Image by Lindsey Parry Lonely Planet
Designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Jean Nouvel, the highly anticipated Louvre Abu Dhabi finally arrived in late 2017. Through 12 galleries, the world-class collection traces humanity's artistic achievements from the Neolithic up to the present day, all the while breaking all norms of traditional museum curation. Here, artworks are grouped by theme and time-frame rather than country or specific civilisation. The result is a globe-trotting journey through human heritage that highlights the universal threads of all cultures.
From the First Villages (gallery one) through Civilisations and Empires (gallery three) and The Magnificence of the Court (gallery eight) all the way up to A Global Stage (gallery 12) where Ai Weiwei's 2016 'Fountain of Light' takes centre stage, the exhibits transcend geography and nationality. This means you encounter unexpectedly beautiful juxtapositions such as a bronze winged dragon from northern China sitting in front of a glazed-brick Persian archer from the Achaemenid Empire, and the bronze head of an Edo Culture king from Nigeria displayed amid a room lined with French and Italian 17th-century oil paintings of royalty.
Highlights include the eerily beautiful 7th millennium BC Ain Ghazal statue from Jordan; a 3rd millennium BC standing Bactrian princess; a black stone statue of Gudea, prince of Lagash from Iraq's neo-Summerian era; a c 2nd-century Buddhist stupa plaque from India; a 2nd-century bronze lion from Spain; a 15th-century ceramic bust of St Peter of Verona; and paintings by Picasso, Rothko and Miró.
As well as the permanent collection, separate buildings house temporary exhibitions (four held annually), a children's museum and the excellent museum cafe. These buildings are all grouped around a central plaza which juts straight out into the sea and is shaded by the museum's elaborate 7500-ton filigree dome which seems to hover mid-air above. The dome pays homage to date-palm-leaf shading with its geometric star design dappling the plaza floor below in a 'rain of light' effect.
You'll need around two hours to explore the museum if you're just browsing, longer if you've got an interest in art or history. For a highlight snapshot of the collection, 90-minute tours (adult/child Dhs50/30) are offered at 11am and 2pm daily in English and at 5pm on Friday in Arabic and French.