New video shows progress on Abu Dhabi's stunning Zayed National Museum

Construction ramps up at the sprawling site on Saadiyat Island

Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, with a model of the Zayed National Museum. Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi
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Construction progress on Abu Dhabi’s new Zayed National Museum is shown in a new video that captures the institution taking shape.

Building work is well under way on Saadiyat Island, where an army of workers are building the long-awaited national museum of the UAE.

A video released by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi gives a sneak preview of what visitors can expect inside the building when it is complete.

Zayed National Museum was designed by acclaimed UK architects Foster + Partners. The building is distinguished by a cluster of five steel towers that soar into the sky – some as tall as 123 metres – that evoke the wings of the revered falcon.

The footage shows a cavernous atrium of beautiful stone and curves, flooded by natural light.

British firm Foster and Partners designed the Zayed National Museum
British firm Foster and Partners designed the Zayed National Museum

The building started to take shape several months ago and scores of cranes can now be seen towering over the 44,000-square-metre site adjacent to Louvre Abu Dhabi, while the distinctive imprint of the museum’s five towers – designed to draw cool air through the building – are visible from the air.

One shot shows the museum emerging from the sands set against the backdrop of the Abu Dhabi skyline.

“Construction is under way on Zayed National Museum, the national museum of the UAE, which will narrate the story of the late Sheikh Zayed, the founding Father of the UAE and highlight the history of the region and its cultural connections with countries around the world,” the DCT said.

Zayed National Museum – first announced in 2007 – is the second of three major museums on Saadiyat’s Cultural District. Louvre Abu Dhabi opened in 2017, while work on its neighbouring Guggenheim has yet to start.

Two galleries on the ground floor represent the heart of the museum, which details the life of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s formation and the country’s rich natural resources.

Moving to the first floor, a set of four pod-shaped galleries suspended over the main atrium will take people on a trip through the history of modern-day UAE. The journey starts with the arrival of people hundreds of thousands of years ago to the emergence of the oases to life today. The base of the falcon towers will give a unique view of Saadiyat, while a garden connects the museum to the sea and other parts of the island.

Officials remain tight-lipped about the collection but a few of the treasures inside have been revealed.

They include the oldest pearl in the world, found on Marawah Island last year. Another item visitors can expect to see is a stunning necklace given by Sheikh Zayed to the Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum when she visited Abu Dhabi in 1971. Both pieces are currently on temporary display at Louvre Abu Dhabi as part of the 10,000 Years of Luxury exhibition.

“The [Zayed National Museum] permanent galleries will display the best of national collections alongside loans from leading world museums,” the DCT said. “A programme of special exhibitions will make it a vibrant part of the national, regional and international cultural scene.”

Zayed National Museum was originally expected to open in 2012. From 2009 to 2017, teams worked with the British Museum to train staff and develop its collection. When that agreement ended, in-house specialists took over its development.

“The museum will give special attention to public education, with an educational programme currently being developed in alignment with the UAE’s school curriculum,” the DCT said. “Zayed National Museum will also function as a centre for archaeological and heritage research.”