HE Saif Saeed Ghobash, Undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “Abu Dhabi’s cultural strategy dovetails nicely with our plan for the economic diversification of the emirate. As our cultural offering continues to grow by leaps and bounds, cementing our status as a world-class, international hub for arts and heritage, new industries are taking hold and ever more visitors are drawn to the emirate, further bolstering our booming tourism sector. The coming years will be exciting and significant ones for Abu Dhabi, as we continue to monitor and measure the social and economic impact of our cultural policies and initiatives.”
Many of the ambitious targets and goals set across these objectives have been achieved or are on track to be realised in the near future.
Preserving and sustaining Abu Dhabi’s cultural heritage
Major efforts have been made to protect and activate both the emirate’s Intangible Heritage and its Historic Environment, while at the same time positioning Abu Dhabi as a global city through cutting-edge modern cultural projects.
A significant achievement for the protection of Intangible Heritage has been the successful inscription of eight elements on the UNESCO Lists of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the work and dossiers for six of which were led by the emirate of Abu Dhabi. The inscribed heritage elements are Falconry, Al Sadu (weaving), Al Ayyala (traditional group performance), Al Taghrooda (poetry), Gahwa (Arabic coffee), Majlis (council gathering), Al Azi and Al Razfa (both traditional performing arts).
Significant progress has been made in recording oral histories, as can be seen with the successful annual GCC Heritage & Oral History Conference and also important programmes implemented by other cultural institutions, such as the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and its ‘Lest We Forget’ initiative. To support artisans and engage the public with traditional products and practices, DCT Abu Dhabi organises Al Ain’s annual Traditional Handicrafts Festival and actively supports and participates in Heritage festivals in the emirate and across the region. Recently, Bait Al Gahwa and House of Artisans were established and are respectively dedicated to preserving the rituals of Arabic coffee and traditional Emirati crafts. Future plans include the new Maritime Heritage Festival, starting in 2020, and the House of Heritage, which will showcase the traditional performing arts of the UAE.
DCT Abu Dhabi’s work in preserving the emirate’s Historic Environment has included the inscription of several important historic sites in Al Ain onto the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Jebel Hafit, Hili, and Bidaa bint Saud; as well as the six Al Ain oases, of which Al Ain Oasis is open to the public. The extensive excavation, documentation and protection of Abu Dhabi’s significant archaeological sites, including Marawah, Baynunah, and Sir Bani Yas, among many others, has taken place. Further efforts include conservation of historic pre-oil buildings and landscapes, and the development of places of natural and/or cultural significance, such as the Al Hosn cultural site. DCT Abu Dhabi also oversees the implementation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Management Plan in coordination with other local government and external agencies, and develops and implements a values-based approach for the conservation of its archaeological sites, historic buildings and cultural landscapes.
In addition to preserving the heritage of the ancient past, DCT Abu Dhabi is pioneering a new initiative for the conservation of the emirate’s modern heritage, which celebrates the achievements of our recent past including culturally significant sites and structures. The initiative aims to identify, evaluate and assess the significance and condition of Abu Dhabi's post-oil heritage and to develop recommendations, guidelines, regulations, financial and non-financial incentives to celebrate, protect, and maintain the recent history of urban development of Abu Dhabi.
The high-profile launch of Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2017 drew international attention, and the museum achieved over 1 million visitors in its first year of operations. The Al Hosn site in downtown Abu Dhabi saw several elements come together to form a vibrant new cultural destination in the heart of the city. Historic Qasr Al Hosn fort was conserved and restored, while the Cultural Foundation, the country’s first cultural centre, underwent conservation and adaptive re-use of its facilities and now hosts all forms of contemporary creative arts. Inside the Cultural Foundation is the new Abu Dhabi Children’s Library, currently attracting more than 5,000 visitors each week.
Projects in progress include the further development of the Saadiyat Cultural District, with the coming Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Al Ain’s cultural offering will also soon be bolstered, by Bait Mohammed Bin Khalifa House, Jebel Hafit Desert Park, Murabba’a Fort and the Al Ain Museum.
Increasing awareness of and engagement with cultural heritage and the arts
Another strategic objective for the Culture Sector is to increase awareness of, participation in and engagement with cultural heritage and the arts. DCT Abu Dhabi is leveraging arts, culture, and heritage to engage the younger generations and all segments of the community, and creating policies to build and nurture the sector.
DCT Abu Dhabi’s portfolio of programmes and initiatives is vast, with cultural sites across the emirate offering diverse annual programming encompassing all forms of creative expression. Abu Dhabi Classics, Bait Al Oud, and Umsiyat are just some the numerous performing arts initiatives, while a wide and diverse visual arts programme runs across the emirate’s cultural centres and venues such as Manarat Al Saadiyat and Cultural Foundation, where exhibitions and Artists in Residence programmes take place alongside a year-round calendar of workshops, educational and cultural initiatives. Numerous festivals and annual cultural platforms such as summits, conferences and fairs take place in Abu Dhabi, including Al Hosn Festival, Abu Dhabi Art, CultureSummit and the Archaeology Conference.
Initiatives that have successfully positioned Abu Dhabi on the global stage include Abu Dhabi Art, which attracts more than 75,000 participants annually to its year-round programming events. The fair itself draws 12,000 visitors each year. CultureSummit Abu Dhabi continues its strategic collaboration with global partners, with the 2019 event seeing 488 participants from around the world come together to brainstorm ways that culture can help solve some of the world’s most pressing issues.
Stimulating creativity as a driver for education and for social change
DCT Abu Dhabi has been nurturing the creative sector as a driver for education, and for social change, engaging in significant dialogue and cooperation with international partners.
Education and outreach programmes and facilities already proliferate across the emirate. DCT Abu Dhabi has also implemented youth-oriented cultural education initiatives such as the Talent Development Programme, which identifies and nurtures the artistic development of gifted and talented students, and continues to forge ahead in the intellectual arena, supporting the research and production of academic and scientific publications, exhibitions and collections publications, as well as education and interpretation materials.
New policies and strategies to build and nurture the sector are planned, in line with Abu Dhabi’s Cultural Heritage Law. Results of this include cultural research and strategic partnerships, publications, the development of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collections, and the adoption of UNESCO World Heritage Sites Development Regulations and Urban Design Guidelines, and the registration of Modern Heritage.
Numerous DCT Abu Dhabi projects have allowed the emirate to play a greater role in shaping the cultural landscape internationally. Crucial to social change are Abu Dhabi’s strategic partnerships with key cultural institutions around the world, with their far-reaching impact and ability to build important bonds between nations and cultures. These include the inter-governmental agreement with France that resulted in Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the hosting of the Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas summit, which lead to the establishment of the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage (ALIPH). Another prime example is the previously mentioned CultureSummit Abu Dhabi, organised annually by DCT Abu Dhabi in collaboration with five international cultural partners representing influential sectors in the fields of arts, media, heritage, museums and technology. Next year’s fourth edition will once again convene leaders and creative minds from every corner of the globe, to identify ways in which culture can play a pivotal role in raising awareness of global issues, building cultural bridges and promoting positive change.
Building and enabling capacity in Abu Dhabi’s culture sector to contribute to economic growth and diversification
With these strong foundations in place, DCT Abu Dhabi is focused on growing a sustainable culture sector that contributes to economic growth and diversification. Following the achievements listed above, and going forward, DCT Abu Dhabi looks to further nurture the market, create a lasting social and economic impact, and extend the culture value chain to include the dissemination and transfer of knowledge, capacity building and strong cultural partnerships.
Capacity building in the sector is being achieved through the many education programmes and facilities across the emirate, including the new higher education degrees, such as Museum Studies, being offered in universities; in addition to the Abu Dhabi Statistics Programme, Strategic Research partnerships with academies and universities, the establishment of a cultural grant programme, and cross-government policies in social and economic development.
The execution of the Culture Sector Strategy will not only position Abu Dhabi as a global cultural capital but as a key driver of economic change. DCT Abu Dhabi will be tracking the contributions of the creative industries to the nation’s GDP and employment numbers, as well as quantifying its social impact.
ZAYED NATIONAL MUSEUM
Construction is underway on Zayed National Museum, the national museum of the United Arab Emirates, which will narrate the story of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding Father of the UAE and highlight the history of the region and its cultural connections with countries around the world.
Zayed National Museum will be of great significance to the people of the United Arab Emirates and the region, and have major international resonance. Its permanent galleries will display the best of national collections alongside loans from leading world museums, and a programme of special exhibitions will make it a vibrant part of the national, regional, and international cultural scene. The museum will be inclusive and educational and a must see for Emiratis, UAE residents and overseas visitors.
Zayed National Museum will honour Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s strongly held values, which encompass a passionate belief in education, the environment, history, heritage and culture, all underpinned by his humanitarianism and deeply held faith.
Lord Norman Foster, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize and one of the most prolific architects of his generation, conceived the design of the museum after his practice, Foster + Partners, won a worldwide pitch. Zayed National Museum’s distinctive towers (‘Wings’) were inspired by Sheikh Zayed’s passion for falconry and the rich tradition of this heritage practice in the Gulf. The Wings were sculpted aerodynamically to act as solar thermal towers – a contemporary reference to the traditional climatically responsive architecture of the region - and range in height from 83 to 123 metres.
The atrium of Zayed National Museum provides a welcoming space for all. It is here that the museum announces itself as a national institution, a cultural destination and a centre for learning.
The two galleries on the ground floor represent the heart of the museum. The extraordinary life of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the foundations of the UAE are narrated in the main gallery, while the Landscapes and Life gallery shows how the nation’s landscapes and rich natural resources were formed.
On the first floor of the museum, four pod-shaped galleries take the visitor on a journey through the history of the country, from the arrival of the first people and emergence of oases to the vibrant contemporary culture of the present-day UAE.
These four pods are suspended over the dramatic top-lit central atrium and form the base of each wing. Visitors can ascend the external 30 metre high mound, inspired by the topography of the UAE, and walk amongst the base of the wings for a unique view of the Saadiyat Cultural District. A 400-metre landscaped narrative garden exploring key moments in the life of Sheikh Zayed connects the museum with the sea and other sites of the Cultural District.
Zayed National Museum will offer visitors a unique experience that engages the mind, raises questions and encourages dynamic and interactive dialogue while delving into the Founding Father’s personality and vision. The collection has been developed to deliver an integrated learning experience for visitors of all ages and educational backgrounds, while taking into account the needs of People of Determination. The museum’s unique narrative will be enriched through engaging, innovative and non-traditional communication methods.
The museum will give special attention to public education, with an educational programme currently being developed in alignment with the UAE's school curriculum. Zayed National Museum will also function as a centre for archaeological and heritage research.
From 2009 to 2017, DCT Abu Dhabi worked collaboratively with the British Museum on the development of Zayed National Museum, the centrepiece of Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Cultural District. The cooperation focused on the development of different aspects of the museum including the narrative, collection strategy, and training resources. Now that all stages of the joint agreement are concluded, the ongoing implementation of the museum from this initial development phase is to be undertaken by dedicated in-house museum specialists.
About the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi
The Department of Culture and Tourism conserves and promotes the heritage and culture of Abu Dhabi emirate and leverages them in the development of a world-class, sustainable destination of distinction, which enriches the lives of visitors and residents alike. The organisation manages the emirate’s tourism sector and markets the destination internationally through a wide range of activities aimed at attracting visitors and investment. Its policies, plans and programmes relate to the preservation of heritage and culture, including protecting archaeological and historical sites and to developing museums, including Zayed National Museum, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, and Louvre Abu Dhabi. DCT Abu Dhabi supports intellectual and artistic activities and cultural events to nurture a rich cultural environment and honour the emirate’s heritage. A key role is to create synergy in the destination’s development through close coordination with its wide-ranging stakeholder base.
© Press Release 2019