There is always something new and exciting to explore when you travel to the United Arab Emirates, especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And it’s not only shinny skyscrapers. Over the past few years, the region has worked hard to build a supreme landscape of culture, art and entertainment.
Recently, a new world class art district is taking shape at Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE. This artificially created area on the coast of the Persian gulf, when fully completed will be home to three museums that will not only host some of the most exquisite art you can find around the world.
In fact, the buildings hosting these museums themselves are all designed by some of the world’s most renown star architects: Jean Nouvel (Louvre Abu Dhabi), Sir Norman Foster (Zayed National Museum) and Zaha Hadid Architects (the world’s largest Guggenheim museum upon completion).
The first on the island to open last November was Louvre Abu Dhabi. With its 8,000 sq m of galleries hosting historic and modern art from all over the world, it is now the largest art museum in the Middle East, and a destination putting on your travel map.
The museum is named after the original Louvre in Paris thanks to an agreement between the governments of Abu Dhabi and France that to this day is unparalleled. It also features temporary expositions from the original Louvre.
But aside from the great artworks and interactive displays the museum hosts, it is already the jaw dropping structure that is worth a visit all by its own. It boasts 55 (!) buildings which are all linked together by the incredible dome which is formed of nearly 8,000 steel stars letting through the sunlight and by doing so creating the most stunning impression of light and shadows.
Standing underneath, the dome itself seems to float above you without any apparent supporting structure that keeps it in place. When you know it has the equivalent weight of the Eifel Tower (7,500 tones), that’s a bit scary but really shows the greatness of its architecture.
Inside the museum, twelve different galleries host both permanent and temporary exhibitions, currently including works from Louvre Paris, the Center Georges Pompidou, Musee d’Orsay and Palace of Versailles.
You will no doubt have heard of several of the pieces shown at Louvre Abu Dhabi. Some in fact have made headlines only recently, like the most expansive piece of artwork ever sold, Leonardo DaVinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’, purchased in a recent auction for a price of more than 450 million dollars.
Other notable works from world renown artists include works from Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin and Jacques-Louis David to name a few.
Once you have seen everything, or are too exhausted to continue, head to the museum café for either breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Located at the back of the museum, right at the edge of the water, the café offers stunning views over the distant city of Abu Dhabi.
On the helm of the restaurant is highly acclaimed chef Roudy Peterson, who is also the mastermind at Catch seafood restaurant in Abu Dhabi. Which is reflected in the quality and creativity of the food, which is far from the usual museum restaurants who mostly lean on the fast-food side.
A zesty lemon mint cocktail was just the right start to refresh after a few hours of walking around the galleries.
As starter, I went for the Camel mini burgers which were absolutely delicious. Its rich camel meat was perfectly enhanced by a spicy harissa sauce, pomegranate seeds and Zaatar, which made for an exquisite mix of spice and sweetness.
To keep it on the light side, my next course was a seared salmon paired with cucumber, gherkins, yuzu and watercress sauce. The salmon perfectly cooked to the point, it was a perfect flavour combination.
To finish, I went for the Crème brulee with lemongrass and Madagascar vanilla custard, which had just the right level of sweetness.
Louvre Abu Dhabi, in the short time since it’s opening has already started to draw huge visitor numbers. Buy your tickets online to avoid to queue (www.louvreabudhabi.ae/en/buy-ticket) and be at the museum early as you will also have to line up at the entrance for a security check, and lines can get fairly long from mid-day onwards.
The café is only accessible through the museum and you need to have valid tickets for the day.
Louvre Abu Dhabi is open Saturdays to Wednesdays, 10 am to 8 pm and Thursdays and Fridays, 10 am to 10 pm. It is closed on Mondays.
The Louvre, Saadiyat Cultural District, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi