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Abu Dhabi Museum & Galleries


Al Ain National Museum

The Al Ain Museum provides an accurate and beautiful montage of the ancestry, heritage and culture of the people in Abu Dhabi. The museum has two main sections: archaeology and ethnography, plus a third section where visitors can purchase gifts.

Significant artefacts spanning the Stone Age to the Islamic period are featured in the archaeological section, which validates early settlement and occupation in the area dating back thousands of years. An extensive collection of tools such as blades, borers, burins, arrowheads and scrapers, stone lids, shells and pottery characteristic of each of the distinct era is displayed in a chronological order, guiding the visitor on his or her travel back in time.

The ethnography section provides a more intimate experience to the guest, by a careful presentation of relics from the past that establish the peculiarity of the local culture. A collection of female jewellery (pendants, hairpins, necklaces and bangles) from the Stone Age, for instance, features eminently in this section; so are the agricultural techniques or tools used by the Abu Dhabi locals’ forebears. A whole section is also dedicated to falconry, a craft or art that has been handed down generation after generation and which still finds a prominent place in the contemporary emirati’s culture.

A trip to the Sultan Fort (Eastern Fort), which is situated opposite the Al Ain National Museum, completes a visitor’s tour. The fort, which was built around 1910 by the grandfather of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa, the president, is made of sun-dried mud brick and clay. The fort has four rooms and three round towers, where one tower reportedly served as a jail.

Cultural Foundation

The Cultural Foundation houses the National Library, National Archives and the Institution of Culture and Art in the 14-hectare grounds of the Old Fort. Year-round lectures, seminars, exhibitions and other literary events are organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and held at the Cultural Foundation’s lecture halls. Themes include painting, sculpture, photography, pottery and Arabic calligraphy, to name a few. The grand auditorium, which can accommodate up to 1,000 people, is also a popular venue for classic musical performances. The Cultural Foundation supports a variety of annual cultural activities such as the Emirates Film Festival and the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, the latter being held in March each year. A cinema within the Cultural Foundation premises hosts the Abu Dhabi Film Club, which screens mainly English films.

The National Library holds a collection of nearly two million volumes and four thousand old manuscripts, and is definitely worth a visit.

Al Ain University Geology Department Museum

A showcase of the abundant flora and fauna that inhabit the emirate’s wild and domesticated landscapes could be found at the Al Ain Natural History Museum, which is run by the University of Al Ain.

Guggenheim & Louvre Museums

Saadiyat Island, which is 500 metres away from the main Abu Dhabi Island, is host to two of the world’s most recognised museums, which are currently under construction. The Abu Dhabi government is spending over $1 billion in the next few years to establish these cultural landmarks right at its doorstep. Indeed Abu Dhabi is the next closest place to experience the best that art has to offer particularly for visitors coming from the Indian subcontinent and other Arab countries, minus the long-haul flight and visa hassle required when travelling to New York or Paris. Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by world renowned architect Frank Gehry who shot to fame with his design of Guggenheim Bilbao (Spain), will be the biggest in the world, featuring modern and contemporary art. Louvre Abu Dhabi, on the other hand, boasts 6,000 square-metre galleries for permanent displays and another 2,000 square metres for temporary exhibitions. Louvre Abu Dhabi is designed by Jean Nouvel and will exhibit major artefacts and works in archaeology, the fine arts and decorative arts. Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is set to open in 2011, and Louvre a year later.

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