Museum city

You’ll find the newly-opened Louvre Abu Dhabi hugely amusing, even if you’re not into art

The dome creates a ‘Rain of Light’ effect when the sun filters through the perforations in the roof, reminiscent of overlapping palm trees. 

The most awaited visit on our Abu Dhabi itinerary was to the $1-billion art museum Louvre. In 2007, an agreement was signed between the governments of UAE and France, making way for the first museum to bear the Louvre brand name outside France.

The dome consists of eight different layers: four outer layers clad in stainless steel and four inner layers clad in aluminium, separated by a steel frame five metres high. 

The museum threw open its dome — not literally, thankfully, because it weighs 7,500 tonne, only 200 more than the Eiffel Tower — in the Emirati capital on November 27, 2017. It saw 30,000 visitors during its opening celebrations alone. 

At first sight, LAB (Louvre Abu Dhabi; let’s call it that for convenience) looks nothing like LP (Louvre Paris). LP is all about that gorgeous, glittering glass pyramid, but if you see the exterior of LAB’s dome up close — during the daytime, on a not particularly sunny day — it looks like lots of wrenches and clamps assembled into a parasol for an alien ship. Now French architect Jean Nouvel is not going to like me for saying that. But once you enter LAB, it’s a very different story.

It is built on the low-lying 27sq km Saadiyat Island (this one’s a natural island), a developing tourism and culture hub off the coast of Abu Dhabi.

The very same dome magically creates dappled patterns on the floor as it plays with light and shadow, reflection and calm. By night, it wears yet another avatar — shining like a star upon the waters of the Persian Gulf as you drive down the Sheikh Khalifa Bridge — thus living up to its reputation of being an architectural marvel. 

An art lover can easily spend a whole day in LAB, flitting between the 55 gleaming white, heavily-guarded rooms. If LP’s most famous residents are Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, among LAB’s most talked-about works are Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronniere and Picasso’s Portrait of a Woman.


Portrait of a Woman by Pablo Picasso 
One of Picasso’s famous quotes: ‘Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face or what’s behind it?’

Buddha Head 
Made in white marble in north China during the Eastern Wei or Northern Qi Dynasty. Buddhism was introduced in China in the first century. 

Portrait of a Woman, Called La Belle Ferronniere by Leonardo da Vinci
This oil on wood canvas was done by one of the greatest Renaissance artists, circa 1495-99.

Fountain of Light by Ai Weiwei 
This steel and glass crystal work, is reminiscent of the Tower of Babel about the multitude of languages spoken in the world.

Whistler’s Mother 
The painting by James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1871), referenced in the film Bean, is on display. Just don’t get inspired by Mr Bean and draw smileys on it.

Monumental Statue with Two Heads
Dating back to about 6,500 BCE, this two-headed bust is one of the first monumental statues in human history. It was made in Jordan. 


1,044,108sq ft
The total built-up area of the museum

The number of art rooms

30 years
The period for which the government of Abu Dhabi can use the ‘Louvre’ name for its museum

$1 billion
The cost of using the name + ongoing expertise and loans of art 

7,500 tonne
The weight of the dome

180 metre
The diameter of the dome 

The number of aluminium ‘stars’ in the dome

The number of panels making up the facades of the buildings

The number of artworks and artefacts on display

The number of artworks Louvre Abu Dhabi owns


Wear comfortable shoes.

Carry something warm — the open-air space part of the museum, en route to the cafe, can get windy.

Shop for souvenirs at the museum store. 

Pick up a free visitor map at the entrance.

Adult tickets cost 60AED (£12 approx.) and half the price for those between age 13 and 22. Entry is free for under-13. It is advisable to book tickets online at www.louvreabudhabi.ae to avoid the queue.

Download the Louvre Abu Dhabi Guide for free from the iTunes Store. Or spend 20AED on a multimedia guide.

Food is not allowed into the gallery; there’s a cafe inside where you can order camel meat burgers. We did. 

There is free WiFi inside the museum.

Avoid carrying large bags as you will have to check it into the cloakroom and there is often a queue for that.

Mobile phones and cameras are allowed.

This is the closest you can get to these great works. Unlike museums in France, you can examine the paintings at close quarters.

Inside, the dome creates a dappled pattern of light

Timings: 10am to 8pm; Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. 10am to 10pm, Thursday and Friday. The museum is closed on Mondays. 


When in Abu Dhabi, buy a ticket to Ferrari World, home to the world’s fastest roller coaster — Formula Rossa (right). Hold on tight as the coaster travels at a speed of 240kmph. Screams guaranteed!

Tip: Collect a picture of your fear-filled face from the counter outside for a fee. 

You can’t leave without a shopping binge at YAS Mall, the biggest in Abu Dhabi, offering more than 400 fashion brands. From Jo Malone to Bath & Body Works, save elsewhere but splurge here. ;)

Hala Abu Dhabi, the destination management division of Etihad Airways, organises a Desert Oasis Sunset Safari & BBQ @ AED 340 per person. The safari includes a 4x4 off-road experience across rolling sand dunes of the Arabian desert, a visit to a camel farm to learn about the tradition of breeding, a drive to the top of the dunes to capture the perfect sunset and entry to the Hala Oasis, where you can enjoy a traditional Arabian belly dance and complimentary food. Check out halaabudhabi.com for more packages.

Soak in the calm white of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the country. The carpet (below) in the main prayer hall is the world’s largest carpet covering 60,570sq ft and took two years to complete. Entry to the mosque is free. 

Tip: Ladies, it is advisable to dress conservatively and cover your head. Else burkhas are available for you to change into.  



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