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Exhibition celebrates UAE founder’s relations with Europe

Exhibition celebrates UAE founder’s relations with Europe
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An exhibition in Abu Dhabi is celebrating the United Arab Emirates’ founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his foreign policy towards Europe.

Named ‘Sheikh Zayed and Europe: A Journey’, the exhibit organised by the European Union Delegation to the UAE and the Austrian and Bulgarian Presidencies of the Council of the EU for the year 2018, opened on November 25th and runs until December 31st.

’Sheikh Zayed and Europe: A Journey’ exhibition in Abu Dhabi

It displays five galleries containing some of his Sheikh Zayed’s personal memorabilia.

The founder of the UAE is said to have been amongst the region’s most openminded leaders at this his time when it came to international relations.

“When the Emirates was formed in 1971, Sheikh Zayed knew it was a very small country he wanted to build relations and he was very active,” says curator Rym Tina Ghazal, adding “he would go to neighbouring countries and beyond because he wanted to bring his country up to the international level.”

Sheikh Zayed’s first passport is amongst the items exhibited. It was issued in Bahrain in 1951 in preparation for his first trip to the European continent.

Sheikh Zayed’s first passport is one of the memorabilia displayed

His first stop in Paris was a customary business trip for oil concessions, but it is said to have largely inspired the leader’s admiration for landmarks and museums, such as the Louvre - which would eventually open an affiliate establishment in Abu Dhabi.


‘Sheikh Zayed and Europe: A Journey’ is located at Abu Dhabi’s recently opened Founders Memorial, where a 30-metre high sculpture portrays the UAE’s first ruler’s portrait (see article’s main photo).

The sculpture by American artist Ralph Helmick is built with over a thousand three dimensional shapes hanging from cables, which when illuminated form a glimmering, floating silhouette of the late ruler.

From inception to unveil, the landmark took around seven years to make.

Helmick’s projection of the sculpture shows the geometric shapes up close

Helmick’s team of six designers in Boston used computer imaging to conceptualize the figurative art, modeled after geometric Islamic architecture.

“I wanted something that the viewer would help create and wouldn’t be completely straight forward from all perspectives, all the time,” Helmick told Inspire Middle East, “I think this is essential to how the piece should be experienced.”

The team assembles the model of the sculpture before it’s inauguration in Abu Dhabi