Rehab Sharaf Eldean

Tour Guiding Department, Higher Institute of Tourism and Hotels-King Mariot, Alexandria, Egypt.




Museums as cultural and heritage institutions play a vital role in cultural and heritage exchange among countries and nations of the world. Museums reflect a society’s culture, identity and the valued inherited past. Some newly built museums in the Middle East are attracting a considerable number of visitors from all over the world such as new museums in the Gulf region. A good example in the United Arab Emirates is the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum. In 2017, Louvre Abu Dhabi was unveiled to the world as a 21st-century universal museum, welcoming thousands of visitors from different parts of the world to explore the exceptional architecture and masterpieces from different civilizations and cultures. The new Louvre connects world civilizations together in one place and represents a unique cultural dialogue between different nations. 

The objective of the paper is to represent the positive role that universal museums play in cultural exchange and in opening cultural dialogues between different civilizations through giving new meanings to the displayed objects. Focusing on Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum as an example, the study shows how Louvre Abu Dhabi museum have succeeded as a cultural institution and the first universal museum in the Arab World in establishing a unique cultural dialogue between different nations. The descriptive analytical approach has been employed in reviewing the most useful theoretical writings to identify museums as cultural institutions displaying tangible and intangible heritage, as well as, to identify the concept of the universal museum and the debate over its role. The analytical approach was employed in this study to represent that although the global debate over the universal museums around the world and their role, building the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum on a land containing multicultural populations gives a significant importance to the museum. In addition, the objects of the new Louvre museum and the shared information about them create a connection between different cultures and civilizations around the world. The study concludes that regardless the concept of the cultural property, some universal museums play a positive role in establishing a unique cultural dialogue between different world`s civilizations.           

Key Words: Universal Museum, Cultural Dialogue, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Cultural Cooperation.



In the past, the archaeological objects and the great number of discoveries in Greece were kept for security reasons till 1863, within public spaces, such as ancient temples, churches, schools and town halls. In 1864, the Acropolis Museum, the first organized museum in Greece, was built on the east side of the Acropolis. Then, the developments in Museology regarding exhibition, protection, restoration, rapprochement and their role led to the foundation of the New Acropolis Museum in 2004 (Knell, 2011).

The main aim of the first museums in Greece was to safeguard cultural heritage, preserve history, and to enhance national consciousness. The National Archaeological Museum in Athens was opened in 1894. According to a royal decree of 1893 it aimed to study and protect antiquates from all over Greece. In fact, it is one of the most important museums in the world dedicated to ancient Greek art. (Mavromichali, 2012).

Today museums have progressed from being places to just display art, archaeology and civilization to being an educational institutions and tools for cultural communication. Museums now have libraries, art arteries, facilities and display rooms with developed presentation techniques (Çalikoğlu, 2009).

In 1955 International Council of museums defined museums as “permanent organizations in the service of society and its development, open to public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage for the purpose of education, study and enjoyment” (Atik, 2009: 120). Each museum normally houses collection of important selected objects in its field such as archaeology museums specialize in the display of archaeological artefacts and art museum is a space for exhibition of art, usually in the form of art objects from the visual arts, handicrafts, paintings, and sculpture (MacGregor, 2001). Museums are cultural institutions (Bureaw, 1975), and visiting museums is among the major reasons for visiting a certain tourism destination (Graburn, 1998).

The Last few years have witnessed an expansion of cultural projects and museums in the Gulf Region. Several Gulf countries have invested heavily in cultural projects including the building of ambitious museums (UNESCO, 2010). The United Arab Emirates has also been witnessing an expansion in significant museum projects, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi on Al Saadiyat Island; the cultural island in Abu Dhabi Emirate (Ouroussoff, 2010; Shadid, 2012). The new Louvre museum is a result of a cultural cooperation between France and the UAE and the first universal museum in the Middle East.

One of the objectives of such great projects in the Gulf Region is to transform these countries into cultural hubs and make them able to rival other major art cities such as Paris, New York and London. Countries in the Gulf Region also want to create a bridge between the western and Arabic civilizations. The desire of representing and preserving the history, culture and heritage of the Gulf Region also is also considered a vital driving motive behind the building of such massive museums in the region. Building these cultural centres also reshapes the image of the Arab world generally and the Gulf particularly (Ajana, 2015).

This study discusses museums as cultural institutes and their important role in cultural exchange. It sheds the light on the concept of the universal museum and the global debate over this type of museums. It shows Louver Abu Dhabi museums as a successful example of universal museums which highlights cultures that differ from each other in one place in the Gulf Region.


2 Museums and the political and social reflection

Museums have always mirrored political background such as wars or diplomatic relationships between countries. The Arabic world is going through significant political events and changes that definitely reflect on museums and their collections. The balance between political expectations and scientific interpretation should be taken in consideration when museums are established. Therefore, museum professionals face an extremely challenge regarding this context as it must be taken in account that museums are not political institutions but should be a way to promote for peace and tolerance among different nations, as well as, different cultures around the world (Antos, 2014). Museums always give a space of dialogue between people of different points of views regarding certain previous political contexts. Displaying collections of different cultures and nations can explore the idea that cultural differences and forms of representation are natural. It also paves the way towards building greater understanding and tolerance between people and different cultures (Gibson, 2014).

Some scholars have discussed the importance of the social reflections on museum’s collections. They consider it necessary to redefine the concept and meaning of objects, because the value is not in the items themselves, but in their physical manifestation and social relationships. If we focus on the social relationship surrounding a particular item, restitution of the item to place of its origin becomes very important as some objects represent symbols of identity to some communities. The issue of restitution is a matter of debate over scholars and researches around the world and closely related to the concept of the Universal Museum; according to some, restitution of museum items makes sense only when the respective heritage or tradition is implemented in daily practices, which is important to concerned communities (Bell, 2008).

Today, a challenge for museums is how to start developing space for dialogue between social communities and their audience (Antos, 2014). In the Middle East, Louvre Abu Dhabi museum is considered an idea to enhance cultural diplomacy and positive international cultural relations between France and United Arab Emirates (Herlory, 2008). This museum is a huge project to create an intercultural dialogue between different cultures and civilizations around the world.  


3 Museums and cultural heritage

The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity in 2001 stressed on the following;

  • Importance of intercultural dialogue.
  • Preservation of cultural diversity.
  • Culture and heritage is not unchanging, but a creative and adaptive process. 
  • Such processes are universal, where cultures flourish that come into contact with one another (UNESCO, 2001).

In 2016, the UNESCO presented the various principal categories of heritage such as cultural heritage, natural heritage and military heritage. The UNESCO classified the cultural heritage into two types; Tangible cultural heritage which includes paintings, sculpture, coins, archaeological sites, ancient monuments and underwater monuments and Intangible cultural heritage which includes oral traditions, rituals and performing arts (Sari and Nazli, 2018).  

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) defined a museums as “a non-profit permanent institution in the service of societies and its development, open to public, which acquires, conserves, researches and displays both the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purpose of education and enjoyment” (ICOM, 2008).

Therefore, museums play a vital role in display and represent the cultural heritage in any country. Moreover, museums educate their visitors about the history, culture and heritage of a community or a country. That is, museums display what is valuable for a community which is usually related to the past, share it with the public and preserve it to the coming generations. That is, museums play an essential role in understanding the sustainability of cultural heritage as they display the heritage and preserve it to the next generations (Sari and Nazli, 2018; Perera, 2013).


3.1 The Role of Museums in Protecting Diversity of Cultural Expression

Museums play an important role in preserving heritage and culture as a museum is an important element in delivering information about the local cultures and other cultures as well (Herreman, 1998).

Presently, most of processes that are taking in culture stem are emerging from two tendencies; globalizations and diversification of cultures. The concept of Cultural globalization is based on the unification of different cultures and the development of global brands. On the other hand, the cultural diversification is all about searching for each culture`s identity. In fact, cultural diversity has become more and more relevant.

Since the early 2000s, UNESCO has adopted some declarations on Cultural Diversity; the 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, the 2003 Convention for Safeguarding the Intangible Heritage, and the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression (Kochelyaeva, 2015). In these declarations the UNESCO affirms the importance of cultural relations and its role in advancing the objective of international peace (UNESCO, 2001; UNESCO, 2005).

In the Convention of 2005, the UNESCO defines some new goals to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expression, to reinforce cultural dialogue among different nations in order to develop the cultural exchanges in the world, to develop the cultural interaction among different communities, to promote respect for cultural diversity and develop awareness of the value of cultural exchange at both levels local and international. The convention also defines the goals to reaffirm the importance of creating links between cultures and countries and their roles in developing countries and supporting actions taken nationally and internationally to support and promote the idea of recognition of the important and value of these links. The Convention of 2005, also represented the objectives to emphasize and strengthen international cooperation and partnership between countries to develop countries by promoting the diversity of cultural expressions (Kochelyaeva, 2015).

International cultural relations enable people to share their cultures and discover other cultures. Cultures meet, mingle and morph via enhancing the international cultural relations and developing international cultural policies between countries around the world. That is, the implementation of international cultural policies benefits the cultural diversity in all over the world (Lombard, 2003). 

Museums play an essential role in promoting and presenting new cultural communities. Under the emerging of the importance of enhancing and increasing cultural diversity, museums have the role of presenting different cultures and finding different new ways for promoting the cultural diversity concept through their collections (Kochelyaeva, 2015). Displaying works of other nations or races helps in accepting differences among various peoples we are dealing with everyday. In museums peoples learn how to respect other civilizations, cultures, believes and personalities too (Finley, 1946).

Therefore, there are some museums scattered around the world contain collections reflect world cultural heritage and different world civilizations. In this sense, a cultural dialogue about civilizations and different cultures are opened through expanding knowledge about cultures nationally and internationally (Antos, 2014). One of the best examples of these cultural projects in the Gulf Region is Louvre Abu Dhabi museum which is built to retell the histories and stories of different cultures around the world in order to create a link between the western and Arabic art (Ajana, 2015).  


3.2 Museums and Tourism

Museums impact economies as heritage and tourism are interconnected together. Museums are institutions of culture, education and entertainment for both locals and tourists alike. Therefore, the type of tourism which has evolved around heritage is called “Heritage or Cultural Tourism” (Perera, 2013). In fact, heritage tourism is said to be one of the oldest forms of travel (Timothy & Boyd, 2006). Nowadays, tourists have become more interested in explore and understand cultures and civilizations of different nations more than before and this interest in culture has become a key element in choosing a tourism destination. Therefore, museums have become the most visited places by tourists to understand and learn about heritage, culture and history. Moreover, Museums with their exhibitions have become the cornerstones in tourism development plans of tourism destinations as they play a vital role in increasing a city`s culture reputation (Van Aalst & Boogaarts, 2002).

Generally, Museums are different from other heritage attractions; as they have the ability to educate visitors about the culture of a certain community and preserve collections as witnesses of history and cultures (MacClancy, 1997). According to the studies of the American Association of Museums which had been undertaken in 1990`s, tourists who visit museums during their stay in tourism destinations spend nearly twice than tourists who are not interested in visiting museums during their trip. That is, cultural tourism and especially visiting museums has a positive economic impact on tourism destinations. Therefore, Museums are considered a potential tourism attraction (Genoways & Ireland, 2003).

The positive impact of cultural tourism and museums as cultural institutions make the whole world turns the attention to museums and the importance of their growth and construction. In regards to the instance of the paper, Louvre Abu Dhabi museum is built to attract tourists to visit Abu Dhabi city in order to improve its international image and regenerate its local economy (Plaza, 2000). 



Universal museum is a new category of museums established from the 16th and 17th centuries. Objects that are preserved in any universal museum should be linked together for better understanding of the objects and everything related to them such as cultures, civilizations, history and religion (Miniotis, 2014).

Universal museums had started as natural museum and then had developed into archaeological and art museums. Their main objective from the beginning was to represent the world`s diversity and to provide an access for everyone to see and understand different cultures around the world (Cuno, 2010). Thus, universal museum represents heritage, art and antiquity as owned by everyone. Therefore, education is the main role of this type of museums and representing different civilizations and understanding their cultures is a right to everyone (Miniotis, 2014).

In the 21st century, universal museums focused on heritage and cultures of different nations. They provide valuable contexts for displayed collections that are displaced from their original places in order to make them available and accessible to an international public. That is, the main concept of universal museums is to display objects from different cultures and different civilizations side by side in one place to make them available for everyone (Miniotis, 2014).   

There is a debate over the concept of the universal museum as some scholars considered this type of museums as immunity for a group of large museums due to their fears that objects held in their collections will face the recent repatriation claims by their original sources (Abungu, 2004).

Some researchers called for the necessity of establishing a cultural property art market and setting restrict policies with legal standards to control the looting of archaeological sites. In fact, they encourage the free trade in cultural property and the existence of the international art markets to protect the objects from looting (Cuno, 2001).

On the other hand, a group of scholars called the “Nationalists” are against the creation of the art market and disagree on adding monetary value to cultural property (Coggins, 1998).

Although this debate, the mission of the universal museums is to spread a positive outlook of different cultures around the world and make galleries held the global collections accessible for everyone. These institutions embrace the concept that understanding global cultures and different civilizations is a right for everyone, regardless their place of origin (Miniotis, 2014). However, the universal museums should respect the national cultural property and the protection of archaeological sites. Objects should be moved from their original place according to legal and ethical terms. Therefore, in 1970, the United Nation Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the Illicit Import and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property was held by the UNESCO. This convention was the reason for entering into cultural property agreements by many countries. Thus, museum’s collections when they are moved from their archaeological to other countries should be exported according to legal terms (Cuno, 2001).

In fact, the universal museums are considered a good idea for the objects that are stored in storerooms in their original places and do not get catalogued or published and just remained stored without displaying (Barken, 1998). However, acquiring antiquities must be run through a legal and ethical process in order to be exhibited in a universal museum (Cuno, 2001).  



Museums have started to appear and spread in the Gulf Region between 1960 and 1970. That is, establishing museums was much slower in Gulf countries than in Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia because these countries were also slower in accepting museum culture (Lathan and Simons, 2014). In the last few years, the Gulf countries have begun to develop the non-energy sectors of the economy such as tourism and culture (Ephraim, 2019). Gulf countries such as Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and United Arab Emirates realized the importance of building museums and their roles in representing and developing tourism, educational and cultural sectors (Bouchenaki, 2013). Therefore, Museums in the Gulf Region have gone through significant development and progress over the last few years.

Most of the traditional museums in the Gulf Region in general and the UAE especially are reflecting the heritage of the community because heritage has always been the main tourism attraction and it is the major resource for tourism development (Ashowrth & Tunbridge, 2011). However, some recent museums have been built to represent the connection between different cultures and civilizations such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum which is a huge universal museum (El Amrousi et al, 2018). In this paper, Louvre Abu Dhabi is discussed as an example of the Gulf`s museums and their roles in connecting cultures and civilizations of the world. 


5.1 Louvre Abu Dhabi as the First Universal Museum in the Middle East

As it is mentioned above museums have been built in the Gulf since the 1960s, and since 2000 there has been a proliferation of governmental great projects, many of them are still under construction (Anjana, 2015).

The United Arab Emirates has a great focus on tourism and culture especially in the last few years. The hard work and the government`s efforts are shown clearly in its Cultural Mandate which is a document represents the country`s cultural vision in the next thirty years. This Mandate represents Abu Dhabi vision 2030 master plan developed by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the UAE. The vision includes plans and projects to promote the country`s culture and heritage through building new museums and cultural institutions in different parts of the country (Ephraim, 2019). The United Arab Emirates has a multicultural population as more than 180 different nationalities are living peacefully on its land. Therefore, the government had started initiatives to foster peace and to create cultural harmony among its diverse population.

UAE`s government also quickly realized the importance of reinforce this harmony by starting cultural plans representing the acceptance of change and the increasing of awareness of cultural globalization. The cultural plans focus on the idea of the importance of exchange between national and international cultures (Ephraim, 2019).          

Generally, Most of the museums of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi are traditional museums reflect the initial Bedouin culture from the pre-petroleum period. These museums display traditional handicrafts made by Emirati women, fishing and pearling industries, etc. While the modern museums of Abu Dhabi has been changed in its concept and architectural context as well (El Amrousi et al. 2018). Therefore, contrast to the traditional museums some other contemporary museums have been established on the land of Abu Dhabi such as Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Louvre Abu Dhabi. These museums are international cultural centres built to attract more tourists and art lovers. These new museums have been described as “visibility museums” different than traditional heritage museums. The main purpose for establishing such new types of museums is to enhance the international portfolio of the UAE and to foster the cultural globalization which represents the unification of different cultures and the development of global brands (Ephraim, 2019). Building such museums also develops tourism industry and increase the number of tourists  in the city of Abu Dhabi every year (Pieterse, 2009).

The government’s strategic plan of UAE aims to develop Abu Dhabi into a global city by investing in tourism industry. In 2004, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority announced plans to develop one of its islands called Al Saadiyat Island; a 27 square km zone situated 500 m off the coast of Abu Dhabi’s urban centre (one of the natural islands in Abu Dhabi) into a tourist and cultural destination. Plans for the Cultural District include the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the Zayed National Museum, the Maritime Museum and the Performing Arts Centre. The Maritime Museum will be the only museum set apart in the Saadiyat Marina District (Wakefield, 2015; Universes in Universe, 2007). Buildings of these museums are designed by some of the famous architects; Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel, the architect of Louvre Abu Dhabi museum. The Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), which is responsible for overseeing the development of the Saadiyat projects, describes the island as the only place in the world to house projects designed by five Pritzker prize winners, which will attract the whole world to Abu Dhabi (Ajana, 2015). On the other hand, Abu Dhabi also provided these architects with a great opportunity to take their imagination to greater heights and lead some of the most important early 21st century architecture (McClellan, 2012).

The Abu Dhabi government wanted to convert Al Saadiyat Island into a museum district or a museum quarter in order to give this district the ability to attract general population, tourists and students to the area. Moreover, the construction of such cultural icons with their remarkable architecture on the island will raise the value of this area (Santaga, 2002).

When it comes to France as the land of the magnificent Louvre museum, the leaders of the French Revolution (1789-1799) acknowledged the importance of art as apolitical and social tool for reform and reconstruction. The Louvre museum would play an important role in the formation and growth of the new society, would symbolize the new order of things, would follow the rhythms of all people and would eventually evolve into a museum of the world. They believed that the Louvre would create links with all the nations, would surpass the limits of the material world and would evolve into a research centre for the entire world and the capital of the arts. The Louvre Museum was opened officially in 1793 to be one of the largest museums in all over the world (Mavromichali, 2012, p.98). That is, in regards to the to the Branding Concept it can be said that the establishment of the Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi is considered an investment in brand identity of the UAE by generate the cultural capital needed to increase its international reputation (Ajana, 2015). 

The Louvre Abu Dhabi museum is the first universal museum in the Arab world which represents the art in a new global perspective. On March 2007, France and UAE signed an agreement about the building of this museum on the land of Abu Dhabi city. On 11 November 2017, Louvre Abu Dhabi unveiled to the world a 21st-century universal museum, welcoming thousands of visitors from different parts of the world to explore the exceptional architecture and the masterpieces displayed throughout its galleries. The Art Newspaper reported that Louvre Abu Dhabi was the most significant museum opening of 2017 (Ajana, 2015; DCT, 2017).

That is, the UAE is the first country in the Arab world decides to start such a great project and build the new Louvre in Abu Dhabi which is considered the first of its kind in the world (Herlory, 2008).

 More than the half of Louvre Abu Dhabi staff is Emirati, with the remaining staff coming from different nationalities. As part of the intergovernmental agreement, UAE nationals have been offered an excellent training opportunities, including on-the-job training from experts in the field and opportunities to be placed in important French museums (Wakefield, 2015; DCT, 2017).

In fact, by building such a huge project Emirati leaders wanted to take advantage of French expertise and attract visitors from all over the world to come and visit the city of Abu Dhabi (Napoléon, 2014). On the other hand, building such a museum shares in the process of France brand image and promoting France as tourism destination as well. The French Government realized the importance of the development of its international cultural relationships which has a vital role in making the world more peaceful (Herlory, 2008). It should be mentioned that the UAE and France have a strong relationship in political, economic, educational and cultural fields.  The cultural and educational relationship between France and UAE has been represented in the building of a branch of Paris Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi city and in hosting the international art fair Art Paris- Abu Dhabi and Louvre Abu Dhabi museum in the city of Abu Dhabi (Herlory, 2008).  


5.2 Louvre Abu Dhabi and its Unique Cultural Dialogue

For more than two decades, the UAE has been on a mission to represent and enrich its culture through building several museums scattered in all the emirates of this country. Louvre Abu Dhabi museum is one of the most important projects has been done by the United Arab Emirates to boost the cultural dialogue among different nations. The museum illustrates global cultures and intercultural concept for better understanding of tolerance and acceptance on the land of the UAE. The museum celebrates different global cultures alongside with the UAE`s culture (Ephraim, 2019). Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum is a universal museum on the land at the crossroads of civilizations (Napoléon, 2014). The museum is entirely different from the other museums in not only the United Arab Emirates but also the entire Gulf Region. It contains large collections reflecting world cultural heritage and different world civilizations. Items displayed in this museum were found in different places of the world. Thus, the museum represents civilizations, cultures and communities different than the culture of the natives of the UAE (Antos, 2014).

The Louvre Abu Dhabi displays artefacts from different cultures of the entire world, not arranged in a chronological or ethnographic order rather they are displayed basing on their artistic value and set against various architectural backdrops. Most of the objects of the museum came from the louver museum of Paris, however most of them were found in different places around the world. In this sense, a dialogue about civilizations and civilization rights might be opened. This civilization dialogue reflects one of the most important roles of Louver Abu Dhabi museum in sharing information about different civilizations and history of different countries around the globe on a land entirely different than civilizations represented in this museum (Antos, 2014). Louvre Abu Dhabi museum built a bridge connecting several world cultures with the land the United Arab Emirates.

Abu Dhabi is now positioning itself as a global centre by constructing a cosmopolitan identity through museum architecture and collections that are transnational in scope (Wakefield, 2015). Inspired by the ancient Falaj irrigation system of Arab engineering, a water channel runs through the museum, giving the impression that the space is like an oasis that encourages strolling along the water (Napoléon, 2014).

Representing tolerance on the land of the United Arab Emirates also was one of the reasons behind the establishment of this huge museum. In other words, building such a universal huge museum on the land of Abu Dhabi enables the visitors of the museum to understand the multicultural nature of the community which enables and facilitates expanding knowledge and information about different world cultures and civilizations (Antoz, 2014). The new museum of Louver Abu Dhabi succeeded in giving new meanings to its collections in the context of its multicultural community. That is, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is built under the umbrella of the concept of “Multiculturalism”. It is entirely different than the Louvre Museum in Paris as it enhances and promotes the concept of cultural understanding and tolerance. It is a universal museum on the land of the UAE connects the whole world through art and archaeology. By hosting collections from different world civilizations from prehistoric to modern era, the museum represents connections between different cultures and civilizations around the world in a peaceful way (Ephraim, 2019). 

On 9 November 2017, the museum hosted a day of lectures called Louvre Abu Dhabi Encounters, which drew more than 300 specialists from all over world to boost the cultural dialogue concept. Louvre Abu Dhabi was proclaimed the most significant museum unveiling of 2017 by The Art Newspaper (DCT, 2017).

In brief, Louvre Abu Dhabi museum was built for enhancing cultural dialogue between different civilizations and fostering international cultural cooperation.


5.3 Architecture of the Louvre Abu Dhabi

 Museum`s building architectural style draws people`s attention to the museum and make an impression on them. Therefore, the architecture of a museum is considered a very important factor in making the experience for the visitors of the museum. The architecture of the museum and its edifice has a great impact on people`s mind as the outstanding architecture of a museum sticks in visitor`s mind and makes it easy for them to remember the museum (Herlory, 2008).  

Therefore, the government of Abu Dhabi took the decision to build an iconic building for the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum. The museum has been designed by the most famous French architect called Jean Nouvel. He designed the museum as a ‘museum city’ in the sea, with a contrasting series of fifty-five white buildings inspired low-lying Arab architecture. These buildings, ponds and landscaping are designed in a similar way to the designs of an ancient city.  It has an iconic large dome, comprised of 7,850 unique metal stars set in a unique complex geometric pattern, creates magnificent moving light. The design of the geometric lace dome is inspired by the interlaced palm fronds which were used as roofing material in old houses in the UAE to permit light to filter into the museum (Wakefield, 2015). The interlaced pattern of the dome is represented in Arabesque Islamic designs interplay with light creating shade and shadow in a unique and magnificent way and permits light to penetrate and gather beneath it (El Amrousi et al. 2018). Islamic Arabesque art consists of a series of repeating geometric forms; Muslim artisans also perfected the technique of creating decorative motifs of flowers, vines, and other graphics in precise geometric patterns. These “arabesque” motifs usually covered walls, pottery, and other decorative Islamic objects with geometric and mathematical principles (Snigh, 2017). The origins of the arabesque most probably dating back to the 9th century under the ‘Abbâsids (749-1258 AD), and becoming more fully developed in the 11th century (Kuhnel, 2016) (Fig.1).

The interlacing screens of the dome give reference to the ornately carved wooden screens known as mashrabiyya, or jail screens that were used to veil private spaces during Islamic periods. These perforated devices used geometries, swirling foliage and arabesques to position the viewer to look out at the external world while retaining the discretion of space.                   

The spaces of gathering created under the iconic dome represent the pluralistic cultural understanding of spaces in the living city (Al Amrousi et al. 2018).

White cubical structures create a collage of forms several pathways that end in vistas of Abu Dhabi’s waterfront. Jean Nouvel’s design offer new interpretations of culture through a regeneration of Islamic ornaments that juxtapose a contrast between artefacts, the interplay with light, shade and shadow created by the iconic dome and water that constantly interacts with art and architecture (Al Amrousi et al. 2018).



Figure 1: Interlacing Screens of the Dome of the Museum – Louvre Abu Dhabi


5.4 Collection of Louvre Abu Dhabi

The collections of Louvre Abu Dhabi museum is the most important element of its brand value. It has a great collection of different civilizations which increased the museum`s reputation. It contains a big exhibition from Louvre of Paris and some other famous museums around the world (Herlory, 2008). 

During the building of this project, an Acquisitions Committee had been formed. The pieces of the museum have been chosen according to strict ethical considerations. Their origin should be accurately scrutinized as well. Each acquisition must be endorsed (Napoléon, 2014). According to the agreement between UAE and France, the Agence France-Museum provides the museum with four temporary exhibitions every year for 15 years (Balkany, 2007). 

Currently, the collection of Louvre Abu Dhabi reflects a focal point of dialogue between civilizations and cultures of different eras around the globe (Fige.2). It shows an intercultural dialogue between nations. It is at a crossroad of civilizations as it is located in a spot of the land about one hour and a half from India but in the heart of the Middle East. Therefore, the collection of Louvre Abu Dhabi is targeting visitors from all over the world. The collection of the museum shows how different civilizations influence and impact each other through the pieces displayed in the galleries of the museum (Napoléon, 2014).

The permanent collection of the museum is displayed in thematic order rather than chronological or geographic order like most of the other universal museums in the world. That is, the new Louvre chooses a new concept for displaying its collection which is a concept based on equal recognition of all peoples and their creativity (Excell, 2016). The collection of the museum focuses on representing the connections between different cultures and civilizations rather than showing their differences. The objects from different civilizations are displayed side by side in one place as if in a cultural dialogue (Figs.2,3).



Figure 2: Statuettes of Different Ancient Civilizations are Displayed Side by Side - Louvre Abu Dhabi. Left: Asian Statuette (1700-2300 BCE), Central Asia, Bactria. Middle: Monumental Statue with Two Heads (6500 BCE), Jordan, Ain Ghazal. Right: Isis Nursing Horus (800-400 BCE), Egypt.    


Figure 3: Statuettes from different eras of Different Civilizations Side by Side in the Museum - Louvre Abu Dhabi. Left: Virgin and the Child (1330-1320), France. Middle: Phemba, Maternity Figure (1900-1800), Congo. Right: Guardian Statuette of a reliquary (1900-1800), Gabon.   

The museum represents pieces from Prehistoric, ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman art to Islamic and grand Asian art (Figs. 4,5). It also includes masterpieces of the work of Bellini, Murillo, Manet and Mondrian (Figs. 6,7). Thus, pieces displayed in this museum also represent modern art and the European Renaissance. All pieces are represented in their cultural context (Des Cars, 2013).


Figure 4: Roman Art - Louvre Abu Dhabi. Left & Middle: Mosaic Panels.


Figure 5: Roman Statues (100-200 CE) - Louvre Abu Dhabi










Figure 6: Left: Dancing Shiva, Hindu Divinity (950-1000), From India.  Right: Buddha Head (100-300 CE) From Gandhara- Asian Art-  Louvre Abu Dhabi


Louvre Abu Dhabi is not a copy of the French Louvre in Paris, but it has its own identity and reflects the heritage, culture and tradition of the host country. Building such a universal with this new concept encourages people to understand the new role that can museums play in the 21st century. It also encourages cultural dialogue and exchange on an international basis. It shares commonalities rather than differences throughout displaying the art of different civilizations around the world. Pieces are also displayed in the museum from the most ancient to the most modern (Hall, 2014).










Figure 7:18th.-19th. Centuries Art . Left: The British Jurist Charles Joseph Crowle (1761-1762), Italy. Right: Napoleon Bonaparte (1800), From France.   Louvre Abu Dhabi.


One the other hand, the collection of the museum as it has been mention before is arranged by the Agence France Museums that represents and highlights the French collections in a cultural dialogue with the Louvre Abu Dhabi own collection which is a challenging task.

The collections of the museum focus on the cultural dialogue between different world civilizations on the land of Arabian Peninsula which has a long history as a land of trade, travel and exchange. Therefore, it also ensures and reinforces the long history the Arabian Peninsula in the region through artistic and aesthetic context (Hall, 2014).



Today, cultural planning development has become very important for all communities worldwide. Therefore, many countries have turned their attention to create successful cultural plans. Culture now is considered the main element that makes a city more attractive for professional workers and for tourists as well (Hall, 2000). Building new museums has become among the most important initiatives included in cultural planning policies. Museums as cultural institutions improve local communities, educate them and attract private investment and tourists to the city. Thus, museums have positive impacts on both economics and communities and quality of local life.

The new Louvre Abu Dhabi museum is considered a successful initiative for representing an international cultural dialogue. The museum is built on Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi Island and converted it into an international cultural spotlight. By building this universal museum the UAE emphasises its keenness to communicate with other cultures and to open to different civilizations around the world. Moreover, the museum focuses on representing connections and similarities of different civilization around the globe. It contains pieces from different cultures and eras displayed side by side without representing the differences among them. Thus, the museum gives a better understanding of cultures and civilizations around the world apart from their differences and shows a unique cultural dialogue of civilizations between the east and the west.

Furthermore, the agreement of the government of France in building a branch of Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi city at the Gulf Region reflects the desire of France in strengthening its cultural presence in different parts of the world. France aimed to expand its cultural image in the Gulf Region and develop its international cultural cooperation. Louvre Abu Dhabi project increases the French Louver`s authority internationally. On the other hand, building the Louvre museum on the land of Abu Dhabi plays a vital role in branding the identity of United Arab Emirates and increases its international reputation. This project provides Abu Dhabi with the ability to present its image internationally by representing connections of different civilizations across the world.

It is decided to call this museum Louvre Abu Dhabi although only a part of its collection are from the Louvre of Paris because the UAE wanted to use the Louvre brand to benefit the UAE in terms of image, tourism and economy. On other hand, it plays an important role for encouraging more tourists to visit France by giving a glimpse of the quality of French museums especially the Louvre museum of Paris. That is, France benefits from the building of the Louvre museum on the land of the United Arab Emirates by boosting its international soft power (Evans, 2003).

The objectives of the building of Louvre Abu Dhabi project are; the creating of an international cultural district in order to form a special national identity, the using of cultural tool in political and economic developments and making museums the most powerful cultural institutions in the world. Therefore, The Louvre Abu Dhabi museum is considered a major tool to generate the positive international image for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. However, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a brand-new universal museum with international appeal built to represent mainly the different civilizations within a cultural dialogue context.

Although the global debate over cultural property, the objects of Louvre Abu Dhabi represent different cultures and civilizations together in one place which create a unique cosmopolitan atmosphere. This cosmopolitan atmosphere which is matching with the nature of the UAE`s community makes attracts makes people appreciate the museum and its collection. Apart from the claims of some scholars that building the new Louvre is a project to foster the political and economic relations between the UAE and France this museum is playing a vital role as an educational institute. It provides the locals, residents and tourists with clear idea about different cultures, civilizations and eras. Therefore, the museum in general has a great value as it provides a full understanding of history and cultures across the world.      

In a conclusion, the United Arab Emirate chose culture as a soft power to have an international reputation as culture is considered a very powerful tool that can gives the UAE the required global expansion. The Louvre Abu Dhabi represents the world heritage and presents a cultural dialogue by housing objects of different cultures and represents the Emirati culture within the context of other cultures around the world.

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