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A decade in the making, Louvre Abu Dhabi draws crowd as diverse as UAE

Traditional Emirati dancers perform at the entrance of the Louvre Museum during its public opening in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. (AP)
ABU DHABI: The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors to the public on Saturday, after a decade-long wait, drawing a crowd as diverse as the cosmopolitan UAE itself.
Long lines of people on Saturday thronged the new museum, which encompasses work from both the East and West.
Hundreds of Emiratis along with Asian, European and Arab expatriates, some dressed in shorts, others in flowing Arabic robes, roamed through the vast museum to see famous works from the Paris institution, and pieces from Middle Eastern civilizations alike.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first museum to bear the Louvre name outside France, presents around 600 pieces in a modern, light-filled structure in harmony with its desert-island setting.
More than a decade in the making, a VIP inauguration was held on Wednesday, with French President Emmanuel Macron among the first visitors.
Flagged as “the first universal museum in the Arab world,” it sits on the low-lying Saadiyat Island, a developing tourism and culture hub 500 meters off the coast of the UAE capital.
Abu Dhabi’s conservative mores can be felt in the pieces on show. The museum’s artwork offers a brief history of the world and its major religions, and it does not shy away from Judaism.
The modernist museum, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, sits under a honeycombed dome of eight layers of Arab-style geometric shapes.
It draws the lapping waters of the Arabian Gulf into its outer corridors, allowing individual beams of light that pass through the roof to strike the surface.
Under a 30-year agreement, France provides expertise, lends works of art and organizes temporary exhibitions — in return for $1.16 billion.
The Louvre in France takes a 400-million-euro share of that sum for the use of its name up to 2037.
For the next 10 years, the Paris museum will lend works to its Abu Dhabi partner on a voluntary basis, for a maximum of two years.
For its permanent collection, the museum has acquired hundreds of pieces, dating from the earliest Mesopotamian civilizations to the present day.
The vast project prides itself as “the first museum of its kind in the Arab world: A universal museum that focuses on shared human stories across civilizations and cultures.”

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