The western corner of Saadiyat Island has been designated as Abu Dhabi's cultural district. That almost understated description belies the ambition behind the project. This is a cultural district like no other. Over the next five years, Saadiyat's skyline will be transformed by a succession of hugely prestigious landmarks, piloted by some of the world's leading architects: a Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry; the Louvre Abu Dhabi designed by Jean Nouvel; a performing arts center by Zaha Hadid; the Zayed National Museum designed by Norman Foster; and a Maritime Museum by the Japanese master Tadao Ando.
It will be the world's largest single concentration of cultural institutions of this caliber. This is a country that is becoming used to making statements through superlatives and records. It is hoping to attract millions of visitors who will help support an economy that is, some would say, dangerously dependent on just one source, its oil revenue (pessimists predict a fall in the region's oil production within 15 to 20 years).
The Saadiyat development, estimated at $27 billion, will also include luxury resorts, golf and beach clubs, and a nature reserve.
But Saadiyat is more than a tourist initiative. The implications of its successful development are potentially more profound than that. The cultural district project aims to redefine and reposition Abu Dhabi's place in the world.
Some interesting photos below: