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Preserving culture through art.

A stunning coffee table book tracing the history of the ancient Dilmun civilisation as seen through the eyes of more than 20 international artists and photographers has been unveiled.

The renowned Rowaq Al-Balqa Foundation for Arts, Jordan, in partnership with Swiss-Belhotel Seef Bahrain, has launched a limited edition publication entitled Dilmun: Love & Peace.

The one-of-a-kind 300 pages volume focuses on the ancient Dilmun civilisation and goes back to 3,000BC to shed light on the life of its people, its geographical expansion and its arts and legends.

As a key player in Bahrain's tourism industry, the owners and management of the award-winning Swiss-Belhotel Seef wanted to celebrate the heritage of its home island and share the responsibility of conveying its history and values to visitors and residents.

"We believe that protecting and understanding culture and heritage is important to our community and, therefore, it is important to us", said Herve Peyre, the hotel's French general manager.

"This is why we happily took part in the Dilmun: Love & Peace project. Cultural heritage can provide a sense of unity and belonging within a local community, and it is the message that we want to communicate.

"I have been in Bahrain for four years now and a genuine passion for this country has grown inside me. That is why, when I first heard about the project, I felt like it was my responsibility to carry it along and make sure the wonderful past of Bahrain was shared with as many people as possible.

"Having worked in many different countries, I have never been welcomed with so much warmth and kindness as I have been here in Bahrain and I feel proud to be able to call this island 'my home'. Moreover, I have always believed that understanding and protecting culture and heritage provides a sense of unity and belonging with a local community.

"As Swiss-Belhotel Seef is a key player in the hospitality industry of Bahrain, it is our mission to promote the rich culture of our homeland. There are many ways to be relevant in a place but after a few years here, I came to realise that mixing art and history is the best way to connect with the people of Bahrain.

"Much more than simply promoting the history of this beautiful country, this project is about people coming together despite their differences to share their perspectives, just like all the international artists involved in the book did.

"Bahrain, as the centre of the Dilmun civilisation, has been for the past 3,000 years, a land open to all cultures, nationalities and religions. Through this project, we want to convey a message of tolerance, peace, freedom and love."

A VIP ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch the book took place at the hotel last Thursday morning at its Seef Ballroom which was transformed into an art gallery displaying some of the art and photography featured in Dilmun: Love & Peace.

The Minister of Cabinet Affairs Mohammed Bin Ibrahim Al Mutawa, Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa and Dr Abdulaziz Ali Suwaileh attended the event alongside the hotel's owners Essa and Fawaz Bokhowa, Khaldoon Daoud, the Jordanian painter, designer and filmmaker who helped orchestrate the project, as well as long-time Bahrain resident and international photographer Manfred Erber, a German expat, whose work is featured in it.

Khaldoon, a colourful character, has brought in art and artists from the south and the north, from the west and the east to enjoy art and spread its message of unity.

He believes art is a 'simple way to reflect the human quest for inner peace, creating dialogue platforms and bringing people closer together'. True to his word he has developed partnerships with many organisations in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Bahrain and many European countries 'for people to enjoy art and rediscover themselves'.

"This was a particularly inspiring project to be involved in," he said.

Dilmun, one of most important ancient civilisations of the region and believed to date to the third millennium BC, was a hub on a major trading route between Mesopotamia - the world's oldest civilisation - and the Indus Valley in South Asia.It is also believed that its people had commercial ties with ancient sites at Elam in Oman, Alba in Syria and Haittan in Turkey.

An archaeological site in Saar today shows a settlement divided into two: a residential zone and, at a small distance, a cemetery where the inhabitants buried their dead. On the northern tip of the island, archaeological expeditions have uncovered seven successive levels of settlements too. Around the country's oldest fort, three consecutive Dilmun cities as well as a Greek city dating back to 200BC have been unearthed.

The Rowaq Al-Balqa Foundation for Arts Khaldoon established in 1991 is considered as a cultural forum allowing Arab and international artists to exchange knowledge, culture and vision. It has specialised in producing art books in addition to film-making related to the art world and the environment.

Resulting from the collaboration of more than 20 Bahraini, Jordanian and international artists, Dilmun: Love & Peace has gathered dozens of paintings and photographs to illustrate the lifestyle of the ancient civilisation. Translated into five languages - Arabic, English, French, German and Italian - the old myths and legends conveyed highlight themes of existence and immortality.

Artists featured in the book include Saad Yagan, Abbas Al Moussawi, Hammoud Shantout, Kamal Al Zu'bi, Sharif, Shadi Daoud, Rima Al Mazin, Fadi Daoud, Jackie Taylor, Haitham Abdul Hafeez, Rashed Diab, Jamal Rahimhani Dallah, Tayseer Barakat, Safwan Dahoul, Manfred Erber, Loay Daoud, Rima Al Juburi, Assel Quzmar, Khaled Shati and Khaldoon.

The hotel, part of the expanding Swiss-Belhotel International which manages a portfolio of more than 145 hotels and resorts, also opened its doors to schools and community associations to enjoy the display of artwork from the book and later hosted an event on Sunday for VIPS, ambassadors, government officials and corporate clients, including Shaikh Khaled bin Humood Al Khalifa, CEO of Bahrain Tourism & Exhibitions Authority.

Described by one book-lover as 'a true collector's piece', 'Dilmun: Love & Peace' is available priced BD60 at Swiss-Belhotel Seef Bahrain.

Gulf Weekly has one book exclusively signed by Khaldoon and Manfred to give away to a lucky reader in a prize contest. Simply answer this question. Where in Bahrain is the Swiss-Belhotel located? Send your entry to . The first correct one opened on Sunday at noon will win the prize. Normal GulfWeekly competition rules apply. The editor's decision is final.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Dec 3, 2017
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