In Dave Eggers’ novel A Hologram for the King, he tells the story of a businessman who’s sent to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Economic City to sell the nation an expensive piece of software. Passages about the business transactions sound dull, but Eggers’ descriptions of the city that rises up in the middle of the desert are particularly vivid, especially when juxtaposed against the nation’s harsh laws governing women. Saudi photographer Ahmed Mater also chronicles the sudden modernization of his nation with his camera. “Symbolic Cities,” the first American exhibition dedicated solely to his work, comments on the radical societal and industrial changes occurring nationwide. From the massive roads leading in and out of Mecca to the shining five-star hotels of Riyadh, Mater’s photos capture his extensive knowledge of the ever-evolving country. Each image sparkles like it’s brand new, a shocking result for a civilization that’s more than a thousand years old. The exhibition is on view daily 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., to Sept. 18, at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW. Free. (202) 633-4880. asia.si.edu.