Abu Dhabi Cracks Da Vinci Code with Opening of Louvre Museum

Photo credit: Mohamed Somji

Is the Mona Lisa changing her address? Well, not exactly, but some famous works of art are indeed headed from France to Abu Dhabi. Since 1793, the Louvre has been a Parisian icon. And now, in a historic move, the first universal museum in the Arab world opens on November 11—and it’s being called the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

This has been in the works between France and the Government of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for just over a decade. The final deal was inked in March. Under its terms, Louvre Abu Dhabi can use the signature name for more than three decades, and have access to experts from 17 French institutions and loaned artwork from 13 French museums for 15 years.

“The UAE is proud of our rich heritage, while also embracing progress and change. We are a dynamic, vibrant and multicultural society, where people live in harmony and tolerance. This diversity is reflected in Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection, which celebrates the innate human fascination with discovery,” said Mohamed Al Mubarak, chairman of the UAE’s Department of Culture and Tourism, in a press release. “Each visitor will encounter extraordinary artworks and artifacts from global cultures that are both familiar and surprising. Louvre Abu Dhabi is the UAE’s gift to the world, and we look forward to welcoming our first visitors.”

abu dhabi louvre

Photo credit: Mohamed Somji

The architecture of Louvre Abu Dhabi has a distinct shape of its own—a dome, unlike the pointed pyramid associated with its Parisian namesake. Weighing nearly as much as another Paris landmark, the Eiffel Tower, the structure lets in light’s rays during the day and twinkles at night. Its “Rain of Light” features 7,850 “stars.” The museum sits at water’s edge on Saadiyat Island.

The new museum will exhibit 235 pieces from its own collection and 300 pieces on loan, including Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronnière. Guests will be taken on a chronological journey from pre-historic times to present-day, organized into 12 chapters that include colonization of the first villages, religion, cosmography, royalty and the modern world. The museum’s inaugural exhibit, From One Louvre to Another: Opening a Museum for Everyone, debuts on December 21 and will depict history of the museum in Paris beginning in the 18th century and include artifacts from the palace at Versailles.

Guests of all ages can partake in workshops, including visual storytelling, calligraphy and mask design. Guided and audio tours are available. The museum also has a restaurant (opening in 2018), cafe and 270-seat auditorium.

Photo credit: Mohamed Somji

In October, Smart Meetings spoke to Sara Abdullah Al Aslai, conferences and exhibitions unit head for Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau Department, at IMEX in Las Vegas. She assured wary travelers that her Middle Eastern nation is peaceful, and that Abu Dhabi is one of the safest cities in the world. People of all cultural backgrounds and religions are embraced, she said. Of the 8 million residents of Abu Dhabi, 6 million are non-native.

From 2013-2015, World Travel Awards named Abu Dhabi the Middle East’s leading meetings and conference destination. In addition to the new Louvre, Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island offers meetings professionals many event spaces and activities, including Manarat Al Saadiyat and Saadiyat Beach Club. The island also features two five-star hotels, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas and The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi. Visitors can also go on a camelback safari and ski on the sand.

Rev up your engines if you take your meeting over to the desert nation’s Yas Island, where Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is parked. It’s the world’s largest indoor theme park and features the world’s fastest roller coaster. Themed off the luxury car brand, the park offers meeting facilities for more than 700 attendees, in-house catering, team-building and incentive trips.