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National Museum opens 'Oman Hall' at State Hermitage Museum

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ST PETERSBURG: The National Museum inaugurated on Wednesday the 'Oman Gallery' in the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, with the participation of Prof Dr Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director-General of the State Hermitage Museum and member of the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of Oman, Yousef bin Issa al Zadjali, Sultanate's Ambassador to the Russian Federation, and virtual participation of Jamal bin Hassan al Moosawi, Secretary-General of the National Museum.

Speaking on the occasion, the Sultanate's ambassador said: "It gives me great pleasure to attend today the inauguration of Oman Hall, which hosts the exhibition "Oman: The Land of Frankincense", organised by the National Museum of Oman. The exhibition is settled in the corridors of one of the largest and leading museums in the world. It has a wide reputation and fame among museum-goers for its archaeological findings and masterpieces that reflect the cultural and historical human heritage, whether of Russia or various cultures globally - namely, the State Hermitage Museum in the picturesque and beautiful city of Saint Petersburg.

"Oman is widely known for its friendly and respect-based relations with the world. Here, I would like to commend the fruitful cooperation with our friends in the Russian Federation in various political, economic, humanitarian, scientific and educational fields, including our latest collaboration in the field of culture, heritage and museums.

The "Oman Hall" inauguration is the second event organised in the Hermitage Museum during the past three years. The first event titled "Oman's Day", organised on July 23, 2018, and was dedicated to celebrating the blessed Renaissance Day of the Sultanate of Oman.

"It is firm evidence of the close and intense cooperation, which aims, in the first place, to acknowledge the citizens of our two friendly countries with their human, historical and civilisational heritage. As you know, the Sultanate was and still is a country with a unique history and ancient civilisational traditions, a crossroads of many cultures and civilisations, and a centre point for international trade routes from India to the Mediterranean and then to various parts of the world."

The exhibition "Oman - The Land of Frankincense" is hosted in the State Hermitage. Its archaeological exhibits cover a long period of the history of Oman, including the third millennium BC until the first centuries CE. They all are telling us not only about the National Museum of Oman, but about Oman, the country, its civilisation, a great empire, the land of frankincense and fragrance, and about the trade evolution.

The exhibition "Oman; The Land of Frankincense" sheds light on a group of carefully selected archaeological findings. They are bearing an archaeological dimension to Oman through ages, as it was the beating heart of the frankincense trade and a joint point for traders from other lands between Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and Paranoiac Egypt.

The objects displayed in this exhibition also embody that global communication since the Bronze Age (4th century BC) until the first establishment of the Majan civilisation, which was famous for its copper smelting and the building of pitch-coated solid ships (2nd century BC). The artefacts highlight the manifestations of language and culture. Here, I would like to highly appreciate the close relations between the National Museum of Oman and the State Hermitage Museum. Their regular organisation of events, museum activities and exhibitions, whether in Muscat or St Petersburg. Senior officials are participating and frequented by large numbers of visitors and lovers of history and antiquities.

"As we celebrate the inauguration of the extraordinary "Oman Hall" in the State Hermitage Museum building, I would like to express my thanks as an accredited ambassador of the Sultanate to the Russian Federation to the Director of the Museum, Professor Mikhail Petrovsky. and his employees for their effective contribution to the development of Omani-Russian relations. At the same time, I take this good occasion to express my sincere thanks as well to Jamal al Mousawi for his efforts in developing the National Museum and strengthening its relations with leading museums in various countries around the world. I also express my sincere gratitude to the attendees, with my hope that this exhibition will turn into an archaeological and historical forum for all lovers of Oman, its culture, history and authenticity."

The exhibition "Oman; The Land of frankincense" sheds light on a group of carefully selected archaeological findings, bearing an archaeological dimension to Oman through ages, as it was the beating heart of the frankincense trade. It was a joint point for traders from other lands between Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and Paranoiac Egypt. The trade extended through time has played an active role in shaping archaeological findings recently discovered in Oman, which came to Oman either by sea or by land. The objects displayed in this hall embody that global communication since the Bronze Age, the period of the first emergence of the Majan civilisation, which was famous for its ingenuity in copper smelting and building sea-going ships.

This hall takes us on a journey full of the great diversity of life in ancient Oman and depicts a beautiful view of the history of a land that warmly welcomed merchants and travellers. The display is presented in three main sections: Majan civilisation, which focuses on the site of Ras al Jinz, and deals with several significant archaeological findings, such as the seal that dates back to the period (2,300-2,000 BC), which made from the cover of a bowl of steatite, and contains two circular inscriptions with dots, still visible on the back face of the seal, and the flat face has an inscription of two men standing next to a branch erect vertically, these drawings can be translated as a direct depiction of a tribal alliance, and may refer to the sign of "twin" in Sindhi; which are often used in Gulf seals; to denote kinship and lineage.

In addition to a burner (mjamar), that was discovered at the site of Ras al Jinz (South Al Sharqiyah Governorate) during the period (2500-2000 BC). This locally made incense burner indicates the importance of incense in Oman since the Middle Bronze Age. this incense burner still had traces of the last combustion mixture in it when it was discovered. Beside it, another broken incense burner; indicates that incense burners were common possessions in daily life.

The second section is "Oman the Land of Frankincense"; represented in the Wadi Dawka Protectorate, the city of Dhofar (Al Baleed), the city of Samharam (Khor Rori), as well as the archaeological caravan oasis in Al Shisr (the city of Ubar). This section displays a plaque with inscriptions in the Musnad script (Al Himyari). This liturgical bronze panel bears ten lines inscribed with the Musnad script and the inscription symbols in ancient southern Arabic. Also, a bowl made of bronze with inscriptions (of vows) dating back to the third century BCE (Iron Age), with a hemispherical shape and an unfinished edge.

The third section is about: the site of Salut (a stronghold of Arab history), which dates back to the Iron Age. Several archaeological artefacts are displayed in this section. Such as; gutter made of copper mixes in its design between human and animal forms dating back to the late Iron Age (250-100 BC). A ring-shaped refinery with a hand that depicts an animal head made of copper dating back to the late Iron Age (250-100 BC), and a soapstone bowl was dating back to the early Iron Age (800-1200 BC).

In addition to some bows and arrows made of bronze and copper dating back to the period (900-600 BC). In addition to statues of snakes made of bronze dating back to the same period and other distinctive findings.

The establishment of "Oman Corner" is an initiative launched by the National Museum to achieve the museum's objectives according to the Royal Decree No 62/2013, issued on November 20, 2013, which includes: Participating in highlighting the civilisational, historical, cultural and scientific heritage of the Sultanate on Regional and international levels.

The initiative aims to highlight the civilisational dimensions of Oman and manifestations of its unique cultural heritage across ages. Also, it aims at introducing visitors annually to the Sultanate and building a reputation as an outstanding destination for cultural tourism. The initiative represented in signing contracts for the loan of medium-term museum objects - renewable - with several leading and ancient museum institutions in the world, to allocate specialised corners or exhibition halls within the context of the story of the museum's fixed narration in these museums bearing the name "Oman".

Since 2014, Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovsky has been a member of the board of trustees of the museum in Muscat. Days of Oman in the Hermitage and Hermitage Days in Oman, collaboration between restorers and researchers have evolved into joint restoration projects and the long-term exchange of exhibits. The Hermitage has become the first international venue for the Corner of Oman project, under which the exhibition “Oman: The Land of Frankincense” will run for over a year. A reciprocal year-long exhibition devoted to Islam in Russia is going off to Muscat and will be presented in the National Museum of Oman as the first “Corner of the State Hermitage” in the Middle East. Also, an agreement was signed between the two parties to display the manuscript of Ahmed bin Majid in the Maritime History Gallery at the National Museum of Oman. The manuscript is on loan from the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg. The agreement was signed between the two museums in the training and qualification of staff of the National Museum in Russia.

And last year, on December 1st 2020 CE, the "Oman Hall" was the soft opening in the Hermitage and is officially inaugurated today on June 2nd, 2021 AD.

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