December 19, 2013
HOUSTON, TEXAS - The World Air League presented His Royal Highness Astronaut Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud the Commemorative Portrait of his historic NASA mission on the Discovery Space Shuttle. HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman is the Minister of Tourism for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the President of the Saudi Aviation Club, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale national aviation sports organization for the KSA.
Prince Sultan was in Houston for the opening of the exhibition Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. This landmark exhibition presents more than 7,000 years of largely unknown cultural history of the Arabian Peninsula. Roads of Arabia examines the impact of ancient trade routes that traversed the peninsula, carrying precious frankincense and myrrh to the Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman world and allowing for a vibrant exchange of both objects and ideas. With the later rise of Islam, pilgrimage roads converged on Mecca (Makkah) and gradually replaced the well-traveled incense roads.
The exhibition Roads of Arabia: started it global tour at the Musée du Louvre in Paris and has been seen at the CaixaForum in Barcelona, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
Prince Sultan is a particularly apt champion of these ancient travelers because he is arguably the most traveled son of Arabia in its great history. Besides being a former Royal Saudi Air Force fighter pilot, he was the first Muslim and Arab in space when he was chosen for the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery as a payload specialist in 1985, a mission that traveled 2.9 million miles.
Since 1985, and in series of unique and unlikely occurrences, Commissioner Hartsell was personally aware of the Commemorative Portrait of Prince Sultan. In 2008, at the time of Prince Sultans' and Hartsell first meeting discussing the World Sky Race at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities offices, Hartsell recognized Prince Sultan as the man in the painting. From that moment, one of the missions of the World Air League was personal. It was to complete the journey of this important art piece with its intended honoree - Prince Sultan. "At the time I first saw the painting, I knew it was tribute for a historic accomplishment. But never in those 25 years did I think of it as a portal for the future with our goals and hopes of connecting the world. Indeed we are honored to have had a role in its history. As the Roads of Arabia are remarkable, they illustrate art has its own path, its own history." said Don Hartsell during the presentation.
The World Air League is reviewing the alternative routes to travel through the Middle East and is looking forward to working with both the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities and the Saudi Aviation Club.