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‘Art of Orientation’ offers visitors an immersive experience using sight and sound
DHAHRAN: ‘Shatr Almasjid’, or ‘Art of Guidance’ exhibition brings together largest collection of Islamic art masterpieces ever exhibited in Kingdom through global and national partnerships unprecedented.
Its goal is to help Muslims deepen their appreciation of their religion and to encourage non-Muslims to broaden their understanding of Islam.
Self-proclaimed as “one of the most important Islamic art exhibitions presented in Saudi Arabia”, the exhibition, which opened in February 2021, is presented at Gallery 3 in Ithra.
Using virtual reality headsets, visitors can view the holy sites without ever leaving their seats.
At the entrance to the exhibition, there is a wall with a dozen black headphones and Samsung smartphones that have pre-uploaded short audio descriptions in Arabic and English, in addition to a captioning function. .
Visitors who prefer a more traditional approach can also browse the exhibition and read the descriptions directly on the screens without using an additional device.
The exhibition, themed “Aesthetics, Evolution and Function,” promises to help visitors explore the historical evolution and function of mosques, their interiors, exteriors, and the artifacts in between.
Supported by international academic and artistic collaborations, “The Art of Orientation” is the result of a one-of-a-kind partnership with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities and a diverse range of Islamic art experts.
It includes 84 priceless objects on loan from the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo and historically significant pieces from the two holy mosques of Mecca and Medina from the National Museum in Riyadh. The artifacts are on display alongside 34 rarities from Ithra’s growing collection of Islamic art.
The immersive exhibit also features detailed replicas of several important mosques from Indonesia, China, Mali, Syria, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Egypt, and the original Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. It also offers insight into the cultural, social, religious and artistic history of mosques.
The dimly lit space of Gallery 3 provides a reflective ambiance where visitors can stand or sit and soak up the experience through screens, sights and sounds. It feels like an intimate sacred experience in itself.
“Art of Orientation” examines how mosques served not only as places of worship, but also as bustling community centers with diverse functions and people. A mosque has always been a gathering place, refuge and sanctuary for many, as well as a visual focal point. This is an exhibition that combines all of these elements in one place; to visit it is to see the mosque from all angles and at all levels.
Other exhibits include a minbar, mihrab niches, calligraphic works, prayer rugs, mosque lamps and Quranic manuscripts.
Always innovative and using the latest technology, Ithra created five virtual mosque tours for the exhibition, including the two holy mosques of Mecca and Medina. Those wearing the VR headset will feel like they are walking through the middle of the mosque.
The exhibition runs until 2022 and tickets, which cost SR35 ($9), can be booked directly on Ithra’s website or purchased onsite just before entering the space.