Home » Etihad Museum in Dubai: A Guide to Discovering the History of the UAE

Etihad Museum in Dubai: A Guide to Discovering the History of the UAE

by Paola Bertoni
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The Etihad Museum celebrates the union of the UAE and its evolution as a modern nation. It is a must-see museum to discover the vision of the sheikhs who created the Emirati nation. Dramatic interactive installations, period footage, and curious historical artefacts tell the UAE history.

About the Etihad Museum in Dubai

The Etihad Museum is one of the most interesting museums to visit in Dubai. It displays UAE history and culture and has a unique design inspired by the Unification Treaty scroll. The exterior does not go unnoticed, and like all museums in Dubai, even the interior is highly scenic, with lofty spaces divided by soft, curved lines.

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The giant photographs of the reigning emirs at the time of the treaty, the amount of vision and shape in the captions, and the interactive installations tell the UAE rulers’ determination to take the nation into the future as quickly as possible.

What to see at the Etihad Museum

The Arabic word Etihad إتحاد means union, and the museum’s layout celebrates the history that led to the union of the seven emirates that make up the UAE in 1971. Despite having a common culture, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Qaywayn were separate emirates before the unification treaty.

The entire exhibition revolves around the concept of union through eight thematic areas that explore the history of the United Arab Emirates from the British protectorate of the Truce States to the current federation. The tour of the Etihad Museum follows this way:

  1. Short documentary on the history of the United Arab Emirates
  2. Interactive map of the emirates before the birth of the UAE
  3. Interactive timeline of historical events prior to the UAE’s union
  4. Meeting between the emirs of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum
  5. Interactive installation on the formation of the UAE
  6. Key moments and challenges faced by the founding fathers before 1971
  7. Constitution of the United Arab Emirates with a copy of the declaration
  8. Celebratory gallery on the United Arab Emirates
The Founding Fathers of the UAE at the Etihad Museum in Dubai
The Founding Fathers of the UAE at the Etihad Museum in Dubai

The history of the United Arab Emirates

The Etihad Museum in Dubai has a celebratory tone as it tells the story of how the United Arab Emirates gained independence after the discovery of oil. All museums in Dubai have a similar style in narrating the vision of their rulers. 

Huge full-length photographs and a display of personal items accompany the photos of the rulers of each emirate to describe their personalities visually. Old disc phones, passports, stamps, and guns are lined up under each ruler’s photo.

In the interactive timeline room, visitors can delve into the history of the Truce States and discover the events that led to the unification of the United Arab Emirates. Before becoming independent, the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Qaywayn were under the British Protectorate.

Further along the tour, visitors can see fantastic interactive installations, such as cubes that move on a table to activate videos about the history of the United Arab Emirates. The Etihad Museum provides interesting facts about the UAE, such as the UAE army having only professional soldiers, mostly foreign nationals.

In addition to the permanent exhibition, the Etihad Museum in Dubai also houses a library with over 3,000 volumes, cultural events, and temporary exhibitions. The educational space looks like an amphitheatre, with steps on which visitors can sit to listen to lectures.

The amphitheatre in the educational area of the Etihad Museum in Dubai
The amphitheatre in the educational area of the Etihad Museum in Dubai

The architecture of the Etihad Museum in Dubai

The Etihad Museum in Dubai was designed by Canadian architecture firm Moriyama & Teshima Architects using sustainable technologies to minimise environmental impact. Each building element has its precise meaning related to the constitution of the United Arab Emirates.

The shape of a rolled-up parchment in the building symbolises the document that decreed the constitution of the federation in 1971, while the series of concentric rings in steel and glass represent the seven emirates that make up the federation. The seven golden columns at the entrance symbolise the pens used by the reigning emirs to sign the agreement.

The building’s appearance is decidedly striking, thanks partly to its spectacular reflective surface, which glows in the Dubai sun. The structure consists of reinforced concrete arches and stainless steel cladding, which overlap to create a dynamic, three-dimensional effect.

The Etihad Museum is 25,000 square metres in size but is mainly underground and connected to the reconstructed Union House, where the signing for establishing the United Arab Emirates took place, and the Guest House, where the emirs resided during the negotiations.

Interior of the Etihad Museum in Dubai
Interior of the Etihad Museum in Dubai

Practical information for visiting the Etihad Museum in Dubai

The Etihad Museum in Dubai is open daily from 9 am to 8 pm, except on Fridays when it is open from 2 pm to 8 pm. You can book a guided tour in English or Arabic through the museum’s website.

How much tickets to the Etihad Museum Dubai costs

You can buy tickets for the Etihad Museum Dubai online or at the museum entrance. Prices start at AED 25 (UAE dirhams) for adults. Admission is free for children under the age of 6 and Dubai residents.

I recommend buying tickets online to ensure they are available, especially if you travel in high season. Although it was low season, I did not encounter crowds during my visit.

If you have purchased a Dubai City Pass, check if it includes entrance tickets to the Etihad Museum. The activities and museums included vary depending on your pass type.

How to get to the Etihad Museum

The Etihad Museum is next to the historic Union House on the Dubai waterfront, where the UAE Constitution was signed in 1971. Other tourist attractions nearby are Jumeirah Beach and the Burj Khalifa.

From downtown Dubai, there are several ways to reach the Etihad Museum. The easiest way is to take a taxi, which is also the most convenient way to get around Dubai.

If you prefer public transport, lines 8, 33 and 93 run near the museum. By metro, the closest stop to the Etihad Museum is Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) on the Dubai Metro Red Line.

Etihad Museum
1 Jumeirah St.
Al Mina, Dubai

Interior of the Etihad Museum in Dubai
Interior of the Etihad Museum in Dubai

Where to stay in Dubai

Often considered a luxury destination, Dubai offers hotels and flats for all budgets and is much cheaper than you think. Below are a few value-for-money establishments that have been tried out by me personally or by friends and fellow bloggers.

For a luxury family holiday, the Bluewaters Beach Hotel, with swimming pools, restaurants to suit all tastes and children’s areas, is a great choice. To spend less but still stay in top-notch facilities, the Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City or the V Hotel Dubai are great choices, both overlooking the Dubai Water Canal with numerous in-house restaurants to choose from.

Finally, to see Dubai from a different perspective, I suggest you stay at the Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai, a unique property built in traditional Arabian style and located a short distance from the historic district and Al Fahidi Fort.

I hope this article has enticed you to visit the Etihad Museum, a curious and interesting museum. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments if you are already familiar with the Etihad Museum or if you decide to visit it after reading this article.

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