ABU DHABI // Mubarak al Muhairi is determined to make Saadiyat Island's cultural district a centre for international and modern arts. But that must come second to promoting the UAE's history and heritage.
Mr al Muhairi, the managing director of TDIC, is charged with establishing the world-class institutions on the island, including the Guggenheim and Louvre museums, art schools and a performance arts centre.
The massive project will also include hotels, resorts, residential developments and golf courses.
The main objective of the Zayed National Museum is to memorialise the life of the nation's founder and record the timeline of the Emirates' transition from the pre-oil era of pearl trading, to the country's unification and modern successes. The museum is meant as much for local residents as for tourists, he said.
"There are definitely economic benefits ... but the reason behind this is not for economic benefits," Mr al Muhiary said.
"For sure, for example, the tourism and hospitality sectors will benefit in Abu Dhabi," he said. "The main purpose will be to start looking at how in 30 years, thinking and creativity will evolve. These are the real benefits."
While the project would inevitably draw crowds of tourists, the new museum was meant to be an instrument "to educate the next generation", he said, a key theme of the late founder's vision for the country.
"The Sheikh Zayed temple of education, turning a very traditional learning society into a modern learning society, that strategy will go deeper," he said. "That is how the national museum will be connected to the story of Sheikh Zayed."
Besides his post with TDIC, Mr al Muhairi has been the director general of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) since it was formed in 2004. He also holds board member positions with the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre, Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi Media Company, which owns The National.
He has been working closely with Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, the chairman of ADTA, in developing a long-term initiative to make Abu Dhabi a popular tourist destination.
The strategy has included launching a grading system for hotels and hotel apartments, increasing international marketing through visitor centres abroad; boosting the number of Emiratis working in the tourism sector and increasing the emirate's hotel stock. The plan also calls for finding new ways of capitalising on the UAE's natural assets and climate.
He is also in charge of initiating green ratings for the environmental friendliness of hotels, which ADTA said this week it would pilot at the Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort currently under development.
After graduating from UAE University with a degree in civil engineering, he attended Portland State University in the US, where he earned a master's degree in engineering management.
He worked for several years in real estate investment with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority before he was appointed director general of the Al Ain Economic Development and Tourism Promotion Authority. In that role, he was responsible for positioning Al Ain as separate from, but complementary to, other major cities in the UAE. Mr al Muhairi helped to develop a recognisable brand to be used in all of Al Ain's festivals and events, and was in charge of showcasing its greenery, red sand dunes, mountain range, museum and zoo, as well as its international airport and five-star hotels.