UAE is certainly a land of contrasts, between the traditional and the modern, the humble and the grandiose. Although Dubai would have been a prime choice to elaborate that, particularly the grandiose gestures, we only spent two days there and therefore did not have much time to explore and experience these astounding contrasts. Therefore, I will limit my observations to Abu Dhabi where our longer stay allowed these impressions to sink in. Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE was once a small traditional Arabian village, it is now a metropolis that somehow harmoniously blends the modern with the traditional.
Right at the entrance of Abu Dhabi city, stands the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. And grand indeed it is, with its marble-clad walls, ornate rugs, enormous crystal chandeliers, under the gold-topped domes that shimmer under Abu Dhabi’s cloudless sunny skies. What an impressive beacon of hospitality at the entrance of the city! Driving down its wide, green, tree-lined boulevards, or walking in one of its many lush gardens you cannot escape the contrast between the striking glassy skyline of its skyscrapers, luxury hotels, and shopping malls and the surrounding desert and many roundabouts featuring wind-towers, giant coffee cups or other concrete replicas of traditional Arabic artifacts.
Some exciting new developments in Abu Dhabi include the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Guggenheim Museum currently being built on Saadiyat Island. The Louvre is a very modern looking white building with a design of a floating dome that has sun filters intended to mimic the effect of sun passing through palm trees. The Guggenheim is another modern structure, inspired by the traditional wind towers of Abu Dhabi and designed by architect Gehry. Both intend to blend the old with the contemporary, and represent East meets West art and architecture.