Why art lovers are looking towards to the UAE’s Saadiyat Island

All eyes are on Saadiyat Island as the Arabian cultural hub expands its world-class arts offering in the heart of Abu Dhabi. With new openings and exhibitions on the horizon, here’s what not to miss on your next trip.

Surrounded on all sides by sweeping views of the Indian Ocean, travellers can enjoy Gulf views in controlled temperatures as they explore the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the island's many other museums and galleries. 

Photograph by Louvre Abu Dhabi
By Chaitali Patel
Published 12 Jan 2023, 15:00 GMT

The opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2017 placed Saadiyat Cultural District firmly on the map for culture loving travellers, and its art scene has only grown since. With a raft of exciting openings scheduled over the next couple of years, Saadiyat is on track to cement its image as the cultural hub of the region. Its art scene draws on the region's Arab heritage and dynamic, multicultural population. Meanwhile the white sand and aquamarine waters of the Arabian Gulf frame the island's eye-catching architecture, providing a tranquil island backdrop for art lovers to explore.

The star-spangled canopy of the Louvre Abu Dhabi casts a dramatic geometric light over the lobby.

The star-spangled canopy of the Louvre Abu Dhabi casts a dramatic geometric light over the lobby.

Photograph by Roland Halbe / Louvre Abu Dhabi

Louvre Abu Dhabi

The masterpiece of architect Jean Nouvel, the Louvre Abu Dhabi makes an impression even before you step inside. The colossal, overlapping steel dome is interlaced with 7,850 star-shaped metal designs. When sunlight filters in through the gaps it creates an enchanting pattern that mimics the shadows found under towering palm trees, an ode to the museum's geographical location.

Rather than have exhibits grouped by civilisations, epochs or regions, the museum's collection takes visitors on a journey through centuries of humanity's shared stories. The masters are all in there, but they sit alongside lesser-known artworks. They're curated to tell a combined tale of the progress and evolution of mankind. The museum supports this approach with a series of online and offline activities, including the family-friendly #MakeandPlay workshops running till August 2023. These encourage children to interact with art and inspire creativity.  

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

Due to be opened in 2025, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will bring together modern and contemporary artworks — focusing on art from the Arabian Gulf, West Asia, and North and South Africa. Designed by Frank Gehry, the building paves the way for inventive 21st century museum design. The multi-conical structure references barjeels — the traditional wind towers found in the region — and immerses art lovers in a desert-inspired setting.

Dramatic displays of dance and song from the around the world are platformed in Saadiyat Island. 

Dramatic displays of dance and song from the around the world are platformed in Saadiyat Island. 

Photograph by Saadiyat Island

NYUAD Arts Center

There's never a dull moment at the New York University Abu Dhabi's Arts Center — it gives artists from around the world a platform, inviting them to perform in the Middle East. New and upcoming performers get a chance to build on their skill and talent through scholarships and collaborations. Looking ahead to February, soul-stirring performances of Algerian Saharan rhythms and traditional songs of Somaliland are part of the line-up of the Barzakh Festival 2023. Year-on-year, innovative artists flock to perform in Saadiyat Island — from explosive displays of Moroccan street dance to dedications to Russian composer Rachmaninoff.

Zayed National Museum

Serving as both a museum and a memorial to the late leader of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Zayed National Museum is scheduled to be opened in 2025. It will bring to life the story of the impactful Sheikh who first envisioned Abu Dhabi as the futuristic destination it is today. The museum will also showcase the natural and human history of the modern UAE. 

Plan your trip

Saadiyat Island is 20 minutes away from Abu Dhabi International Airport, and 50 minutes from Dubai. Both international hubs can be reached via regular direct flights from London. Learn more about the island and its extensive cultural offering at saadiyatisland.ae.

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