Syria: A Living History at the Aga Khan Museum

Friday, November 04, 2016

On October 15, 2016 The Aga Khan Museum opened it’s exciting new exhibition, Syria: A Living History.  The exhibition will highlight art that depicts over 5,000 years of diverse cultures within Syria – Mesopotamian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Persian, Ottoman, and Arab – that have made contributions to world heritage

Many of the works of art are being exhibited together for the first time thanks to the joint partnership with the Aga Khan and 7 other major public and private institutions including the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin; the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin; the Louvre, Paris; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Atassi Foundation, Dubai; and the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection, Toronto.

The collaboration of institutions from around the world will provide a wealth of insight into the country’s unique and dynamic past and gives hope for the future. The exhibition will feature glass, stone, ceramic, and metal artifacts, as well as contemporary art such as paintings and sculptures from the 19th century and beyond, which showcase the artistry and diversity of Syrian civilizations.

“We hope that a better appreciation of Syria's priceless contributions to the world's heritage over five millennia will add urgency to the efforts to bring about peace and reconciliation in that country," says Aha Khan Museum Director and CEO, Henry Kim.  " The sheer variety of these artifacts and their culture breadth reveal Syria's long and rich history of multiculturalism and how essential that diversity was to the development of so many of the world's greatest civilizations."

Exhibition highlights include:
  • An eye idol from Tell Brak, Syria, carved around 3,200 BCE;
  • A stele with a depiction of a prayer from Tell Halaf, Syria, (10th-9th centuries BCE), still bearing the marks of a Second World War bombing raid in Berlin, Germany;
  • Contemporary works by Elias Zayat (b. 1935) and Fateh Moudarres (1922-99) that merge personal experiences with reflections of modern-day Syria
Backgammon or Chess Box
Syria, 19th century
Wood, wood veneers, bone, and mother-of-pearl; inlaid
On loan from the Royal Ontario Museum;

I also had a chance to dine at the lovely Diwan Restaurant situated inside of the Aga Khan.  This elegant restaurant features the food and drink of renowned chef Mark McEwan.  His menu features a wide range lunch menu that showcases his innovative approaches to Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian cuisine.

"Tarator"-style Roasted Salmon

Pickled Turnip

Red Lentil Soup

Lamb Meatballs Braised with Sour Cherries

Fattoush Salad

Cabbage Salad with Beets

All of the dishes were very simple but artfully designed and flavoured in a way that leaves you very satisfied but not stuffed. I really enjoyed the tangy notes in a lot of the dishes, something that is very common in Syrian dishes.

Diwan is open for lunch Tuesday to Sunday, 11:30 am to 2:30 pm.

The Syria: A Living History Exhibition will run until February 26, 2017.

For more information about the Aga Khan Museum, Current Exhibitions, Tickets and Museum Hours please visit:

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