The Saudi Arabian foundation, Alwaleed Philanthropies, has donated €9 million EUR to the Berlin Museum of Islamic Art, which is housed in the Pergamon Museum. The donation will go towards supporting museum exhibitions as well as education initiatives. One of those initiatives is the “Multaqa” project – an effort by the museum to train and employee Syrian and Iraqi refugees as museum guides.
The foundation is run by Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal who started the organization in the 1980s. It supports various initiatives that empower women and youth, develop communities, and foster cultural understanding globally. The donation to the museum in Berlin is just one of many projects it supports.
Some of the funds will also be devoted to supporting the permanent exhibition of Islamic art at the Pergamon Museum once its extensive renovations are finished in 2026.
Among the goals of the foundation is to help provide a bridge between the Muslim world and the West by fostering greater cultural understanding through educational initiatives. The foundation has helped establish Islamic culture centres at leading universities in museums across the world.
While xenophobic political tendencies increasingly dominate European and Western capitals, intercultural and interfaith dialogue should be central to establishing trust between Westerners and newly arrived immigrants and refugees. Stefan Weber, the director of the Pergamon’s Museum of Islamic Art, emphasized that partnerships such as this one will ”buttress open-mindedness in a time of growing extremist tendencies”.
The “Multaqa” program fits the values of Alwaleed Philanthropies perfectly. The Arabic word “Multaqa” itself can be translated to “meeting point” in English. The project intends to boost intercultural trust and exchange by allowing new guides to share their diverse cultural and historical experiences with locals and tourists.
The project also hopes to give refugees an important point of connection through the museum, where those trained as guides can interact with each other through the appreciation of their shared culture, or by bringing their knowledge of their own cultures to visitors on guided tours. Ultimately, this initiative should help participants to feel both pride in their homes as well as pride in their new communities in Berlin.
The Saudi foundation’s donation comes after the German culture budget received a 9% boost in federal spending – increasing the overall budget to €1.9 billion EUR. Out of that new budget, €5 million EUR will be devoted specifically to fine arts, music, and literature, while €7.5 million EUR will fund the purchase of new artworks. Culture Minister Monika Grütters is emphasizing a prioritization of educational initiatives and overall artistic offerings available in German museums.