Islamic collection opens at the V&A

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The Independent Online

The Victoria and Albert Museum's new Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art has been built with £5.4m donated by Saudi Arabian businessmen intent on increasing understanding of the Islamic world.

Visitors will see 400 treasures from the V&A's extensive collection of more than 10,000 Islamic objects from the Middle East, in a redesigned gallery replacing one created half a century ago. The project was made possible by Mohammed Jameel, president of Abdul Latif Jameel, which includes the Hartwell hotel and car businesses in the UK, and will be named the Jameel Gallery in honour of his late parents.

The gallery will be formally opened today by the Prince of Wales, with representatives of Britain's Muslim communities attending. Mr Jameel, president of the company his father founded 60 years ago, said: "Our family has a keen interest in world cultures and promoting understanding between them, and a commitment to increasing understanding of the Islamic world.

Among the highlights of the collection, which the museum began in the 19th century, are the 16th-century Ardabil carpet, the world's earliest on record, commissioned by the Shah of Iran, a 1,000-year-old rock crystal ewer from Egypt made for the ruling Fatimid caliphs, and a 16th-century lamp from the Suleymaniye mosque in Istanbul.

The V&A's collection is important because it covers certain areas in great depth. It ranks in scale, size and significance along with the best museums of the world, and is particularly strong in ceramics.

The Jameel Gallery also includes art commissioned or created for and by non-Muslim minorities who lived in Islamic states.