At the Crossroad of Civilisations
For thousands of years, the Middle East, the cradle of civilisation, has been a bridge to the world, from north to south, east to west. The richness and diversity of culture, food, religion, and commodities that we know today once started as a steady trickle across the sands and seas and sky-scraping mountains of the Middle East.
The silk road, history’s longest-functioning trade route; the incense trade route, a network of over two thousand kilometres; the spice trade routes; and the royal road were the sprouting tendrils of our interconnected world and of globalised modernity.
Even today, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, or as Peter Frankopan termed it “The New Silk Roads”, has seen hundreds of billions of dollars invested in bringing the paths of old closer together, highlighting the continued importance of the Middle East in global inclusivity.
While this intercultural exchange brought trade, it also sailed prosperity and ideas to these shores while also sharing theirs with the world. The city of Jeddah, or “the bride of the Red Sea”, was one of the world’s most important port cities. As a result, the city thrived as a multicultural centre that now boasts a wealth of architectural influences and beauty. Religions and belief systems also seeped along these routes. Buddhism, astronomy, Islam, Christianity, and countless other credences, sentiments and faiths were shared via these ancient trails.
But the Middle East is not just a transitory place for travellers to traverse and never look back on. The reasons to stay are countless. Today, the development of museums and the preservation of civilisations in some of the world’s most significant archaeological sites are oases of intrigue.
Whether you want to stand in awe at the feet of the sphinx, ponder Petra’s sheer face, or gaze upon the Great Ziggurat of Ur, the Middle East is home to so many wonders that depict our earliest forms of civilisation that nowhere else in the world can boast.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi, which saw about $ 1.14 billion of investment, is a global cultural landmark. The history embodied within its walls transcends the four cardinal points we use to describe the world. It is a celebration of mankind, of humanity with all its flourishes and peaks, flaws and misgivings. This pioneering cultural project boldly envisions openness and progression within and between cultures across the world simply by holding on to one universal concept: human creativity. It is a notion that cuts across but doesn’t disregard any differences or boundaries that have been built between people over time. What better place for such a museum than at the crossroad of civilisation?
Today, the Middle East still connects the world; the caravans of this day and age, however, don’t tread the same worn paths that have been used by the travellers and nomads of the past. Instead, they glance down at them from 36,000 feet in the sky.
The Middle East is home to a number of world-leading airlines, with Qatar Airways winning the best airline award for multiple years running. Emirates and Turkish Airlines, too, are carrying the Middle East’s legacy across the map, by bringing people from all corners of the world together.
There is a powerful sense of enduring timelessness in the Middle East: a timelessness of spirit, of encounter, of culture, and of the freedom to move with the flows of faith, necessity and time. Though this history is rich with stories of roaming nomadism and trade routes with their passing travellers, there is nothing transient or fleeting about the magic of the Middle East.
First published with La Fugue