On Saturday, Dubai’s Museum of the Future commenced the final phase of construction. Its calligraphy-adorned facade meshes together modernity and tradition, a symbol of the UAE’s vision for a Middle East in which innovation and creativity are rooted in culture. While the nation has its eyes set on the future, it remains true to its Arab heritage. In the words of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, the building “speaks Arabic”.
The $136 million project is also a welcome development for the UAE’s cultural and construction sectors amid the coronavirus pandemic. Upon completion, the facility will house a research centre, labs, classrooms and a dedicated space where visitors can discover new technologies.
The future holds many challenges for the region, chief among them the threat of climate change. Desertification and water scarcity present serious risks for the Middle East. Oil-exporters in the region and beyond are looking to diversify their revenues, in addition to being able to attract the best talent from around the world.
This is among a multitude of reasons why the UAE aspires to become a knowledge-based economy. The country hopes to achieve this goal by empowering its younger generations with a quality education. This includes boosting online learning capabilities and continuing to innovate national curricula to keep apace with, and even surpass, international standards. Some of the world’s most highly regarded universities, such as France’s Sorbonne and the US’s New York University have opened campuses in Abu Dhabi, while home-grown universities have fared well in regional university rankings.
In addition to promoting education, the UAE’s vision for a more diversified and forward-looking economy includes heavy investment in high technology, a goal it has pursued for many years. In 2016, the Emirates became the first country to appoint a Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence. This year, it has become the first Arab nation to send a probe to Mars, with more space missions lined up in the years to come.
The UAE’s desert climate has not stopped the country from growing its own produce, a feat of technology that was once unfathomable. In April, Abu Dhabi Investment Office invested $100 million to bring four agriculture technology companies to the emirate, a move that is set to boost the local agriculture and self-reliance.
As the pandemic has proven time and time again, investing in health care will be vital in the years to come. For years, the country has poured resources into this sector with the objective of turning Dubai into a regional medical hub. Building upon these efforts, health authorities have been able to conduct mass Covid-19 testing campaigns and invest in cutting-edge research on the virus, including laser technology to detect infections.
In the five short years since the construction of the museum was launched, the UAE has achieved a great deal. It has sent an astronaut to space, launched the first Arab civilian nuclear programme and signed a historic peace agreement with Israel.
The Museum of the Future, however, is a reminder of how much still lies ahead. It embodies a vision for what is to come — a prosperous Middle East, where innovation, culture and tolerance are the foundations for peaceful co-operation, and the region’s inhabitants to thrive.