Abu Dhabi's New Museums & Galleries
Art lovers, take note: one of the world’s most ambitious cultural construction projects is taking shape on Saadiyat Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi. When all is said and built, the new Cultural District (www.saadiyatculturaldistrict.ae) will consist of three museums and a performing-arts centre, making it (what else?) the largest artistic oasis in the world.
Construction has been fraught with delays but finally picked up again in early 2013.
Abu Dhabi Louvre This will be the first building to open, perhaps in 2017. Designed by Jean Nouvel, its most distinctive feature is a perforated white dome that appears to hover above the water.
Zayed National Museum (www.zayednationalmuseum.ae) Set to be another visual jewel, this museum will tell the story of UAE founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan within the context of the history of the region and its cultural connections with other parts of the world. Architect Norman Foster translated Sheikh Zayed’s love of falconry into an avant-garde structure with jutting steel-and-glass galleries inspired by flight and feathers. Each ‘feather’ will contain a gallery highlighting different historical and cultural aspects of the country.
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (www.guggenheim.org/abu-dhabi) Designed by Frank Gehry, this promises to be a similarly exciting building: a cacophonous composition of geometrical shapes, from cuboids to cones, cylinders to prisms. It will showcase international art from the 1960s to today.
Performing Arts Centre Envisioned for the second phase of the district's development is this spaceship-like design by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid.
Maritime Museum Also part of the second phase of development, this building by Japanese architect Tadao Ando will explore the Emirati relationship with the sea.
For a sense of the ambition of the project, visit the Manarat Al Saadiyat exhibition centre on Saadiyat Island.
The Eastern Mangroves off the northeast coast of Abu Dhabi are the largest mangrove forest in the United Arab Emirates.
What is a mangrove? A mangrove is a subtropical, low-growing tree with high salt toleration that lives with roots immersed in the high tide.
Are all mangroves the same? No, there are 110 species. The grey mangrove is the most common in Abu Dhabi.
Why are they protected? This fragile ecosystem is a haven for wildlife and shelters coastlines from tidal erosion.
Who lives in these forests? Mangroves provide a safe breeding ground for shrimp, turtles and some fish species; they also serve as habitats for migrating birds.
Any other uses? Historically they provided a rich source of fuel and building materials. The hard wood is resistant to rot and termites making it ideal for building boats and houses.
Are they endangered? Thanks to conservation efforts and deliberate replanting schemes, mangrove stands have grown in size over recent years.
Are visits possible? Many tour companies organise trips into the Eastern Mangroves, particularly from Yas Island, as well as from the mangroves themselves.
Beaches & Spas
Surrounded by water on all sides, Abu Dhabi has made the most of its beachfront location. There are views out to sea from the resorts on Saadiyat Island and inland waters offer refreshing breezes. Beat the heat in summer with a spa, but bring a platinum credit card.