‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition reveals the cultural impact of terrorism

Visitors on a virtual reality tour through the exhibition that highlights heritage sites that have been destroyed or are under threat. (Photo by Saad Al-Dosary)
Updated 03 May 2019

‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition reveals the cultural impact of terrorism

  • The immersive exhibition has evoked strong emotions

RIYADH: “Age-Old Cities,” an exhibition that opened in Riyadh last month, uses virtual reality to allow visitors to access four significant heritage sites in the Arab world that were once vibrant and beautiful, but are now destroyed —  or seriously threatened: Mosul in Iraq; Aleppo and Palmyra in Syria; and Leptis Magna in Libya.

The immersive exhibition — organized by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Institut de Monde Arabe in Paris, where the exhibition was first displayed — uses VR technology, giant-screen projections, archival documents and images, and video testimonials to take visitors on a journey from the cities’ origins through to their modern-day state, in order to raise awareness about the need to preserve cultural treasures. 

"The importance of the exhibition comes from the fact that it reveals the horrors of terrorism and illustrates its devastating effects on man, civilization and history, through a virtual trip to Arab cultural sites destroyed by terrorists such as: Aleppo, Palmyra, Mosul, Ninewa and Leptis Magna,” said Abdul-Kareem Al-Humaid, spokesman for the Ministry of Culture.

“This message, which rejects terrorism in all its forms, fully reflects the position of Saudi Arabia, which rejects extremism and fights terrorism and terrorists everywhere,” he said.

The spokesman said the Ministry of Culture organized the exhibition under the guidance of the minister of Culture, Prince Badr is on the basis of faith in the humanitarian message presented by the exhibition which meets with the Ministry's interest in cultural and archeological sites and its keenness to take care and protect them from any threat. “The ministry’s organization of an international exhibition such as this comes in the context of its keenness to promote international cultural dialogue and open communication with the world.”

The spokesman added: “The importance of the exhibition was portrayed through the vast number of audiences that came from different backgrounds, from diplomats to visitors from different countries which will result in the Saudi Arabia’s stand against terrorism correctly and effectively.”


One of the volunteers at the exhibition told Arab News that some visitors had been visibly shaken when they left. The volunteer described it as an “emotional roller-coaster” for two visitors from Mosul and Aleppo in particular, who had left with tears in their eyes after seeing the “before and after” of their respective cities, both of which are currently reduced, for the most part, to rubble.

Prince Turki Al-Faisal saluted the Ministry of Culture, which is led by Prince Badr Al-Saud, for organizing such an exhibition. 

He pointed out that documenting the devastation caused by terrorism makes a great contribution to raising awareness of the value of cultural heritage. 

“Without this awareness and sensing the importance of this intangible heritage, we cannot preserve it and protect it from the hands of saboteurs and extremists,” he said.

“As much as I am pleased with this visit, I am saddened by the images I have seen in this exhibition — especially as it highlights the ancient archaeological cities listed in the UNESCO list of human heritage such as Aleppo and Palmyra in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq,” he continued.

He said the exhibition “managed to take us on a virtual journey and a unique realistic simulation to see, live, these cities that were subjected to destruction, desecration and theft. The exhibition succeeded in defining the magnitude of the great and terrible loss suffered by humanity for this neglect and destruction.”

“Age-Old Cities” runs at the National Museum in Riyadh until May 18. During Ramadan, the exhibition will be open daily from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Attacks on oil facilities in Kingdom threaten world economy: Saudi energy minister

Updated 15 September 2019

Attacks on oil facilities in Kingdom threaten world economy: Saudi energy minister

  • Saudi Aramco says no staff have been injured in attacks
  • The oil giant is working on restoring the lost quantities

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said drones that attacked Saudi Aramco installations had caused an interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels in crude supplies and threaten the world economy.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said as a result of the terrorist acts, oil production in Abqaiq and Khurais was knocked out temporarily and that estimates show that 50 percent of the company’s production had been interrupted.

Part of the decrease will be compensated to clients through reserves, Prince Abdulaziz said in a statement carried on the Saudi Press Agency.

The newly appointed minister confirmed there were no injuries to staff at the locations targeted, adding that the company is still assessing the resulting damage.

The attacks not only target the Kingdom’s vital installations, but also target the international oil supply and threaten its security, he said, and are a threat to the world economy. 

The blasts took place at 3:31am and 3:42am at the two locations, both in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, causing fires that were brought under control by emergency services.

The drone attacks, at the world’s largest oil processing plant at Abqaiq and at an oilfield in Khurais, highlight the importance of the international community to protect energy supply against “all terrorist sides that carry out, support and finance such cowardly disruptive acts,” the statement said.

He said that these blasts also knocked out the production of 2bn cubic feet of associated gas daily, used to produce 700,000 barrels of natural gas liquids, which will lead to an approximate 50 percent decrease of Ethane and natural gas liquids supply.

The statement said the company is currently working on restoring the lost quantities, and will present updated information within the next 48 hours.

World leaders condemned the attacks on Saudi Arabia on Saturday and those behind the terrorist acts. 

Donald Trump called Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to reassert his country's “readiness to cooperate with the Kingdom, by all means conducive to maintain its security and stability.”

The Crown Prince "underscored the Kingdom’s willingness and strength to thwart such a terrorist aggression and deal with its consequences,” SPA reported on Saturday.

The UAE said it “condemns this act of terrorism and sabotage and considers it as a new evidence of the terrorist groups’ attempts to undermine the security and stability of the region as a whole.”

“The Houthis must stop undermining Saudi Arabia’s security by threatening civilian areas and commercial infrastructure,” said the British government.

“The US strongly condemns today’s drone attacks. These attacks against critical infrastructure endanger civilians, are unacceptable, and sooner or later will result in innocent lives being lost,” said the US envoy in Riyadh John Abizaid.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was emphatic about the need to condemn Iranian aggression, specifically on Saudi Arabia, and the need to ensure the security of world energy supplies.

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy. Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen,” he tweeted, “We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks. The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression”

The Houthis, who are backed by Iran, said they had carried out the attacks and that 10 drones had been used.