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Saudi prince brings his country's history to 'Burgh

| Friday, June 21, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
'Pittsburgh is the heart of America,' said Prince Sultan Bin Salman Al Saud, President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the first Arab astronaut, during an interview at the Fairmont Hotel, Downtown, Friday, June 21, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
'Pittsburgh is the heart of America,' said Prince Sultan Bin Salman Al Saud, President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the first Arab astronaut, during an interview at the Fairmont Hotel, Downtown, Friday, June 21, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
'Pittsburgh is the heart of America,' said Prince Sultan Bin Salman Al Saud, President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the first Arab astronaut, during an interview at the Fairmont Hotel, Downtown, Friday, June 21, 2013.

Prince Sultan Bin Salman Al Saud sees certain commonalities between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Pittsburgh region. Both have long histories as epicenters of energy. Both have persevered through difficult times to experience better futures.

Now Prince Sultan, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is excited Pittsburghers will be able to learn even more about the rich culture and history of his home country through “Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

“We think of Pittsburgh as a great place to bring a serious exhibit like this,” says Prince Sultan, also the first Arab astronaut. “It's a very important audience for us.”

Prince Sultan hopes the exhibit, showing at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, will help Americans see past any stereotypes or misconceptions they may have about Saudi Arabia.

“People see Saudi Arabia in the light of oil and, of course, camels and deserts. Yes, we have all three. I own camels. I go to the deserts, and oil is building our schools and building our nation,” he says. “But also, we are a nation of history. We believe we cannot be a true player in the world, can't participate in human development without really knowing your history, where you came from.

“Northern Arabia, at a certain point of time, was literally controlling the economy, practically the whole world. So, (Saudi Arabia's role today) as an economic power is really the same role it practically played before.”

Today, more than 20 teams are working in Arabia to rediscover the civilizations that once populated the land.

“ ‘Roads of Arabia' means the roads where caravans traveled and incredible trade came through Arabia,” Prince Sultan says. “The word of Islam even emanated from Arabia in a big way through these trade caravans. I even could liken those caravans as the ‘world wide web' of the age.”

Prince Sultan was part of a team that discovered a 9,000-year-old statue in the shape of a horse. Years of analysis proved it to be the earliest indicator of the domestication of the horse.

Pittsburgh is the second U.S. stop for the exhibit, which first showed in Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian. Prince Sultan, who has visited Pittsburgh for extended periods in the past, is pleased the exhibit is being made available to a city he holds in high regard.

“I've always admired the sense of value in the American people. Coming to Pittsburgh, this is the heart of America,” he says. “People here are very proud of their country, their values.”

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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