IN THE UAE

The re­cently opened Eti­had Mu­seum in Dubai of­fers in­sights into the UAE’s re­cent past – Anand Raj OK ex­plores the build­ing

Friday - - Contents - PHO­TOS BY STE­FAN LIN­D­EQUE

Get a glimpse of the UAE’s his­tory at the new Eti­had Mu­seum.

Can you tell me what these pil­lars sig­nify? asks Maryam Mo­ham­mad Al­blooshi.

We are stand­ing in the bright, modern re­cep­tion area of the re­cently opened Eti­had Mu­seum and I’m over­whelmed by the weight of the place. Walk­ing closer to ad­mire one of the seven sleek lean­ing pil­lars that are hold­ing up the roof, I sug­gest that they rep­re­sent the seven emi­rates.

Maryam, the mu­seum’s press re­la­tions ex­ec­u­tive, who is show­ing me around, smiles. ‘It ac­tu­ally sig­ni­fies the seven pens the Found­ing Fa­thers used to sign the dec­la­ra­tion of the con­sti­tu­tion.’

She then in­vites me to take a look at the mu­seum’s struc­ture from out­side. ‘What do you think it looks like?’ she asks.

I’d read up on this so showed off – it is de­signed to rep­re­sent the shape of a man­u­script. ‘Yes, it is in­spired by the Uni­fi­ca­tion Agree­ment,’ she says.

The 25,000 sq m Eti­had Mu­seum opened last month and houses some of the most valu­able pieces of UAE his­tory and cul­ture, of­fer­ing vis­i­tors an au­dio­vi­sual jour­ney into the events that led to the uni­fi­ca­tion of the emi­rates 45 years ago.

De­signed by Cana­dian firm Moriyama and Teshima Ar­chi­tects – which has to its credit the Aga Khan Mu­seum in Toronto and Wa­ter­loo Re­gion Mu­seum in Kitch­ener, On­tario, among oth­ers – the Eti­had Mu­seum houses eight per­ma­nent gal­leries as well as a tem­po­rary gallery (where ex­hibits from in­ter­na­tional mu­se­ums will be on show in the fu­ture), a 120-seat theatre, a li­brary, a 3D theatre and a café that serves Emi­rati cui­sine.

Ad­ja­cent to the Mu­seum is Union House, ‘where the lead­ers signed the treaty es­tab­lish­ing our na­tion,’ says Maryam. But be­fore we head there, we walk to­wards the ex­hibits in the mu­seum.

One of the first ar­eas in the mu­seum, which in­ci­den­tally is be­low ground level, is the sec­tion ded­i­cated to the Found­ing Fa­thers. Di­vided into seven cat­e­gories – for the Rulers of the seven emi­rates – each has a strik­ing por­trait of the leader with a se­lec­tion of their be­long­ings and an in­ter­ac­tive screen dis­play­ing their biog­ra­phy, fam­ily tree, and pho­to­graphs and video clips you may not have seen be­fore.

I speak to Fiona Wat­son and Mar­garet Mitchell, tourists from the UK, who were view­ing the videos of the Rulers. ‘I first vis­ited Dubai in the 1960s and have since been vis­it­ing on and off,’ says Mar­garet. ‘So yes, I’ve pretty much seen a lot of the changes hap­pen­ing here. Watch­ing these ex­hibits is a bit like step­ping back in time.’

They are not alone. An In­dian fam­ily nearby could hardly con­trol its ex­cite­ment on see­ing up close and per­sonal some of the cher­ished be­long­ings of the na­tion’s lead­ers.

‘I’d only seen pho­to­graphs of the Fa­ther of the Na­tion [the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sul­tan Al Nahyan] hold­ing his cane,’ says 15-year-old Mo­ham­mad No­ufal, look­ing into the glass case. ‘To ac­tu­ally see the cane, the shades and the watch that he used is truly amaz­ing.’

Mo­ham­mad, who’s ac­com­pa­nied by his par­ents and younger brother, says: ‘I’ve been tak­ing notes of all the things here and I’m sure it would come in use­ful when I’m do­ing a project on the UAE’s his­tory.’

This sec­tion is per­haps one of the most pop­u­lar in the mu­seum. On dis­play is a ver­i­ta­ble trea­sure trove of ob­jects that the fam­i­lies of the Found­ing Fa­thers handed over to the Eti­had Mu­seum. Apart from a pair of spec­ta­cles, the pass­port and pipe used by the late Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Mak­toum, for­mer Vice-Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, there’s an alarm clock and an old tele­phone be­long­ing to Shaikh Khalid Bin Mo­ham­mad Al Qasimi, the then Ruler of Shar­jah; and a dag­ger and a unique ring be­long­ing to the then Ruler of Aj­man, Shaikh Rashid Bin Hu­maid Al Nuaimi.

There’s also a gun that be­longed to the then Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah Shaikh Saqr Bin Mo­ham­mad Al Qasimi; the pass­port and gun of the then Ruler of Fu­jairah Shaikh Mo­ham­mad Bin Ha­mad Al Sharqi; and a pocket watch and pass­port be­long­ing to the then Ruler of Umm Al Quwain Shaikh Ahmad Bin Rashid Al Mualla, among other things.

In­for­ma­tion on some of the ex­hibits is sparse; how­ever, de­tails on them with trans­la­tions in English are in the works, mu­seum of­fi­cials told Fri­day.

Loom­ing over the en­trance to the room hous­ing the his­tor­i­cal ob­jects is a mas­sive art­work on the wall by noted Emi­rati artist Ab­dul Qader Al Rais.

Rep­re­sent­ing the map of the UAE in bright colours – yel­low to sym­bol­ise the desert and blue to sym­bol­ise the sea and pearling for which the re­gion was known – the piece adds an artis­tic di­men­sion to the his­tory-fo­cused mu­seum.

Sprin­kled all through the mu­seum are quotes from the Found­ing Fa­thers seem­ingly etched on the walls. ‘The words of the lead­ers en­cour­age us to not stop work­ing to make this coun­try a great place for the peo­ple living here,’ says Maryam.

NSprin­kled all through the mu­seum are QUOTES from the FOUND­ING FA­THERS. ‘The words of the lead­ers en­cour­age us to not stop work­ing to make this coun­try a GREAT place for the peo­ple living here’

earby is the Show­case sec­tion, which dis­plays pic­tures of pre-Union ne­go­ti­a­tions with neigh­bour­ing coun­tries and some fun facts. For ex­am­ple,

Bahrain and Qatar both orig­i­nally in­tended to be part of the Fed­er­a­tion and did par­tic­i­pate in pre­lim­i­nary talks. How­ever, they later de­cided that they would re­main as in­de­pen­dent states.

A low, wave-shaped par­ti­tion painted in bur­nished gold separates the Con­sti­tu­tion sec­tion from the main area. Nestling in a show­case and tak­ing pride of place is a copy of the UAE con­sti­tu­tion – a few lines of which are writ­ten in Ara­bic on a mas­sive mar­ble tablet in the mu­seum’s lobby.

There is also an in­ter­ac­tive sec­tion for vis­i­tors to view the terms and articles of the hal­lowed doc­u­ment. ‘I’ve never seen a copy of a real con­sti­tu­tion,’ says Mo­ham­mad. ‘I want to re­turn an­other day when I have more time and read parts of it.’

The Eti­had Mu­seum also houses a li­brary with more than 3,000 books on the UAE and scores of mag­a­zines, CDs and other mul­ti­me­dia prod­ucts that of­fer more in­for­ma­tion on the coun­try and its his­tory.

Atem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tion hall show­cas­ing the philatelic his­tory of the UAE is sure to pique the in­ter­est of lovers of his­tory and cul­ture. Maryam points out one par­tic­u­lar ex­hibit in the sec­tion that shows a light brown en­ve­lope with an In­dian post­mark in­di­cat­ing that it was re­ceived in Bom­bay in 1910. ‘It was posted in Dubai on July 23, 1910, and ar­rived in Mum­bai on July 30, 1910,’ she says. There is also an­other rare and valu­able mail posted from Dubai to an ad­dressee in Karachi. It bears a small blue note on which is printed ‘Opened by cen­sor’.

Also on dis­play are sev­eral stamps, seals and postal weigh­ing ma­chines that in­stantly take vis­i­tors back to a time when man­ual weigh­ing ma­chines were in use.

An ex­hibit shows a light brown EN­VE­LOPE with an In­dian post­mark in­di­cat­ing that it was re­ceived in BOM­BAY in 1910. There is also an­other RARE and valu­able mail posted from Dubai to KARACHI

Fur­ther down the hall is a sec­tion that de­tails the seven emi­rates with short bi­ogra­phies of each of the Found­ing Fa­thers. It’s here that you get an idea of the ge­o­graph­i­cal mag­ni­tude of each of the emi­rates. While Abu Dhabi en­com­passes an area of 67,340 sq km, Dubai is 4,114 sq km, Shar­jah is 2,590 sq km, Aj­man is 259 sq km, Umm Al Quwain is 720 sq km, Ras Al Khaimah is 1,684 sq km and Fu­jairah is 1,166 sq km.

There are also sec­tions show­cas­ing the dif­fer­ent pass­ports and mil­i­tary uni­forms, as well as one pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion about the UAE’s na­tional an­them.

‘Here’s a short game to check how much you know about the UAE,’ says Maryam, smil­ing and point­ing to a mon­i­tor that prompts you to try your hand at a quiz. I must say I did quite well, scor­ing over 80 per cent.

Ex­it­ing the build­ing, we move to The Guest House. One of the most fa­mous build­ings in the UAE, this hal­lowed struc­ture houses the Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Mak­toum Ma­jlis, his pri­vate of­fice and a din­ing room that can seat 300 peo­ple. Union House, in­clud­ing the hall where the Rulers of the emi­rates signed a dec­la­ra­tion that marked the for­ma­tion of the UAE, is next door, as is the flag next to which the lead­ers stood after sign­ing the his­toric doc­u­ment form­ing the UAE in 1971.

The Eti­had Mu­seum in Jumeirah, Dubai, is open daily from 10 am to 8 pm. Visit eti­had­mu­seum.dubai­cul­ture.ae

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One of the first ar­eas in the mu­seum is the sec­tion ded­i­cated to the Found­ing Fa­thers, and is di­vided into seven cat­e­gories

On show: Shaikh Khalid Bin Mo­ham­mad Al Qasimi’s alarm clock and tele­phone The late Shaikh Mo­ham­mad Bin Ha­mad Al Sharqi’s per­sonal ef­fects Lat­ifa Al Shamsi, Noora Al Hawi and Hessa Al Kaabi are part of the team at Eti­had Mu­seum. Be­low: vis­i­tors Fiona Wat­son and Mar­garet Mitchell, who’s been vis­it­ing the city since 1960

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