With neighboring emirate Dubai gaining global attention for luxury tourism and eye-catching architecture, Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is looking to use culture to engage travelers' imaginations. As part of that effort, officials are seeking to recreate the “Bilbao Effect” very, very exactingly: The emirate has signed separate deals with the Guggenheim Foundation and Frank Gehry to build a new branch of the museum of the architect's design.
While Dubai's development has been rapid in pace and spectacular in results, Abu Dhabi is planning its development carefully, and envisions the Guggenheim as a part of a larger cultural district on Saadiyat Island. This natural landmass, located 500 meters off shore, will also be home to national, classical art, and maritime museums, a performing arts center, and art park. "They are transforming themselves into a Western-oriented cultural destination," says Anthony Calnek, deputy director of communications for the Guggenheim Foundation.