Ithra’s Hijrah: In the Footsteps of the Prophet exhibition revisits the birth of Islam from a modern perspective



-       The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture presents a research-based artistic retelling of the Prophet’s journey from Makkah to Madinah

-       Taking a multidisciplinary approach, the exhibition delivers new insights within a modern context

-       Ithra partners with artists, academics and cultural institutions from across the Kingdom, the region and the globe to reintroduce this cornerstone of Islamic heritage




The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is excited to launch Hijrah: In the Footsteps of the Prophet, a research-based artistic retelling of Prophet Mohammad’s  ﷺjourney from Makkah to Madinah. Filling gaps in knowledge on the journey that marked the beginning of the Muslim calendar, the exhibition brings together contemporary and Islamic art and combines it with artefacts, film, performance and more for a first-of-its-kind, immersive and multidisciplinary experience. Hijrah: In the Footsteps of the Prophet is open at Ithra’s iconic building for nine months before traveling around the Kingdom, the region and the world.

Curated by Ithra’s in-house team, in collaboration with some of the world’s leading authorities on the Hijrah, the exhibition traces the physical route of Prophet Mohammad’s ﷺ journey to explore its historical significance and bring the human story of the Hijrah to the fore. It is presented in collaboration with the National Museum of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, the House of Islamic Arts in Jeddah, the King Abdulaziz Complex for Endowment Libraries in Madinah and Turquoise Mountain, a Prince of Wales charity supporting arts and heritage in the Middle East. The exhibition also features collaboration with several scholars and artists who help bring the journey to life through commissioned art pieces, a documentary film and a book narrating the story of the Hijrah.

A range of historical artifacts appear alongside immersive audio-visual technologies, newly commissioned artworks, academic research, a theater performance and a cinematic retelling, all designed to shed enlightening perspectives on the migration of some 400km between two cities in eight days that had an immeasurable impact on the social, political and economic landscape of the Arab Peninsula and which led to the birth of a community that today includes more than 1.5 billion people. The overriding significance the Hijrah can be defined as the transition from the practice of Islam as an act of worship to a way of life and this exhibition presents that journey for modern audiences.

“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,” said Abdullah Al Rashid, Director of Ithra. “Hijrah: In the Footsteps of the Prophet looks at the history and the legacy of the event from different perspectives, including science, physical geography, material culture, theology, art and cultural memory. 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.”

Dr. Al Kadi, scholar and exhibition curator, added: “My own life has been determined by my quest to 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 of 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. The relevance of this story is just as strong today; it serves to demonstrate and remind us of the reasons why people choose to move from one place to another and asserts the right to practice your beliefs.”

Hijrah: In the Footsteps of the Prophet is Ithra’s first traveling exhibition, set to be exhibited across Saudi Arabia then globally during its five-year run, sharing new perspectives and findings on the story of the Prophet’s journey from Makkah to Madinah. It is developed in collaboration with partners from key regional and international organizations who have lent pieces, many of which have never been publicly displayed before, to augment key commissioned items for the exhibit.


Contributors include:

  • Dr. Abdullah Al Kadi, author of Makkah to Medina:  A Photographic Journey of the Hijrah Route and Milestones of Arabia. Professor Al Kadi has been praised internationally for his groundbreaking research on the various travel routes used by the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and his Companions
  • Nasser Al Salem, internationally renowned Saudi artist whose work champions the versatility and adaptability of traditional Islamic calligraphy through its presentation in new contexts and media. His work features in major international collections including at the British Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Ithra’s permanent collection.
  • Zahrah Al Ghamdi, leading Saudi artist who has exhibited at the Venice Biennale and the British Museum. Her large-scale works use natural materials such as earth, clay, rocks, leather and water to resist the confines of the gallery space and explore ephemeral structures set within vast landscapes.
  • Peter Sanders, a British photographer with more than 55 years’ experience capturing the Arab world on film through images that reflect its rich traditions, warmth, humanity and compassion.
  • Maryam Omar, a British-Afghan artist and designer and Head of Design at the Turquoise Mountain Institute of Afghan Arts & Architecture in Kabul. She works alongside carpet weaving communities in Afghanistan, and applies the Hijrah as a guiding principle in her artistic practice.
  • Hamza Yusuf, President of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, the first accredited Muslim liberal arts college in the United States, and Co-president of the Religions for Peace coalition.
  • Dr. Thalia Kennedy, Creative Director of Turquoise Mountain and advisor to The Royal Institute for Traditional Arts in Riyadh, focused on the preservation of traditional heritage and practice.


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