As the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, which includes the oasis town of Al Ain, has an abundance of museums and heritage sites of cultural significance. Art lovers and history buffs will want to study this chapter in depth. Not a history buff? Go visit these historical sites and you will be mesmerized none the less.
Heritage sites in Abu Dhabi
Al Ain Oasis was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. Al Ain is home to world-heritage locations such as the six Al Ain Oases as well as the archaeological sites of the 5,000-year-old burial tomb Bida bint Saud, the hundreds of bronze age tombs at Jebel Hafit, and the Hili archeological site. For the last 4,000 years, life in the area has been made possible by spring water harnessed by the ingenious falaj irrigation system. This network gave birth to a thriving town that’s home to a camel market and a handful of museums including Qasr Al Muwaiji.
Qasr Al Muwaiji is the birthplace of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Much of his childhood was spent at Qasr al Muwaiji, a fortified home surrounded by swaying fronds of palm trees. Today, a sleek new glass exhibition space contrasts with the traditional adobe walls and houses an exhibition charting the history of Abu Dhabi’s ruling Al Nahyan family and the evolution of the building.
The Liwa Forts are located in the historic Liwa Oasis, ancestral home to the United Arab Emirates’ revered Bani Yas tribe, at the northern edge of the Rub Al Khali – the Empty Quarter which is the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass. The lush Liwa Oasis extends in an east-west arc for more than 100 kilometers and features some of the world’s largest sand dunes, with many rising more than 150 meters. Two forts, built more than 100 years ago, still stand while seven others from that time were reconstructed in the 1980s. These mud-brick forts are round watchtowers with high gun holes at regular intervals used to protect the area’s water sources.
Museums in Abu Dhabi
For your quick reference, we have collated a list of some of the best and most interesting museums in Abu Dhabi. Enjoy!
The Louvre, with its futuristic architecture, is the first outpost of the legendary Parisian art museum. With its own unique philosophy and interpretation, it’s considered the first universal museum in the Arab world.
Zayed Heritage Center, a small and humble museum, houses a collection of artefacts of the UAE’s early days and its founder, the late Sheikh Zayed.
Qasr al Hosn, Abu Dhabi’s oldest building from 1790s, is a national monument and museum with archival images and artefacts dating back to as far as 6,000 BC.
Warehouse421, a large, industrial complex, houses a cultural center, art exhibits, and artist studios with contemporary art and design by local artists.
Abu Dhabi Art Hub is a gallery complex displaying works by established artists from across the UAE and abroad, all with the goal of providing a platform for cultural and political discourse.
Manarat Al Saadiyat is high-tech museum with large-scale installations from international artists. It is also a hub for local and visiting artists and art enthusiasts.
Emirates National Auto Museum houses an impressive collection of over 200 vintage cars and military vehicles. The collection belongs to the eccentric billionaire Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan.
Abu Dhabi History Museum and Aquarium stages the history of Abu Dhabi in diorama-style exhibits that depict pivotal moments in the city’s development.
Etihad Modern Art Gallery, a flashy modern art gallery, showcases some of the best contemporary artworks in Abu Dhabi and a thoughtfully curated collection of Emirati artists.