Nobody seemed to mind as temperatures soared in the charming Nassif House in Jeddah’s Al-Balad district last Wednesday night. Under a crescent moon and perhaps what is one of the oldest trees in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia hosted its first international art auction. Raising almost SR5 million ($1.3 million), the event was a real achievement in bringing together collectors, artists and a vast number of people to whom the whole experience was new and exciting. The presence of Christie’s, the world’s largest auction house, gave the sale a great deal of glamor and excitement. As the hammer fell for the first time, the room broke out in applause — the grandstanding of auctioneering had come to Saudi.
Amid fanciful economic statistics and short-term political wins, the failure of Arab countries to acquire and produce knowledge remains their most critical challenge. Stunted human development has massive adverse effects on the political and economic environment in the Arab world.