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Culture plays a huge role in shaping us into who we are. Our likes, dislikes, wants and desires are all deeply influenced by it. Culture is what keeps the heart at home, but it’s also the thing that tempts us to travel in the first place, along with the warmer weather, of course! Culture is something to celebrate.

Nowhere is the appreciation of this fact greater than on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island. Penned to become the Middle East’s new cultural centre, one of its aims is to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western art and culture. Abu Dhabi’s grand vision for Saadiyat Island, which translates from Arabic as “Happiness Island”, is outlined at Manarat Al Saadiyat contemporary cultural and arts centre, which paints an intriguing picture of what to expect as the island reaches completion in the near future. Zayed National Museum, exhibiting the history and proud traditions of the UAE, is set to open in 2016, along with a new Louvre museum, joint-funded by the famous Louvre in Paris, plus the architecturally impressive Guggenheim Museum, expected to open in 2017. Though, however exciting Abu Dhabi’s future may be, there’s still a great deal to shout about in the present.

The world renowned Park Hyatt and St. Regis hotel brands both have an eye for culture and class, so if you’re familiar with their establishments, you’ll know what a ringing endorsement for the island their presence is. Both have already become popular haunts for expats and locals of Abu Dhabi and Dubai alike, with their bars and restaurants drawing people from all over the UAE to enjoy their five star services and cool, stylish ambiance. Their pristine beachfront location also plays a big role, with dolphins drawing animal lovers all year round. In the spring, the beach is also used as a nesting site for Hawksbill Turtles, who usually only lay eggs on the untouched shores of tropical islands – a sign of just how clean and peaceful Saadiyat’s sea and sand really is.

Joining St. Regis and Park Hyatt, New York University also recognises Saadiyat Island’s position as a future big name on the world stage, resulting in their establishment of the New York University Abu Dhabi campus in the Island’s planned Marina district. There’s also an emerging and vibrant arts and music scene, spearheaded by American entrepreneur Dorian Rogers, whose Abu Dhabi Soul nights and Rooftop Rhythms open mic poetry events at Saadiyat Beach Club have quickly become a firm favourite with UAE residents from all over the world, very much capturing the zeitgeist of Abu Dhabi’s spectacular strides towards modernisation in the 21st century. This collaboration between international and Emirati artists is a promising appetiser of what we can expect to come from Saadiyat Island in the coming years.

Construction of the island’s many planned attractions is expected to be complete by 2020, but 2016 and 2017 are both big years for Abu Dhabi’s new future home of culture. Sunny weather, scenic beaches, vibrant nightlife and world class hotels and restaurants are all currently flying the flag for this exciting and emergent destination. Its aims, art scene and forward-thinking projects for sustainability are too interesting to ignore. Residing on the verge of where east meets west, we can say that Saadiyat looks set to live up to its promise of bridging the differences between cultures. Dubai may have redefined opulence and lavishness for the 21st century, and in doing so has drawn crowds from every corner of the globe, but Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island adds a new layer of depth to the UAE’s appeal. This Arabian island, named after happiness, serves as a real testament to just how fulfilling taking the road less travelled can be.

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