba. The treasure