Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Splendours of Mesopotamia

Last weekend we visited Manarat Al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island, which is in the process of becoming a cultural center in Abu Dhabi. The plans for this area are huge and include a Louvre museum, a Guggenheim museum, the Zayed National museum and I'm sure many more.

The Zayed National Museum held an architectural contest for the design of the building. The winning design is from Foster & Partners and looks just amazing. It's modeled off of the wings of a falcon. I couldn't copy any photos of the design as they are all copyrighted, but here's a link to the website where you can read about the museum and see some of the amazing design renderings. Looks like it will be quite a place.

Zayed National Museum

Most of these places won't be ready until 2013 or later, but Manarat Al Saadiyat was built to provide occasional previews of what's to come from the Zayed National Museum. I'm not sure if this building is to be temporary and then taken down once the museum is built or if it's part of the museum that's simply been built first to 'whet the appetite'. In any case, it's a really brilliant idea to bring in a few exhibits before things are finished to get people used to going out there and excited about what is to come. Oh, and yes, it's all free!! The exhibit we went to see is called the Splendours of Mesopotamia and is on loan from the British Musuem and the Al Ain National Museum.

Mesopotamia is considered the birthplace of the first international cities as it was located ideally for trade. The exhibit focused on 3 of the major areas: Sumer, Assyria, and Babylon and tracks the growth of these cites through the centuries as well as the political ups and downs of their rulers. It was a really interesting exhibit, especially since we are here in UAE and this all happened, not across the world like when visiting things like this in the States, but across the Gulf. They even had a small area describing what was going on in the area now known as UAE around the same time. Not big cities developing, but interesting all the same. The exhibit included pottery, jewelry and mostly pieces of architecture and murals. There were also a number of interesting artifacts related to the first written word, which was fun to see. They used a stylus and made little hatch marks with different sides of the instrument to make the words. This all on clay tablets, so a list of goods looks like a little clay tablet with chicken feet markings on it. We got the complimentary audio tour as well, which provided more details than the placards in place.

It was a great outing and very interesting and it still blows our mind that all these things are free. They are all sponsored by a Sheikh in the area and designed to promote the arts and make Abu Dhabi a favorite tourist destination. I can't wait to watch this area grow and develop over the next few years.

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