Zayed National Museum

About Zayed National Museum

The 12,000 square metre (130,000 square foot) Museum will recall the life and values of His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004), the late Founder and President of the United Arab Emirates. An international statesman and award-winning pioneer of environmental conservation, Sheikh Zayed forged a federated nation out of seven independent Emirates and led this new state into peaceful engagement with the modern world, while strengthening his people’s respect for their centuries-old heritage.

A unique institution, conceived as a place for discussion, learning and inspiration for the entire Arab region, the Zayed National Museum will feature the story of Sheikh Zayed to explore the history and culture of the UAE, and the story of the UAE to illuminate life throughout the Middle East.

The Zayed National Museum will carry out this mission in part through a schedule of temporary exhibitions but primarily through an ensemble of permanent galleries in which visitors will be introduced to five themes of Environment, Heritage, Unity, Education and Humanitarianism.

  • Environment: Sheikh Zayed’s interest in protecting the environment will establish the key questions addressed in this theme. It will explore the physical landscapes, flora and fauna, and mineral resources of the UAE and the wider Middle East. It will be shown how humans have interacted with and shaped the environment, and how resources have been exploited to make products that have been traded across the region.
  • Heritage: Sheikh Zayed was born into Abu Dhabi society before it had been modernised, but he held traditional values close to his heart throughout his life. This pavilion will feature the pre-modern communities in the desert and on the coast, and examine particular aspects such as life around the oasis and pearl fishing. These are contrasted with traditional lifestyles elsewhere in the Middle East
  • Unity: Sheikh Zayed’s role in uniting the Emirates allows an investigation of this accomplishment in the context of other forms of political and social unification known from the archaeology and history of the Middle East. Displays will use objects from across the region to explore political and cultural unity from the Sumerians to modern times.
  • Education: By establishing education for all in the UAE, Sheikh Zayed was building on a seven thousand year old Middle Eastern tradition, perhaps the region’s greatest legacy to the modern world. The first writing, cuneiform, was developed in southern Iraq and Iran and spread to other areas of the Middle East. Islamic learning preserved and developed ancient knowledge – Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Greek – passing it to the West.
  • Humanitarianism: Sheikh Zayed’s belief in and support of Islamic values and religious tolerance is central to understanding the modern UAE. An examination of regional faiths at the time of the Prophet Muhammad provides the background to the core of the exhibition. This explores the revelation of Islam and the breadth of Islamic art and culture in the Middle East and the wider world. The gallery will conclude with an exploration of Sheikh Zayed’s humanitarian works across the globe.

The architectural design of the Museum is by Foster + Partners, London, under the leadership of Norman Foster. An unveiling of the design will be held in Abu Dhabi later in 2009.

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