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Ambitious Saadiyat Island Project to Complete by 2020

As part of “Mega-Project” Week, travels to the United Arab Emirates to check on the progress of Abu Dhabi’s giant new culture and tourism island.

Lying 1600 feet (500 meters) off the coast of Abu Dhabi in the Arabian Sea is Saadiyat Island, a vast island nearly half the size of Manhattan – only 7 minutes from the heart of the city and 20 minutes from Dubai International Airport. When completed in 2020, it is intended to house the world’s largest single concentration of premier cultural assets, homes for 145,000 residents, and numerous prestigious leisure facilities.

The name translates from Arabic into “Place of Enlightenment” and when completed, its cultural offerings should do just that. The list of cultural institutions that have committed to the project include the Guggenheim Museum, the Louvre, a new campus for New York University and a performing arts center and concert hall. It will also feature the new Zayed National Museum, presenting the history of the United Arab Emirates as well as the story of its namesake and important national figure, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

The roster of architects is equally impressive and loaded with Pritzker Prize winners. The arts center and concert hall will be designed by Zaha Hadid, the Louvre by Atelier Jean Nouvel with a planned opening in 2016, and the Zayed National Museum by Foster and Partners in the same year. The Guggenheim is to be designed by Frank Gehry and will be the institution’s largest venue worldwide, scheduled for completion in 2017.

Being developed by Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), Saadiyat Island is not entirely high culture however, and will host numerous luxury shopping, leisure, tourism and residential opportunities. Several of these elements are already completed, including an 18-hole championship beachfront golf course and the Monte Carlo Beach Club in conjunction with Société des Bains de Mer from Monaco. Plans also call for an eventual 1000-berth marina.

Both the St. Regis Resort and the Park Hyatt are now open and operational on the island, with the St. Regis offering 32 branded villas for sale. The Residences at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi each feature four or five bedrooms on land plots of 9,700 to 18,000 square meters, with views onto the golf course and the Arabian Sea. Each home features a Mediterranean design with a Spanish flair while the interiors feature all the modern conveniences with luxurious Eastern touches. Every villa comes with its own private swimming pool, set in a fully-landscaped garden.

Remarkable St. Regis amenities will be provided to the residents by a team of intuitive butlers offering “bespoke” services, and owners can access an extensive spa and athletic club, numerous dining and entertainment options, as well as a host of amenities from housekeeping, personal chefs and in-room dining. Villa prices start at AED 14.8 million (around US$ 4 million).

Saadiyat Island is quickly shaping up as an important global destination for culture, and for fun. And given the superlative nature of its cultural venues, we only see the upside.