Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Cultural District Set to Open Two Major Museums by 2025

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Anyone living in the UAE would remember the day that the government announced that Abu Dhabi was going to be home to its very own Guggenheim, as well as the Zayed National Museum – two significant milestones in the UAE’s cultural landscape. The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) has confirmed that the construction for these landmarks are on track and the buildings will be opening in 2025, and we can’t be more excited.

By Yosr El Sherbiny

Saadiyat Cultrual District views upon completion

The long-awaited Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by architect Frank Gehry, is set to open nearly 20 years after plans were unveiled and 14 years after construction began. At 320,000 square feet, it will be the world’s largest Guggenheim museum, featuring approximately 130,000 square feet of exhibition space. The museum will house permanent collections, galleries for special exhibitions, a center for art and technology, a children’s art education facility, archives, a library, a research center, and a state-of-the-art conservation laboratory. Gehry’s design, which capitalizes on the unique waterfront location, features four stories of central core galleries arranged around a courtyard, with two additional rings of galleries for larger contemporary works. The design aims to create a new scale of contemporary art spaces, accommodating art that could be made on-site and showcased in ways not possible in traditional museums.
The Zayed National Museum, conceived as a monument and memorial to the late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (the first President of the UAE), will be the centerpiece of the Saadiyat Island Cultural District. It will showcase the history, culture, and recent social and economic transformations of the Emirates. The museum’s architecture combines contemporary design with traditional Arabic elements, creating a sustainable and welcoming environment. Set within a landscaped garden, the museum features display spaces housed in a man-made mound and galleries placed at the bases of five solar thermal towers, which use natural cooling air currents to regulate the museum’s temperature. These towers, resembling the feathers of a bird’s wing, reflect Sheikh Zayed’s love of falconry, with a dedicated gallery celebrating this theme. The museum also includes a variety of performance spaces, a central lobby with shops and cafes, and a restaurant inspired by Bedouin hospitality.
Alongside these two institutions, the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi – which promises to offer a unique perspective on Earth’s history through an Arabian lens, showcasing the region’s fauna, flora, and geological history – is also close to being finalized. In addition, TeamLab, an international art collective renowned for its immersive, technology-driven exhibitions, will establish a permanent presence on Saadiyat Island. TeamLab Phenomena Abu Dhabi will feature a 17,000-square-meter space known as the Home for Infinite Curiosity. This space will house dynamic art and technology installations, designed to flow with its unique architecture.
These new cultural landmarks will join the ranks of the existing Louvre Abu Dhabi, which recently celebrated its five millionth visitor, the event space Manarat Al Saadiyat, and Berklee Abu Dhabi, the prestigious music conservatory.
The Saadiyat Cultural District, inspired by the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed, continues to grow under the leadership of HH Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and HH Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. This district reflects the UAE’s rich cultural heritage, which began with the Al Ain Museum in 1971 and the Cultural Foundation in 1981. Saadiyat Cultural District is poised to become one of the world’s most distinctive cultural hubs, enhancing Abu Dhabi’s status as a leading destination for art and culture.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

According to HE Mohamed Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, “Culture transcends mere connections; it shapes our very evolution and broadens our perspectives. Here in Abu Dhabi, we embrace this influence, fostering a deep appreciation that resonates throughout our community. Saadiyat Cultural District embodies ‘cultural hope’. The District will convey a message of cultural diversity that will become more powerful over time, creating global connections, inspiring cultural exchange, and fostering new ways of thinking to support the region, the global South and the world. Saadiyat Cultural District is somewhere people can come to learn from the past, understand our present and focus on our future.”
This announcement is part of ‘Be Moved in a Thousand Ways’, a global marketing campaign by DCT Abu Dhabi, featuring prominent regional and international cultural figures such as broadcaster Mona El Shazli, philanthropist Oprah Winfrey, architect Lord Norman Foster, Director and CEO of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation Mariët Westermann, actor Idris Elba OBE, and pianist Lang Lang. Emirati leaders including HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, HE Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, and HE Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi also contribute to this dialogue on the power of culture. 

Discover more on the Saadiyat Cultural District’s website, here