Islamic artifacts from the Vatican on show in Sharjah

Islamic artifacts from the Vatican on show in Sharjah

Three-month exhibition of centuries-old collections tells the fascinating stories about the ordinary people’s lives, beliefs and cultural traditions in various countries.

By Lily B. Libo-on

Published: Fri 21 Mar 2014, 12:46 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:41 PM

Centuries-old collections of the Vatican Ethnological Museum have found their way to the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation for a three-month exhibition to highlight and celebrate the diverse cultures and traditional Muslim societies from North Africa to China and beyond.

Artifacts on display at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation on Wednesday. — KT photos by M. Sajjad

The unique exhibition opened on Wednesday, in the presence of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.

Exhibited outside the walls of the Vatican for the first time, the extensive Islamic collections tell the fascinating stories about the ordinary people’s lives, beliefs and cultural traditions in countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia in the Southeast Asia to as far as China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Oman, Syria, Palestine (and Occupied Jerusalem), Egypt, Turkey, Libya, Sudan, Nigeria, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Morocco and Algeria.

Embroidered boots from Senegal at the exhibition.

Dr Ulrike Al-Khamisi, Middle Eastern and Islamic Arts Collections adviser, said the exhibition is a message of tolerance in a celebration of inter-cultural and inter-faith commitment.

Dubbed ‘So That You Might Know Each Other’, the exhibition is the result of a unique and unprecedented collaboration between the Vatican Ethnological Museum and the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation.

Manal Ataya, Director-General of the Sharjah Museums Department (SMD), said the exhibition is expected to increase cultural understanding and knowledge, expansion of inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue and a greater understanding of the diversity of traditional Muslim cultures around the world. “This is one of the series of exhibitions SMD organises to celebrate Sharjah as the Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014.”

On display are a total of 20 collections from Africa and 20 more from the Asian continent. The continent, from Suez Canal to the Pacific, is home to the largest Muslim population in the Arabian Peninsula, across Palestine and Syria into Iraq, Iran and other parts of Asia. In Africa, the arrival of Islam in the seventh century AD enabled the religion to play a key role in its history.

Costumes, textiles, jewellery, riding equipment, weapons, musical instruments and items of daily life and cultural practice are on show.

Among the exhibits from the Asian continent are the amazing centuries-old Moro war armour (Kurab-a-Kulang Marano) and helmet from Jolo Island in Mindanao in the Philippines used by indigenous Muslim population; Moro ornamental bracelets and buttons, an ornamental intricate from Western Palawan in Southern Philippines; swords and a scabbard from Minangkabau Muslims in West Sumatra, Indonesia; a lady’s festive gown (Malak) from Bethlehem/Jerusalem and Palestine areas; a single reed double pipe (Mijwiz) from Lebanon; an overcoat (Meshla) from Syria; a dagger and a scabbard from the Golan Heights, Syria; a metal thread-embroidered textile from Istanbul, Turkey; a set of jewellery bequeathed in 1936 from Commander Alessandro Salvadori, a high-ranking official of the Italian colonial official; a Badri shield with a Farsi poem from Iran; a pair of toe-knob sandals (paduka) from Punjab, Northern India; vases and jars with Islamic inscriptions from China’s Qing Dynasty.

The precious collections from Africa include a powder flask and dagger (Koummya) from Morocco; a saddle cloth with harness from Tunisia; an ablution flask from Tunisia; amulet necklaces from Ivory Coast; embroidered trousers with ankle bands (wando mai kamun k’afa) from Nigeria; a decorative carving inspired by traditional Zansibari doors from Tanzania, and necklaces from Libya.

More news from