Trip to the Louvre, Abu Dhabi

The second stop on our recent brief trip to Abu Dhabi was the Louvre which was inaugurated in November 2017 by French President Emmanuel Macron and UAE Vice President Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi,  Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The museum is part of a 30 year licence agreement between the city of Abu Dhabi and the French government.

Designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, it’s the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula and cost in excess of US$750 million. In addition, Abu Dhabi paid US$525 million for the licence agreement for the name, plus a further US$750 million for art loans, special exhibitions and management advice. Artworks from around the world are showcased at the museum, with particular focus placed upon bridging the gap between Eastern and Western Art.

Quite a collection of antiquities

The museum is part of a US$27 billion tourist and cultural development which includes the building of three further museums, including the largest Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim, the Norman Foster designed Zayed National Museum, a performing arts centre designed by Zaha Hadid, a maritime museum and a number of art’s pavilions.

No(u)vel roof construction

The Louvre is a series of concrete buildings pulled together by a metallic ceiling designed to provide shade and reflect light into the museum like a natural palm frond. The tidal pools within the galleries create the illusion of a “museum in the sea” while protecting artwork, artefacts and visitors from the exterior and corrosive marine environment.

Some of the exhibits are outside the halls
Looking towards Abu Dhabi from the Louvre

We spent over two hours here but it wasn’t long enough to enjoy all the museum had to offer and I would suggest spending an entire day here to fully appreciate everything. The main exhibition showed the intertwining and influence of different civilisations, establishing a dialogue between the four corners of the earth. Plus it showcases works from multiple French museums.

An early Monet with not a water lily in sight!

The space is impressive and even though there were plenty of visitors it didn’t feel crowded. We didn’t avail ourselves of the catering facilities as we were too busy enjoying the exhibits though we did use the restrooms. The museum’s forthcoming exhibition Rembrandt, Vermeer and the Dutch Golden Age will display 95 works by the renowned fijnschilders (fine painters) of the Netherlands.

Trip to The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Our most recent vacation to Dubai started in some style. Friends told us to visit Abu Dhabi to see the Blue Mosque and the Louvre. We followed their advice and I booked a small guided trip to both. The journey from downtown Dubai takes about 90 minutes by coach along a straight road which has largely scrubby desert on either side, including the horse and camel racing tracks and, as we neared our destination, Ferrari and Warner World.

We visited ahead of the Pope who was making his maiden visit to the Middle East. You could say we were the advance party!

The mosque is absolutely spectacular and well worth the trip though I’m sure my photos don’t do it justice. We entered, all suitably clad, by way of an underground, air-conditioned tunnel with plenty of washrooms. The tour company lends the ladies traditional dress while gents have to wear trousers and shirts. Fortunately we get to keep our shoes and consequently our passage through the mosque is limited to certain areas.

Built in homage, The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest one in the UAE and is a key place of worship. During Ramadan it may be visited by more than 40,000 people daily all of whom get royally fed for free at sundown. Designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky, it was constructed between 1996 and 2007 and allegedly cost in excess of US$1 billion.

The complex covers an area of more than 12 hectares, excluding exterior landscaping and vehicle parking. The main axis of the building is rotated about 11° south of true west, aligning it in the direction of Mecca.

The project was launched by the late president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan whose tomb lies adjacent to the Mosque. He wanted to build a structure that would unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art. The project was completed by his son.

The Mosque is understandably popular with visitors
Incredible workmanship everywhere
One of the minarets
Laser carved marble

The Mosque’s design was modelled on earlier Islamic structures particularly the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore which inspired its dome layout and floorplan. Its archways are quintessentially Moorish while its minarets are classically Arabic.

Now that’s what I call a mosaic!
The mosaic is inlaid with semi-precious stones
Flowers on the pillars too
What’s the time?

More than 30,000 workers took part in its construction from largely natural materials including marble, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. Its courtyard depicts one of the world’s largest mosaics.

Serious bling
Can you have too much of a good thing?

The eye-wateringly, colourful wool carpet in the central hall, which we could only admire from afar, was made in Iran and designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliq. Above the carpet are seven German chandeliers which incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals and are suitably bling-bling. The hall’s 96 columns are clad in marble and inlaid with mother of pearl. The pools of water along the external arcades keep the Mosque cool through a heat-exchange system and, when lit up at night, reflect the phases of the moon.

Part of a sophisticated cooling system
The Mosque is surrounded by pools of water

It’s a magnificent piece of architecture and well worth a visit though you have to resist the security guards exhorting you to move along before you can take in everything. Our guide was particularly well-connected and we left by the VIP entrance which saved us a soaking getting back to the coach.

VIPs only

 

High rise cycling

Krystian Herba World Record Stair Climber

I’m in Dubai for the cycling. Yes, I do know the Tour of Qatar starts next week and, no,  I haven’t got my dates and dunes jumbled.  Extreme Polish cyclist Krystian Herba was in town to break records – Guinness Book of Records. Yesterday, to celebrate the second anniversary of the world’s  tallest hotel, he climbed 2,040 stairs on his bicycle in a new record time. The previous record of 2,008 steps was set four years ago by Zhang Jincheng,  Xavi Casas and Javier Zapata in the Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai, China.

The 30-year old Herba’s attempt was eagerly anticipated and he set off from the hotel lobby at 11am, after a countdown by hotel guests. He then took to the stairs  of the 72 floor hotel on his customised, Euros 5,000  saddles-less ROMET bike and – without setting so much as a toe to the ground – used his upper body to hoist himself and his bike up each flight of stairs.  Accompanied by his eight-strong support team – including his brother – he climbed 23 floors, took the lift back down  – still on his bike – and then climbed a further 68 making a total of 91 flights. He had hoped to achieve this feat in around 1 1/2 hours but he completed the mind-bogglingly strenuous task in 1:13:41!

As soon as he’d achieved his target, Herba somersaulted over his handlebars and landed on his feet to give a dramatic flourish to his amazing achievement and wow the waiting crowd of more than 50 people. He put his strength down to the fact that the hotel restaurant served excellent steak which he’d been eating regularly to build up his strength ahead of his attempt. The hotel’s management were equally delighted with the historical attempt which has garnered many column inches of publicity for the hotel. Adam Krzymowski, the Polish Ambassador to the UAE said

“It is very important for me and the Polish community. I drove all the way from Abu Dhabi just to watch and congratulate him on his efforts.”

After completing the challenge, Krystian Herba said:

“What I just accomplished was a defining triumph in my career and I cannot express how happy I am to be able to get the new world record at Rose Rayhaan by Rotana, the tallest hotel in the world. This is indeed a dream come true for me!”

Herba who’s been riding for 18 years, started stair climbing in 2009 and this is his seventh tower climbing adventure. The others took place in Europe and he’d previously only managed 1,212 steps. So this challenge was a big step up. He’s apparently in talks with both representatives from CN Tower in Toronto and Taiwan’s Taipei 101. But Herba’s set his sights on the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building which is also in Dubai.