Saadiyat Island

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Saadiyat Island
Saadiyat Island Model Pict 1.jpg
Scale model of proposed Saadiyat Island development.
Coordinates24°32′09″N 54°26′33″E / 24.5358°N 54.4424°E / 24.5358; 54.4424
United Arab Emirates

Saadiyat Island (Arabic: جزيرة السعديات‎; jazīrat as-saʿdiyyāt, for "Island of Happiness"[1]) is a tourism-cultural project for nature and Emirati heritage and culture.[2] The project, under development, consists of a large, low-lying island, 500 metres (1,600 ft) off the coast of Abu Dhabi island, UAE. A mixed commercial, residential, and leisure project is currently under construction on the island, expected to be completed in 2020. Saadiyat Island is expected to become Abu Dhabi's cultural centre, mostly for the Island’s Cultural District that is expected to include eight museums.[3]

The island is five-minute drive away from downtown Abu Dhabi, 20 minutes from Abu Dhabi International Airport, and one hour from Dubai.[4]


The project is being developed by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority-held Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC). The company plans is to dispose of development to private investors that will work on their sites in accordance with the master plan as well as other ground rules.[5][6] The plan for Saadiyat island was done by EDAW and continued under AECOM.

The Island is located 500 meters off the coast of Abu Dhabi. An entire district on the island is devoted to culture and the arts, with exhibitions, permanent collections, productions and performances.[7]

Close cooperation[edit]

In developing the island project, the close cooperation model is being followed by TDIC and the government agencies. The government-related entity has been working in cooperation with government agencies such as the Department of Transport to create an integrated project, complete with public amenities, in a relatively short period of time. Such close cooperation reassures smaller, private developers, who follow the GRE by providing smaller-scale works like shops, entertainment venues or real estate developments, which in turn attract a full-time resident community.[1]

Features and services[edit]

The island has several cultural institutions in Saadiyat Cultural District like the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened in 2017.

Two other museums are scheduled to open in the future[when?], namely Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum.

It also houses the New York University Abu Dhabi which moved to Saadiyat Island in 2014.

The Accommodation Village[edit]

The Saadiyat Accommodation Village, opened in 2009, is a modern housing community that offers social, recreational and educational facilities for residents.[8]

Development and labor conditions[edit]

The European Union has sent several delegations to Saadiyat Accommodation Village to meet with representatives from the TDIC.[9]

In May 2009, Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction[10] issued a report accusing the contractors working on Saadiyat Island of violating the rights of workers on the site by charging them fees to obtain their work contracts, paying them less than they were promised, and holding their passports to prevent their resignation or departure.[11] The report also called on western partners (including Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the French Museum Agency, and New York University) to seek contractual assurances that these violations would not continue once construction on facilities for those institutions was underway. The alleged violations of the workers' rights would also constitute violations of United Arab Emirates law. The activist group Gulf Labor, which has staged protests at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, continues to pressure Western art museums to use ethical labor practices.[12]

Proposed districts[edit]

The eastern side of Saadiyat Island, seen from the air

Saadiyat Island, a natural island that is the focus of 27 km2 of development, will be divided into 7 districts (Arabic: منطقة‎)[13] which will eventually accommodate over 145,000 people.[14][15]

Saadiyat Cultural District[edit]

Located at the Western end of the island, Saadiyat Cultural District occupies not much more than 10 per cent of the total area of the project.[16]

The Cultural District lies on a total area of 2.43 square kilometres (0.94 sq mi). There are plans to spend 85 million pounds on the following projects:


The Cultural District will house three major museums: The local Louvre and Guggenheim, as well as the Zayed National Museum. The contract for the Louvre Abu Dhabi was awarded in January 2013 to Arabtec Construction, Oger Abu Dhabi and Constructor San José, and was completed in 2017.[citation needed] The Zayed National Museum, designed by architect Norman Foster of Foster and Partners, was set to open in 2016. The Guggenheim, by Frank Gehry, is slated to open in 2017.[1]

Each of these institutions will represent a significant attraction in its own right. However, the Louvre and the Guggenheim will be the major draws.[18]

Manarat Al Saadiyat (Arabic: منارة السعديات‎), the building designed to host temporary taster exhibitions for the planned museums, hosts the Saadiyat Experience, a permanent exhibition that introduces the plans for the development Of Saadiyat Island.[19]

Zayed National Museum[edit]

Zayed National Museum[20] will center on a narrative linking the development of Abu Dhabi to the reign of its ruler (1966-2004) Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and to structures having themes of education, conservation, environmental sustainability, cultural heritage, humanitarianism and faith.[21]

Louvre Abu Dhabi[edit]
A computer-generated image of the Louvre Abu Dhabi

Louvre Abu Dhabi which was opened on 11th November 2017,[22] will host the collection of the museum, designed by architect Jean Nouvel.[23] ln the case of the former, the Saadiyat development will mark the first time the French government has entered into an international partnership to extend the Louvre overseas.

The local Louvre will mark the first time the French government has entered into an international partnership to extend the Louvre overseas. The 30-year agreement, signed in 2007, will see the loan of some 200–300 artworks over the period of the deal.[18]

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi[edit]

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry, will display contemporary art and culture items that represent the most important modern artistic achievements.[24] At 30,000 sq metres, it is planned to be the largest of the Guggenheim museums. The museum will join Bilbao, Venice and New York in hosting the prestigious foundation.[18]

Maritime museum[edit]

A maritime museum will be devoted to explaining the maritime ecosystem and heritage of Abu Dhabi and sea-related Emirati professions. The architecture of the museum reflects Emirati construction and decoration. The ceiling of the museum will picture the sky and the sea merging into one another. Wind, as one of the natural factors that shape the history of the UAE in general, will also be pictured. The main part of the project will be an underground basin, a traditional sailboat and the boat "Zayed Memorial", which crossed the Atlantic in 2007 for humanitarian purposes.[25]

Arts center[edit]

The arts center consists of five theaters, an opera house and several arenas for musical concerts. The center also has an experimental theater, the Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Academy with 3,557 square metres of space for educational activities about art, design, music and drama. The center also has shops and restaurants on a surface of 28,692 square metres.

Abrahamic Family House[edit]

Commissioned by the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity, David Adjaye won a 2019 design competition for the Abrahamic Family House, consisting of three rectangular buildings – a church, a synagogue and a mosque – resting on a secular visitor pavilion.[26][27][28][29]


Schools include the Redwood Saadiyat Nursery by the first Kids Group, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, and New York University Abu Dhabi by Mubadala Investment Company, providing education from pre-school to university level. The nursery school was set to open in 2013 to accommodate up to 140 children, offering educational and recreational facilities for pre-school education and using the Montessori method.[30]

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi opened in 2014, and subsequently won the 'British International School of the Year' award in 2017.[citation needed]

Saadiyat Marina District[edit]

The Marina, the Island's main commercial area, has a total area of 3.7 square kilometres (1.4 sq mi), berthing for over 1,000 boats, hotels, apartments, leisure and entertainment facilities[31] including the Maritime Museum by Japan's Tadao Ando, commercial and retail space, and the New York University Abu Dhabi which was planned to move to Saadiyat Marina in 2014 from its provisional campus in downtown Abu Dhabi.[16]

Primary contractors[edit]

The primary contractors for the island are Al Jaber for Villa and HILALCO for Road and Infrastructures.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Oxford Business Group (25 March 2014). The Report: Abu Dhabi 2014. Oxford Business Group. ISBN 978-1-907065-97-2.
  2. ^ Karen Exell (10 March 2016). Modernity and the Museum in the Arabian Peninsula. Routledge. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-317-27901-3.
  3. ^ "Saadiyat Island Home Guggenheim and Louvre Museums". Retrieved 2016-08-09.
  4. ^ "About Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi - Project by TDIC". Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  5. ^ "Abu Dhabi to Build Gehry-Designed Guggenheim Museum". The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. July 8, 2006.
  6. ^ "Saadiyat in Numbers".
  7. ^ "Overview - About Us - TDIC".
  8. ^ "Welfare".
  9. ^ "EU delegates 'positive' about Saadiyat workers' living space".
  10. ^ "A New Art Capital, Finding Its Own Voice". The New York Times. 7 December 2014.
  11. ^ UAE: Exploited Workers Building ‘Island of Happiness’.
  12. ^ Azimi, Negar (December 19, 2016). "The Gulf Art War". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  13. ^ "منطقة لجونز السعديات". Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  14. ^ "About Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi - Project by TDIC". Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  15. ^ "Tourism Development & Investment Company. EPP compliance monitoring report to the corporate social responsibility committee. Annual summary of findings, September 2012" (PDF).
  16. ^ a b Steffen Wippel; Katrin Bromber; Birgit Krawietz (17 February 2016). Under Construction: Logics of Urbanism in the Gulf Region. Routledge. pp. 179–. ISBN 978-1-317-00529-2.
  17. ^ "Saadiyat -Louvre Abu Dhabi". Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  18. ^ a b c Özlem Sandıkcı; Gillian Rice (1 January 2011). Handbook of Islamic Marketing. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 450–. ISBN 978-0-85793-602-8.
  19. ^ Karen Exell (10 March 2016). Modernity and the Museum in the Arabian Peninsula. Routledge. pp. 63–. ISBN 978-1-317-27901-3.
  20. ^ "Zayed National Museum".
  21. ^ Karen Exell (10 March 2016). Modernity and the Museum in the Arabian Peninsula. Routledge. pp. 76–. ISBN 978-1-317-27901-3.
  22. ^ Langton, James (8 November 2017). "Emmanuel Macron and UAE leaders formally open Louvre Abu Dhabi". The National. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
  23. ^ Laurence Des Cars (2013). Louvre Abu Dhabi: Birth of a Museum. Abu Dhabi tourism & culture authority. ISBN 978-2-08-020166-9.
  24. ^ "About Us". Guggenheim. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  25. ^ "Saadiyat Cultural District". Archived from the original on 2011-11-18.
  26. ^ Sophie Tremblay and Jessie Gretener (September 26, 2019), Mosque, church and synagogue to share home in Abu Dhabi CNN.
  27. ^ Brian Timmer (October 19, 2019), The Abrahamic Family House: A Dialogue In Abrahamic Faiths Harper's Bazaar Arabia.
  28. ^ Anna Somers Cocks (November 28, 2019), British architect David Adjaye to build a church, mosque and synagogue on a united site near the Louvre Abu Dhabi The Art Newspaper.
  29. ^ Brian Timmer (October 19, 2019), The Abrahamic Family House: A Dialogue In Abrahamic Faiths Harper's Bazaar Arabia.
  30. ^ "Redwood nursery school to open on Saadiyat Island". GulfNews. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  31. ^ "saadiyat-marina-district". Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  32. ^ "Saadiyat Island". Abu Dhabi - Information Portal. Retrieved 2016-08-09.

External links[edit]