Residents and visitors to Abu Dhabi will be able to unleash their inner Jacques Cousteau next year, with the arrival of the Middle East's largest aquarium.
The National Aquarium is set to open in early 2020 in the upcoming dining and entertainment destination Al Qana, which is located on the Khor Al Maqta waterway.
Construction on the 10-zone aquatic destination is now 70 per cent complete, developers revealed today, with the spot touted to welcome one million visitors a year when it opens.
The aquarium, which spans more than 7,000 square metres, will be home to 33,000 marine creatures, that will be cared for by a team of 80 sea-life experts and specialists. The animals will be responsibly and ethically sourced from around the world, according to organisers, with the destination highlighting the importance of conservation throughout its themed zones.
"This will bring the excitement and wonder of the oceans to the doorsteps of Abu Dhabi’s community and to visitors from all around the world," said Paul Hamilton, general manager of the National Aquarium, who has also worked on the Dubai Aquarium. “This is the 12th public aquarium that I’ve worked on and probably the most exciting, in terms of the scale, uniqueness and attention to detail."
When complete, the Al Qana aquarium will have a whole department dedicated to education, with the capacity to welcome up to 50,000 school children a year. As well as focusing on local marine life of the UAE and Arabian Gulf, the aquarium will also feature species from as far as the tropical Pacific Ocean.
"People across the UAE are becoming more conscious of how they can look after the environment around them, to ensure that the habitats and ecosystems of animals are safeguarded for generations to come," said Hamilton.
"People of all ages will be able to understand more about the marine world at The National Aquarium, fostering a deeper appreciation of the creatures, corals and plants that make the underwater realm so fascinating and worth protecting.”
An entertainment and dining hub
The National Aquarium will be a cornerstone of Al Qana which, when finished, will spread across seven districts, totalling more than 2.4 kilometres.
See our gallery above of Al Qana renderings
The project, created by Al Barakah International Investment (BII) and Abu Dhabi Municipality, is set to be fully completed by the end of 2020.
Al Qana will be a foodies' paradise, with a range of restaurants spanning the waterfront, offering a prime view of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Districts will feature scenic walkways, to encourage visitors to stroll, while entertainment options will include cinemas, a kids' zone, outdoor skate park and landscaped community spaces.
There will also be a yacht marina, wellness hub and virtual-reality park, with Al Qana specifically designed to promote social interaction and a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
"When we conceptualised the project, our objective was to make a social impact and improve the standard and quality of living in Abu Dhabi," said Fouad Mashal, CEO of Al Barakah International Investment.
"We want to bring happiness to our community and encourage social interactions between residents and visitors, and support Abu Dhabi’s vision of becoming one of the most liveable cities in the world by 2021."