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Strained soft power relations as Saudis rediscover their history

A major exhibition, Alula, Merveille d’Arabie, running until 19 January at the Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA) in Paris, provides a richly illustrated history of over 7,000 years of human habitation in north-western Arabia. It also serves as an expression of the positive impact of reforms in Saudi Arabia – which include an opening for Saudis to rethink their history and culture, and particuarly the legacy of their rich pre-Islamic civilisations. The IMA exhibition focuses on the Dadan, Lihyan and Nabataean kingdoms, who for around ten centuries ruled Al-Ula oasis and its trade routes.

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