While Dubai has massive shopping malls and the world’s biggest, tallest and most expensive everythings, Abu Dhabi is positioning itself as a leading global arts and culture hub, with the world’s largest mosque, and museums designed by just about every starchitect you can think of.
Currently, the capital of the United Arab Emirates ranks #183 for Museums, but that’s all about to change. First, with the highly anticipated opening in late 2017 of the Jean Nouvel-designed Louvre Abu Dhabi, a dreamy building featuring a geometric lace dome that’s inspired by the interlaced palm leaves traditionally used as roofing material. Next up are the long-awaited debuts of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi designed by Frank Gehry; the Norman Foster-designed Zayed National Museum, which will tell the story of the late Sheikh Zayed, the history of the region and its cultural connections across the globe; a Performing Arts Center by the late Zaha Hadid, whose design reflects the fluidity of motion, and is inspired by forms encountered in the natural world; and Tadao Ando’s Maritime Museum, which will celebrate the Emirati’s long relationship with the sea.
In the meantime, Abu Dhabi continues to promote heritage and nurture a rich cultural environment. Last year, leading contemporary Arab and Western classical musicians from around the world have performed in the emirate during a new, eight-month-long Music Program, featuring concerts, performances and renditions taking place in prestigious venues across the emirate. Don’t miss a visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, an architectural masterpiece featuring 82 domes, a thousand columns, 24-carat gold-gilded chandeliers, and surrounded by reflective pools. Another must-do is the Souk at Central Market, designed by Norman Foster as a modern Arabian shopping center, complete with courtyards and alleys, balconies and colonnades.