Your Art and Culture Guide to Abu Dhabi
The city of Abu Dhabi is brimming with art and culture. From curated exhibitions at Louvre Abu Dhabi to Qasr Al Hosn, the oldest standing structure in the region, this emirate offers more than just glittering skylines, turquoise islands and world-class entertainment arenas.
There are many more places to explore. Here's a list to help you discover the deep-rooted heritage and artistic landscape of Abu Dhabi.
“A nation without a past is a nation without a present or a future. Thanks to God, our nation has a flourishing civilisation, deep-rooted in this land for many centuries. These roots will always flourish and bloom in the glorious present of our nation in its anticipated future.”
— Founding Father and first President of the UAE
Louvre Abu Dhabi
The launch of the universally-recognised Louvre museum was a crowning moment in the growing Abu Dhabi art scene. During your visit, we guarantee every moment will be filled with awe as you take in the museum's architecture, the Arabian medina-inspired interiors, and the stunning artwork.
The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions alongside its permanent collections. Make sure to check out the Louvre Abu Dhabi website to stay up-to-date.
Qasr Al Hosn
Qasr Al Hosn is Abu Dhabi's oldest standing structure. It started as a watchtower before becoming a home for the royal family. Today, it welcomes visitors to discover the city's history and heritage by showcasing preserved artefacts and intricate crafts handmade by local artisans.
Al Qattara Arts Centre
Lose yourself in the world of crafts at Al Qattara Arts Centre. This is a space for Emirati and UAE-based artists to create and display their art. Launched in 2011, you'll also find an excellent archaeological exhibit in its basement with antique findings.
Manarat Al Saadiyat
Manarat Al Saadiyat is a fantastic place to enjoy the world's of art, culture and entertainment. It's also where the exciting Abu Dhabi Art Fair takes place annually. From theatre workshops and art exhibitions to a photography studio, there are plenty of opportunities to explore your creativity here.
3 cultural traditions native to Abu Dhabi and the region
1. Henna painting
Henna is a centuries-old tradition popular among women across the Arab world. It's a plant-based dye used to draw designs on the hands and feet, often before Eid, weddings and other special occasions, and is also used to dye hair!
2. Pearl diving
Decades ago, pearl diving was considered the currency of the UAE. Men would leap from the dhows, their breath held with nose pegs made from turtle shells, and search for pearls. They would then trade the pearls for other commodities in the market.
3. Camel racing
While they may seem like casual strollers, camels can run at a remarkable speed when put to the test. Before racetracks existed, camels would race between the Emirates. Today, the popularity of these races draws in crowds from all over the world!
4 traditional performing arts to see in Abu Dhabi
One of the most popular and commonly-seen performances, Al-Ayyala involves a troupe of men moving in sync to a drum beat, using thin bamboo canes to match their rhythm.
A poetry act that sometimes uses Nabati verses (colloquial Arabic) is then recited in a beautiful melody.
Al-Azi is a moving poetic community performance listed in 2017 on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
A remnant from the time of Bedouins, Al-Taghrooda is improvised poetry that highlights social and cultural experiences as a means of sharing stories from the past.
Frequently asked questions about art and culture in Abu Dhabi and the UAE.
What are the traditional performing arts in the UAE?
UAE has a wide range of traditional performing arts that have been around for centuries.
- Al-Taghrooda: chanted Bedouin poetry
- Nabati poetry
- Al-Ayyala dancing