Building on the outstanding public response at the recently held exhibition in institut du monde in Paris, The Majlis – Cultures in Dialogue, a traveling cross-cultural exhibition that features a collection of a unique assembly of global artefacts reflecting the interaction of civilizations in the past while encouraging dialogue in the present – continues its tour by landing at the Weltmuseum in Vienna on September 17th, 2019

The Majlis — Cultures in Dialogue offers a platform for discussions about relevant cultural issues, fostering the creation of original perspectives through collective thinking.
It aims to initiate meaningful connections between people and cultures by stimulating an enriched dialogue.
At the heart of the exhibition, both physically and conceptually, is the Majlis, the space of hospitality and dialogue present in every home in the Arabian Peninsula. For hundreds of years, families have used the Majlis to welcome and entertain guests, to interact with foreign travellers, to educate their children and to make big and small decisions relating to their communities.

Visitors to The Majlis — Cultures in Dialogue are invited to use the central Majlis in the same way.
You can play a board game, listen to records, greet other guests, learn about their cultures, share your own, or start a dialogue about the exhibition. The Majlis — Cultures in Dialogue is only the beginning of a much broader project to connect people, beliefs and cultures by creating opportunities for respectful, yet incisive dialogue to take place.

Collection’s highlights

12 masterpieces from the exhibition

Begging bowl (kashkūl)


This begging bowl (kashkūl) was used by Muslim mystics for collecting alms. Its function is reflected in the inscriptions (Quranic verses and blessings) that decorate it and in the scene depicting a man giving a contribution to a Sufi holding a kashkūl similar to this one. Kashkūls were typically used by traveling dervishes. This example has been carved from half of the shell of a coco de mer palm nut (coconut of the sea palm). There are also kashkūls made of various materials such as bronze (FBQ. 384 and 385). Kashkūls are held or hung from the shoulder by a rope or a metal chain fixed to the bowl by two loops, and can also be used as drinking vessels with spouts.

Carpet depicting Jesus and Mary


This carpet depicts the Virgin Mary (Maryam al-'azrā') and Jesus Christ ('Isā/Issa) outside the city of Bethlehem where, according to the gospels of Saints Luke and Matthew, Jesus was born. The palm tree depicted close to them represents, according to the Quran, the tree which God (Allāh) advised Mary to shake and then to eat from its freshly ripened dates. In the background, there are dwellings of Bethlehem and overhead the angels who announced the birth of Jesus, as described in Luke. The entire scene is headed by the name of Mary in Russian, while the Arabic text in the carpet’s frame refers to her and Jesus. The other figures depicted are most likely people associated with the event. **Connections:** Virgin Mary - Jesus Christ - Bethlehem - Quran - Bible

Carpet depicting famous people from various realms of the world


Carpets made in Kerman, Iran, have long been considered among the finest in Persia. This extraordinary piece, from the early 19th Century, celebrates the 51 greatest eminences of their ages, without regard to religion, ethnicity, culture or geography. The carpet is headed by an inscription in the top frame, “Stay Alive the Great Eminences of the Universe”. The pediment of the pillared building below, in the style of classical Greece, reads: “You are the greatest living beings of the world”. The figures and faces shown in the carpet’s central panel include the prophets Moses, Solomon, and Jesus, as well as historical names from Arabia including “‘Umar” (associated with the term khulafāʾ, most likely the right-guided caliphs who ruled after the Prophet Muhammad) and other figures from the East, such as Genghis Khan and Confucius. They are pictured side by side with Western eminences including Romulus (the founder of Rome), Socrates, Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Christopher Columbus, Napoleon, Frederick II of Prussia, and even the first American president, George Washington.

Multi-faith carpet displaying Hindu gods


Shiva, the third member of the Hindu Trinity, is the god of destruction, with power over life and death. Depicted here without the usual crescent on his head or third eye, his hair is considered the source of the River Ganges in India. The god’s damru and trident are shown on the right, while a kashkūl appears to his left. The angel-like figures above might represent Christianity, as there is no concept of angels in Hinduism. Vishnu is also depicted, preserving the universe with his wife Lakshmi (the Goddess of Wealth) while lying on Sheshanaga (the Universal Ocean). A peacock, a symbol of patience and luck associated with Lakshmi, stands above Vishnu. Under Shiva is Brahma, born from a lotus flower that is believed to have grown from Vishnu's navel. Vishnu is crowned with a seven-headed snake, an image of meditative awareness. Vishnu's avatar Krishna appears as a child in the top left section, and as flute player in the center. **Connections:** Hindu Trinity – peacock – cow – Shiva – Krishna – Vishnu – Lakshmi - Brahma **Credit:** Multi-faith carpet displaying Hindu Gods. Wool. Kerman, Iran, 19th/20th century. FBQ.354.

Fatima hand with eagles and lizards, probably of Jewish origin


This palm-shaped amulet represents the so-called “Khamsa-Hand of Fatima.” It consists of two pieces: the big hand typically fixed at a house’s front door, and the small hand for knocking on the door. The Fatima hand appears in different cultures and different faiths, particularly the Middle East and North Africa. The Arabic number Khamsa (five) refers to the five fingers of the hand, believed by some, predominantly Jews, Christians and Muslims, to provide defense against the evil eye. This style of khamsa-Fatima hand was made in Tangier, probably for a Jewish community as it differs from other Khamsa-Fatima hands of Muslim cultures with the depiction of animals and birds (lizards and eagles). The scene depicted most likely symbolizes how the farsighted eagle responds to evil, in the form of lizards. **Connections:** Morocco – Judaism – Fatima Hand **Credit:** Fatima hand with eagles and lizards, probably of Jewish origin. Silver. Tangiers, Morocco; 19th century. FBQ.58.

Porcelain rosewater bottle


Porcelain bottles such as this one were typically used to contain rosewater. The long neck and handles of the upper part are decorated with tiny gilded floral motifs of Moresque style. Historically rosewater has been used for religious purposes throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia, especially in rituals, religious celebrations or weddings. It is used by followers of Islam, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism. The essence of distilled rose petals, rosewater is also often used as a flavoring for food, and as a component in some cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. **Connections:** UK - Porcelain - Middle East -Hindu **Credit:** Porcelain rosewater bottle. Stone paste ceramic. United Kingdom, 19th Century. FBQ.366.

Carpet with world map surrounded by scenes from three stories


This Kashan carpet shows a world map surrounded by scenes from two of the most dramatic pre-Islamic romantic tales: Shirin and Khosrow (in Persia) and Layla and Majnūn (in Arabia). The third story on the carpet depicts the Prophet Joseph and the wife of the Pharaoh, al-‘Azīz (In the Quran) or Potiphar (in the Bible). **Connections:** Geography – Quran – Persian poetry **Credit:** Carpet with world map surrounded by scenes from three stories. Wool. Kashan, Persia, 19th century. FBQ.369.

Two Quran volumes


Two volumes of the thirty ajza’ (partitions) of a Quran made in China. The calligraphy script is Timurid Naskhī, demonstrating the skill of Chinese artisans at imitating Arabic calligraphy and gold design. **Connections:** Mecca – China – Egypt **Credit:** Two Quran volumes. Rice paper. China, 17th-18th century. FBQ.381.1-2.

Glazed and painted ceramic plate


A delicate garden romance occupies the center of this piece, with wistful male and female figures flanking a small tree surrounded by decorative hearts. The plate is made of natural clay glazed with glass white slip to imitate Chinese white porcelain, introduced to the Middle Eastern region during the Abbasid period. The background of the scene has floral leaves executed in cobalt blue and copper turquoise. **Connections:** China - Abbasid period - romance scene - Middle East **Credit:** Glazed and painted ceramic plate. Persia, 11th Century. FBQ.405.

Carpet with portraits of Kaiser Wilhelm II and family


A delightful formal portrait on a Persian carpet of Kaiser Wilhelm II and his family. These personalities are set amidst dense floral designs and figures who may be Shahs or other royal administrators. **Connections:** Germany – Persia – floral motifs **Credit:** Carpet with portraits of Kaiser Wilhelm II and family. Wool. Ravar, Persia, early 20th Century. FBQ.408.

Bedouin saddle cover with stylized horse pattern


Saddle covers for the backs of horses or camels were used for the protection and comfort of the rider. This fabric cover was most likely intended for a horse saddle, as it is decorated with a stylized horse pattern. Such a pattern illustrates the prohibition against the use of naturalistic images of living beings—one of the main features of the Islamic and Jewish artistic traditions. In certain periods, Christian iconoclasts also practiced a kind of prohibition against the making of images. This precious object resembles the traditional saddle covers used by Bedouins for their horses. The earliest known saddle equipment, fringed cloths or pads, were made in ancient Egypt and Assyria. **Connections:** Bedouins - Judaism - Christianity - Islam **Credit:** Bedouin saddle cover with stylized horse pattern. Wool, Shiraz, Persia, 18th century. FBQ.415.

Wooden crate with soft drink bottles, used by outdoor vendors


Wooden crate containing 24 small bottles of different soft drink brands, including Pepsi and Coca Cola. **Connections:** Coca Cola – globalization – East-West integration **Credit:** Wooden crate with soft drink bottles, used by outdoor vendors. Wood and glass. Qatar, date unknown. FBQ.420.

Vienna, Austria

17 September
/ 07 January 2020

Opening hours

Daily except Wednesday
10 am to 6 pm

The Weltmuseum Wien is an ethnographic museum and houses some of the most important collections of non-European cultures.

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Under the patronage of:
Alexander Van der Bellen, President of the Republic of Austria, and His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani,
Emir of the State of Qatar

Platinum Sponsor:
Qatar Shell Companies

Weltmuseum Wien
1010 Vienna, Austria

+43 1 534 30-5052