Abu Dhabi (AFP) – The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors to the public on Saturday, drawing a crowd as diverse as the cosmopolitan United Arab Emirates itself.
Hundreds of Emiratis along with Asian, European and Arab expatriates, some dressed in shorts, others in flowing Arabic robes, roamed through the vast museum to see famous works from the Paris institution, and pieces from Middle Eastern civilisations alike.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first museum to bear the Louvre name outside France, presents around 600 pieces in a modern, light-filled structure in harmony with its desert-island setting.
More than a decade in the making, a VIP inauguration was held on Wednesday, with French President Emmanuel Macron among the first visitors.
Flagged as “the first universal museum in the Arab world”, it sits on the low-lying Saadiyat Island, a developing tourism and culture hub 500 metres (1,600 feet) off the coast of the United Arab Emirates’ capital.
Under a 30-year agreement, France provides expertise, loans works of art and organises temporary exhibitions — in return for one billion euros ($1.16 billion).
The Louvre in France takes a 400-million-euro share of that sum for the use of its name up to 2037.
For the next 10 years, the Paris museum will lend works to its Abu Dhabi partner on a voluntary basis, for a maximum of two years.
For its permanent collection, the museum has acquired hundreds of pieces, dating from the earliest Mesopotamian civilisations to the present day.
The vast project prides itself ase “the first museum of its kind in the Arab world: a universal museum that focuses on shared human stories across civilisations and cultures”.