Abu Dhabi: Catching Up on Culture
Abu Dhabi is the political capital of the United Arab Emirates. However, when it comes to tourism and culture, Dubai and Sharjah are generally a step ahead. But Abu Dhabi is catching up. To name just two examples: the country’s largest mosque, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, opened its doors in the capital in 2007, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum just celebrated its first anniversary.
After our visit at the Khalifa University, where Metrohm customers work on improved energy storage, we still had some time left in Abu Dhabi. We used it to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Entering the Sheikh Zayed Mosque requires an outfit that is appropriate for the holy place. As my western clothing didn’t fulfill the criteria, I had to borrow a hooded robe at the entrance, as most tourists did.
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is named after the first president of the UAE, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was the founding father of the union. Seen from the outside, the mosque is an interesting fusion of ancient and modern architecture. At first sight, the building reminded me of the Taj Mahal with its white marble cladding and colorful stone inlays, although the mosque could surely fit the Taj multiple times. It can accomodate over 41’000 worshippers! Modern glass domes protruding from the ground in the gardens clash with the 17th century Indo-Islamic architecture and provide natural light for the basement level.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi
The Louvre Abu Dhabi was born from French-Emirati partnership. Like the Paris Louvre, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a universal museum with art and civilization exhibits. We spent about three hours in the museum, and you could probably spend several days here if you had the time to cover all collections and to study each exhibit in detail. I enjoyed the comparison of related objects from different cultures and how differences and similarities evolved over time, from times long before globalization to times where there was an active exchange through trade to today. All of this is housed in a remarkable building by French architect Jean Nouvel, which alone was worth the visit.