Currently sleepier than a rather dusty dormouse, Saadiyat Island is set to become Abu Dhabi’s key tourist destination and home to a spectacular new US$27 billion cultural district featuring several world-class museums and other attractions – a key component in the city’s increasingly energetic attempts to raise itself up out of the shadows of Dubai, backed by the emirate’s apparently bottomless well of petrodollars.

Centrepiece of the district is the vast new Abu Dhabi Louvre (due to open in late 2016), housed in a spectacular, flying saucer-shaped building designed by Jean Nouvel and showcasing a wide range of European and Middle Eastern artefacts from the collection of the famous Parisian museum. A new Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum and a Sheikh Zayed National Museum by Foster + Partners are also planned, and although both have singularly failed to get built since they were first announced in 2006, the long-overdue opening of the Louvre suggests that the entire juggernaut project is finally at the point of getting off the ground.

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