Gallery 17: Sailing the Indian Ocean – Sea of Sailors and Merchants
The rapid expansion of Islam from the 1st century AH (7th century CE) led to major cultural and economic transformation in the Indian Ocean. Muslim traders linked the Islamic world with India, Southeast Asia and China to the east, and East Africa and Europe to the west.
To reach their destinations, Arab and Persian sailors had to master the monsoon winds, often crossing dangerous and uncharted waters. As experts of navigation, they revolutionised sea exploration. While the overland Silk Road continued to connect the Middle East to Central Asia and China, the complex and international maritime trading networks became essential for the exchange of goods and ideas for centuries.
Gallery 18: Arts of Southeast Asia
Today, Islam is the most widely practiced religion of Southeast Asia, with significant Muslim populations in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, southern Thailand and parts of the Philippines. After its initial arrival with maritime merchants, Islam spread slowly through the region until about the 9th century AH (15th century CE), when influential rulers began to convert, and important Muslim sultanates were established on islands along the Straits of Malacca (present-day Malaysia and Indonesia).
The artistic practices within Muslim communities of Southeast Asia are particularly diverse and have integrated with many local traditions over the centuries. This unique Islamic heritage has been further transformed as travellers and settlers from China, India, the Middle East and Europe introduced additional religious and cultural elements into the region.