We’re living in mega times…
In the past year we’ve seen some huge new leisure projects launch in Abu Dhabi, we’re looking at the WB hotel; The Yas Bay Waterfront; The National Aquarium and other alluring attractions within Al Qana; Mamsha Al Saadiyat has proliferated into a thrilling little foodie district; and The Al Wathba Fossil Dune Protected Area headlines our pick of the thoroughly engaging heritage projects.
But there is a huge amount still to come in the coming months and years. Here’s just a little taste of what’s in the Abu Dhabi engineering wizardry pipeline.
Abrahamic Family House
Situated on Saadiyat Island, the Abrahamic Family House is a mega project with an incredibly inspiring message. Inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity, supervised by the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, and ‘followed closely by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam’ — the Abrahamic Family House will comprise a mosque, a church, and a synagogue within the same space. The building was designed by architect Sir David Adjaye, to capture ‘the values shared between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam’. The endeavour was first announced back in 2019, by H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, but this latest update has given us the names of the worship centres. Within Abrahamic Family House you will find Imam Al-Tayeb Mosque, St. Francis Church, and Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue. The aim is that this project will symbolise and inspire tolerance, togetherness, fraternity, mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.
LXR Hotels & Resorts
It’s not just Bond villains that enjoy an island lair, it’s a proven pick for sun chasing holiday makers too, which goes some distance to explain why LXR, the luxury indie arm of Hilton Hotels – has set its sights on Abu Dhabi’s Al Nawras Island with an ambition to transform the island into a one-stop leisuretropolis complete with its own golf course. Expected to pop at some point in 2023, this Al Nawras Island resort has been designed to draw inspiration from the destination, with 80 expansive villas set between the beach and the water’s edge. Other features include three swimming pools, tennis and padel courts, a spa, two signature restaurants, two bars, a beach club, a kids’ club and aquatic centre complete with splash pad.
For those with a heart that beats to the call of wanderlust, there’s something particularly romantic about the idea of rail travel, especially when it passes through the sort of big geography you find in the UAE. That feeling of crossing frontiers, powering towards the horizon with otherworldly plains flooding past the window. And it could be something we get to experience here sooner than you think, following a new update issued by the UAE Rail Programme. Yes, according to the latest projections, the UAE’s very own ‘Sanpiercer’ (not the official name) passenger service will link 11 cities across the seven emirates by the year 2030. From the beautiful renders above supplied by Etihad Rail, we can see that the sleek cone-nosed train cuts a very similar image to those of the other high speed networks across the world. It looks like there will be at least two classes of cabin to choo-choose from, spacious bathrooms, comfortable seats, and a kitchen area. There is literally no information in support of whether there are private suites aboard, but we dare to dream. In lieu of getting the low down from train wisdom GOAT, Francis Bourgois — we reached out directly to Etihad Rail for some more stats and facts about the train. Expect those to arrive on the What’s On platform imminently.
Natural History Museum
One of the biggest bits of cultural news so far this year, is the DCT’s confirmation that Abu Dhabi is getting a Natural History Museum. This will be the fourth museum of the Saadiyat Cultural District (after Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum, and the Guggenheim), and is due to open its doors on Saadiyat Island in 2025. In addition to engaging exhibits curated to illuminate the universe’s 13.8 billion years of origin story, the site will also include a scientific research centre ‘that will undertake studies in zoology, palaeontology, marine biology, molecular research and earth sciences’. The project was announced by Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed, and promises to ‘help find solutions for the future of our planet.’ We also have context confirmation on two of the flagship objets d’awe — Stan, a 67 million year old tyrannosaurus rex skeleton; and the seven billion year-old Murchison Meteorite (both of these specimens will be available to see at a special Manarat Al Saadiyat preview exhibition between April 6 and May 12 this year).
Mina Zayed redevelopment
Mina Zayed, named after the UAE’s founding father, is a 40-year-old port-side community that was instrumental in Abu Dhabi’s meteoric growth as a trading hub. The three million square metre glow-up project aims to create a blended housing, tourism and entertainment destination, in addition to building on the reputation of the area as a colourful commerce hub. When the project is completed, visitors will be able to enjoy enhanced shopping experiences, such as a brand new fish market, seasonal market and redeveloped plant souq. The redevelopment includes the involvement of both Modon Properties and Aldar Properties, which means the concept and execution of the new set-up is in the very best hands.
Yas Creative Hub
Located just a brief amble away from the foodie district of Yas Bay, this twofour54 project is poised to house a thriving community of creative endeavor. Inside you’ll find a walkable campus, sustainable intelligently-conceived landscape design, innovation incubation spaces, an amphitheatre, studios, production and post-production facilities, and even customisable filming locations. Once finished, this world-class, future-proof ingenuity hub will be armed with a team of more than 900 freelancers, a smart ecosystem that prioritises data, tech and resource efficiency, and sits in a location that offers uber convenient commute times to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi-based developers Al Qudra have unveiled plans to transform a 245,000 sqm stretch of Abu Dhabi’s W64 Zone overlooking the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, next door to the upcoming Al Qana project on the Khor Al Maqtaa, into a sophisticated blanched-wall leisure and entertainment complex. And looking at these Traditional Souk renders, the scale and quality of concept are giving us legitimate cause for awe. From the patchwork-shaded alleyways of the UAE heritage-style marketplace to the leafy open courtyards, waterfront hotel and vibrant new restaurant district — it’s a project that’s somehow both in synergy with the neighbourhood it joins, and yet something truly different.
Louvre Abu Dhabi Residences
Louvre Abu Dhabi represents the cultural epicentre of the emirate, but after a truly astounding piece of news announced by local master developers, Aldar — it might soon represent the epicentre of your living room too. Once complete, the Louvre Abu Dhabi Residences by Aldar will be a residential complex of 400 apartments, with an iconic address, stunning ocean views and next-door-neighbour-status to one of the world’s most impressive collections of art and historical artefacts. Included within the structure will be Le Salon Détente — a lounge for residents that will feature art curated in consultation with the experts at Louvre Abu Dhabi; a 12-seater Cinema Privé for private theatre experience; a wellness centre – Spa Bien-être which will of course feature a gym, sauna rooms, spaces for yoga and meditation; and there will also be an indoor kids’ playroom, called, appropriately, the Creativité Room. It’s all part of Saadiyat Grove, a 242,000 square metre, Dhs10 billion development which will also include retail and entertainment attractions, other residential properties, two news hotels and co-working spaces.
Zayed National Museum
Once completed, the Zayed National Museum will stand as an architectural marvel, a fitting home for the inspiring story of our great nation and its visionary founder. Located on Saadiyat Island, already the seat of so much cultural import, the breathtaking structure designed by Foster + Partners will include a 123 metre high tower. The main gallery will be devoted to a collection of artifacts illuminating aspects of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan — the man, and his leadership journey the country’s unification, and beyond. There will also be gallery space devoted to exhibitions on Falconry and Conservation; Land and Water; History and Society; Science and Learning; Faith and Islam; and it will host the grand Sheikh Zayed Library. Although we don’t have a projected completion date, work on the building began back in 2019.
Al Reem Mall
Reem Mall has described itself as ‘The World’s First Omnichannel Mall’. The details of what that actually means get complicated quickly, but from what we understand, the mall will offer a ‘blended retail’ approach, which allows for digital shopping (through an app/website) at the same time as conventional ‘bricks and mortar’ mall shopping. Data from your shopping habits can be used to make sure you get invited to redeem tailored promotions. Milat Sayra Berirmen, Digital Innovation Director for Reem Mall is on record as saying “At Reem Mall, we are leading this transformation by creating a totally new retail concept – the world’s first fully digitally enabled mall, supported by an integrated logistics hub.”
Snow Abu Dhabi
The enchanted-forest themed Snow Abu Dhabi was previously scheduled for completion in the last part of this year, and it’s being trailed as ‘the region’s largest snow park’. Construction is well underway at its location inside the USD1.2billon Reem Mall project, on Reem Island. The attraction will span across a huge 100,000 sq ft area, divided into distinct whimsical zones. We can look forward to themed-characters and 13 thrilling rides and attractions, including an enchanted tree, a snowflake garden, crystal carousel, ice labyrinth, tobogganing and a shovel-ton more. It doesn’t matter if the weather outside is frightful. The park will be kept at a rosy-nosed -2ºC, with a 500mm covering of snow (more than enough for beefy snowball building) offering a year-round chill spot in this, our beloved land of the eternal sun.
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
On track for completion in 2025, the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum will add a jagged smear of swoon to the Saadiyat Cultural District skyline. True to the spirit of Guggenheim (and conceived in collaboration with Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation), the plans for the building — cut a contemporary, unconventional, but singularly beautiful design. As outside, so within. Inside you’ll find 28 galleries across a 11,600 sqm expanse, there’s also an additional 23,000 sqm of exhibition spaces contained within the distinctive cones and terraces attached to the building. Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will exhibit a collection of modern and contemporary art with a special focus on pieces from the West Asia, North Africa, and South Asia (WANASA) region. The museum has been tasked with providing a platform for artists from the WANASA area, commissioning works from artists at the spear’s tip of creative innovation, and illuminating how “the interconnected histories and cultures” have helped shape our world. Speaking about the project, H.E. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi said: “The museum will also play a civic role through its mission to spark wider interest in global modern and contemporary art, fostering diversity and inclusion in a meaningful cultural exchange. As we move forward with our plans, it is crucial to recognise the impact of this museum in realising our vision for the Emirate’s culture and creative industries.”
Fairmont Marina Abu Dhabi
It’s fair to say that the city has watched the giant pink arch of the Fairmont Marina Abu Dhabi hotel rise with curiosity. It achieved architectural Iconhood even prior to its launch, which was originally slated for March but has now been delayed until, well – we’re not sure. There are rumours, and they are just that at this stage, that management of the hotel has been passed to another big hotel chain, which may or may not also be part of the Accor group. And we appreciate that’s cryptic, but isn’t that befitting of this mysterious grand arch watching us from its waterfront perch.
One of the main family entertainment attractions of the mamouth Rabdan leisure project, Al Qana will undoubtedly be the 15-screen Cinemacity. A massive movieplex that comes kitted out with Abu Dhabi’s largest cinema screen, coming in at a huge 26 metres, and will host the latest blockbuster screenings, with potential red carpet moments on the horizon. Recent updates also include the news that a lively outdoor amphitheatre will also be positioned close to the cinema. Designed to host special eventssuch as festivals, concerts and exhibitions. Alongside the amphitheatre, the waterfront will be equipped with the equipment to put on light and water spectaculars.
Pixel will be the largest gaming hub of its type in Abu Dhab and include the latest evolution of Location-Based Entertainment (LBE). In addition to futuristic VR tech, the venue will also operate the first certified eSports (that’s competitive gaming for any noobs out there) academy in the region. The announcement of Pixel’s inclusion in the Al Qana development followed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Fouad Mashal, CEO of Al Barakah International Investment and developer of Al Qana, and Karim Ibrahim, CEO of Robocom VR. Speaking about the news, Fouad Mashal said: “In line with our vision to bring world-class experience to Al Qana, our partnership with Robocom VR will position Pixel as one of the most sought-after VR and eSports destinations in the UAE.”
Images: Provided/Instagram/What’s On Archive