Head for the giant flag at the end of Jumeirah Beach Road and you can’t miss it – the stunning new Etihad Museum.
Words: Will Rankin
Built to resemble the unification manuscript that brought the Emirates together in 1971 and sited next to Union House, where the actual document was signed, the museum celebrates the culture and history of the Emirates.
We’re excited to hit the 25,000 square feet museum, and our first impression is awe. It’s futuristic, yet bursting with references to local culture. This building wouldn’t be out of place in any modern metropolitan city.
Stepping inside, we’re greeted by a dramatic entrance pavilion, with giant stone steps curving downwards to a reception desk, opposite an enormous plaque laid out with Arabic script, representing the unification document’s parchment, while the tall gold pillars throughout the venue represent the pens with which the seven Sheikhs signed up to the agreement.
Designed by Canada’s Moriyama and Teshima Architects, the building wowed us with its high ceilings and gentle curves.
We are here to learn more about the period between 1968 and 1974 – through photos, films, documents and interactive installations – the critical period when the UAE was formed.
But first we sit a while simply taking in the view – the surrounding gardens and pool, with an alternative backdrop of the Burj Khalifa – thanks to the floor-to-ceiling glass.
Heading downstairs – the majority of the museum is underground, including permanent and temporary galleries, theatres, event spaces and archival facilities – we note there’s a natural flow to walking around the Museum.
We enjoy the interactive elements, such as the blocks which declare each pillar of unification – slide them to the middle of a special table and a host of information is revealed on the wall in front of you, including text, photos and video.
It’s not a huge space, but it’s big enough to while away an afternoon with the kids. There’s a beautiful library, and a serene outdoor area with a gentle waterfall and a ghaf tree where we want to linger with a book.
We love the philately section – surprisingly – with so much of the region’s history being revealed through its postal service and stamps. There’s even a cool little pop-up post office where you can send a letter to your loved ones with a unique Etihad Museum frank, and a section where children can have a go at designing their own stamps.
It’s no theme park – expect to see glasses, passports and the like – but if you want to know more about this incredible place we call home, and the founding fathers behind it, the Etihad Museum is a must-see.