The exhibition launch in Najaf on Sunday Baghdad - Najla Al Taey Iraq’s first Islamic heritage ?and arts exhibition opened on Sunday in the city of Najaf, around 160km south of Baghdad. The exhibition, hosted by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in cooperation with the General Secretariat of the Imam Ali Holy Shrine, was held in Omran Bin Shahin Mosque in Najaf. Speaking after the opening, the Tourism Minister Dr Liwa Smeism highlighted the importance of such ?events, saying: “The aim of the exhibition is to shine a light on contemporary and ancient Islamic heritage.” The minister added: “The ministry sought to cooperate with governmental institutions in Iraq, as well as ?religious institutions, aiming to show the heritage, archaeology, treasures, collectibles and scrolls of ?the sacred sites that have not been displayed before due to previous political conditions.”? Smeism said the ministry hoped to make artistic and heritage events an annual tradition, as well as taking them to audiences outside Iraq. He said: “The ?ministry has an ambition to make these exhibitions international, given the importance of ?reviving Islamic and traditional arts and that fact that Iraqi Islamic heritage is the outcome of a civilization ?that had a special role in human progress and creativity, and has a historical religious ?importance. “Holding exhibitions like this opens the door to citizens to volunteer and get involved, and ?show their own traditional collectibles, to spread the culture of preserving heritage.”? General Director of the heritage department in the Ministry of Tourism, Dr Fawziya al-Maliki, also hoped the exhibition would help Iraqis see the importance of safeguarding their history. She said the Ministry was glad to hold the exhibition at “this sacred ?blessed spot” which she said was “honoured by the presence of the shrine of Imam Ali – peace be upon him – ?and the historical and religious significance that brings, in addition to being an important ?symbol of distinctive Islamic architecture.”? Mingling with visitors at Sunday’s opening was the Secretary General of the Imam Ali Holy Shrine Zohair Sherbeh, representatives from the ? Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Ministry of culture, representatives of Najaf council, members of the Imam Hussein Holy Shrine and the ?al-Abbas Holy Shrine, and a number of civil society organisations linked to the Kashef al Ghataa ?institution.