Discover what it was really like for the Prophet (pbuh) to flee on his life-changing, eight-day 400 km journey from Makkah to Medina via a unique exhibition that has opened in Saudi Arabia.
What’s more, it is even accessible to anyone around the world via a stunning 360° web link, allowing you to explore it from the comfort of your own home.
Hijrah: In the Footsteps of the Prophet (pbuh) is an immersive exhibition that traces the Prophet’s journey every step of the way. It’s awe-inspiring, informative, and extremely atmospheric. Floor-to-ceiling images bring the landscape to life, allowing you to feel just what it was like travelling through hot deserts, across rock-strewn mountainsides, dark chasms, and tunnels before finally entering the lush, verdant surroundings of Medina.
See the desert encampments that gave shelter at night, along with the stunning carpets, furniture, and scriptures relating to this journey.
Many of these historic artefacts have never been seen before in this type of exhibition environment, having been loaned by a variety of international organisations. Other items have been specially commissioned for the exhibition and hand-made as bespoke pieces by master artisans through the support of Turquoise Mountain. Such items include carpets by Maryam Omar, a British Afghan Artist, and designer who is Head of Design at the Turquoise Mountain Institute of Afghan Arts & Architecture who works alongside carpet-weaving communities in Afghanistan applying the Hijrah as a guiding principle within artistic practice.
Among the organisations supporting the new exhibition are the National Museum of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh and the House of Islamic Arts in Jeddah. Another prominent organisation is Turquoise Mountain, which is supported by King Charles III. While Prince of Wales, he was responsible for setting up Turquoise Mountain as a way of supporting arts & heritage in the Middle East and has retained the patronage of the organisation now that he is king.
One of the biggest advantages of this exhibition is how it gives access to anyone with a computer. The 360° interactive virtual exploration of the exhibition can be accessed at https://www.ithra.com/hijra-vr. It takes you through the entire exhibition at your own pace, allowing you to explore the different sections and find out more about various artefacts. Some can be studied in very close detail, allowing you to see the exquisite decoration close up. It is very atmospheric even on screen, passing through the hot desert, through the meandering watercourse of Dhu Al Asawayh, and climbing up Mount Thawr through a bleak rocky landscape. Passing through the cave-like rocky tunnel is like passing from death to life, as light streams through the exit and Medina awaits.
Hijrah: In the Footsteps of the Prophet is already drawing considerable acclaim for its spectacular presentation as well as the wealth of historical information it provides.
Dr Al Kadi, exhibition curator says “My own life has been determined by my quest of study and experience not only the exact route the Prophet and his companions took across the desert, but also the wider story, life and legacy to this journey. It has been a journey that has occupied me for some 40 years and, with this exhibition, we are presenting new research, methodologies and findings based on extensive fieldwork that will redefine perspectives on this historic migration.”
Abudullah Al Rashid, Director of Ithra agrees. “As one of the most detailed studies ever of the history and topography of the Hijrah, this exhibition exemplifies Ithra’s wider mission to tell the world’s defining stories through art, heritage, culture, and research. “This exhibition looks at the history and legacy of the event from different perspectives, including science, physical geography, material culture, theology, art, and cultural memory.”
Al Rashid continues, “This exhibition represents significant advances in academic research around the history of Islam while its focus on the human story surrounding the journey and our shared human values will also promote greater understanding, empathy, and tolerance.”
Ultimately, it is hoped that the exhibition will make people think and consider the relevance of this journey for the modern world as Dr. Al Kadi points out. “The relevance of this story is just as strong today: it serves to demonstrate and remind us of the reasons why people chose to move from one place to another and asserts the right to practice your beliefs.”
Hijrah: In the Footsteps of the Prophet (pbuh) is located at Ithra’s Great Hall for much of 2023, before moving to the National Museum in Riyadh. Over the next three years, it will be on show in museums across Saudi Arabia before transferring to various global venues, as yet unnamed.
By Angela Youngman