H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, inaugurated the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Gallery for Europe and the Middle East at the British Museum in London.
The gallery’s opening follows an agreement signed last June by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) and the British Museum, in recognition of the late Founding Father's support for culture in the UAE and the world.
The ceremony was attended by Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development and Zaki Nusseibeh, Minister of State, Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, Saif Saeed Ghobash, Undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi, Sulaiman Hamid Al Mazroui, UAE Ambassador to the UK, Hartwig Fisher, Director of the British Museum, Patrick Moody, UK Ambassador to the UAE, and Sir Richard Lambert, Chairman of the British Museum.
Sheikh Abdullah was also given an explanation of some of the exhibited items in the hall. The Director of the British Museum Hartwig Fisher presented a memorial gift to the UAE top diplomat, a book entitled "Masterpieces of the British Museum" which reviews the history of the British Museum.
Sheikh Abdullah underlined the significance of naming the gallery after the late Sheikh Zayed, in a year marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late UAE founder, saying it reflects international recognition of the late leader's efforts in establishing the UAE’s Federation, enhancing its position on the international scene through cultural diplomacy, and supporting the documentation of history and protection of cultural heritage, as well as the development of education and scientific research.
"Despite facing a number of challenges, the late Sheikh Zayed strived to strengthen the UAE’s ties with the world, by means of a diplomatic approach for dialogue and cultural exchange. This approach stands as an exemplary model in establishing international relations today, as it gave the UAE a meaningful platform for progress, including the establishment of agreements, international collaborations between Eastern and Western countries, openness to other world cultures, and achieving a balanced setting for different nationalities to coexist peacefully. These outcomes contributed profoundly to strengthening unity, stability and safety at home, and thus growth and prosperity," Sheikh Abdullah noted.
"The naming of one of the British Museum’s important galleries after our late father, Sheikh Zayed, is to honour his tireless efforts to provide welfare for all, and support the growth of cultural discourse and connection. In addition to achieving unity between the seven Emirates, he also paid very close attention to culture, heritage and archeology, and here we see today the fruits of his efforts flourishing through this international recognition. This is especially rewarding as the Gallery now carrying his name focuses on revealing the deep ties that the ancient Middle East established with Europe through cultural exchange, including the development of agricultural practices that have brought a radical change in lifestyle leading to a profound development in the general living conditions, and eventually to prosperity."
Hartwig Fisher, Director of the British Museum, highlighted the long-standing UAE-British relations, noting that the inauguration of the Sheikh Zayed Gallery coincides with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the founding father of the UAE, late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT-Abu Dhabi, expressed the importance of the UAE-British partnership in the cultural field. He also explained the late Sheikh Zayed's achievements in areas of cultural exchange.
The ‘Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Gallery for Europe and the Middle East’ narrates the history of agricultural development during the period between 10,000 and 800 BCE, as agricultural activity in the Middle East started about 12,000 years ago, and reached Europe as recently as 6,000 years ago. The development brought with it a new way of life, represented in a show of wealth and power that manifested in jewelry, weapons and extravagant feasts. It also displays how early Europeans used to celebrate life and death, their relationship with nature, spirituality and their surroundings, and it highlights the resulting social, cultural, economic and civilizational growth that has shaped the modern world.
As well as conserving heritage and culture, the naming of the gallery also reflects Zayed's lifelong commitment to developing the agricultural system in the desert. Sheikh Zayed also initiated archaeological excavations in the UAE some fifty years ago, as well as establishing Al Ain Museum, the country’s first, which was founded at the time of the UAE’s formation. Building on his strong conviction of the importance of extending cultural bridges with other countries, the late Founding Father constantly strove to cement cultural relations with many countries from around the world.
The agreement marks the continuation of the long-standing cooperation between the British Museum and DCT Abu Dhabi, which began in 2009 when the two entities worked on developing the Zayed National Museum, the centrepiece of the Saadiyat Cultural District. The British Museum provided significant support by helping to develop the Museum's narrative, collection, and training its staff.
In addition to renaming the gallery, the agreement provides for the loan of important items from the British Museum’s collection to be displayed at the galleries of the Zayed National Museum, as part of its permanent collection and museum narrative.
The British Museum was founded in 1753 in London, and contains 8 million objects that represent nearly two million years of human history. It was premised on the idea that human cultures can, despite their differences, understand one another through mutual engagement, and is a place for cross-cultural insightfulness, in-depth studies and mutual communication that have an impact on contemporary life today.