The Founder’s Memorial: Three years as an enriching visitor experience that holds an inspiring legacy

The Founder’s Memorial, a permanent tribute to the late founding father of the UAE, Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is celebrating its third anniversary that took place on the 26th of February, 2018 through the unveiling of the centrepiece of the site, a  monumental artwork named The Constellation, of The inauguration of the Memorial coincided with  the President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, declaring 2018  to be the ‘Year of to mark the 100-year anniversary of Sheikh Zayed’s birth. Since its inception, the Founder’s Memorial has provided a focal point where the community throughout the UAE and international visitors can learn about and reflect on the life, legacy, and values of the late Sheikh Zayed through a series of personal encounters that reveal aspects of him as both a man and a leader.

A national landmark, and a cultural tourist destination

Since its foundation three years ago, the Memorial has witnessed a remarkable flow of visitors, that includes both tourists and residents alike. Visitors have had the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the founding father’s legacy through the Welcome Centre which includes pictures, stories, and various interactive experiences. It also charts his local and global cultural and humanitarian contributions. Visitors will also have the opportunity to experience the innovative artwork ‘The Constellation,’ featuring a dynamic three-dimensional portrait of Sheikh Zayed.

The Memorial has established its status  as a major cultural attraction in Abu Dhabi where international visitors can connect with the UAE and learn about the culture and heritage of the country through the vision and leadership of the nation’s founding father. The late Sheikh Zayed’s values, determination, and ambition are a source of inspiration. His leadership paved the way for the Emirates to become a unified and prosperous nation while his virtues, actions and spirit still guides us to this very day.

Rich cultural tours

Over the past three years, Emirati cultural tour specialists at The Founder’s Memorial have shared the destination’s themes with visitors. Each visit to The Founder’s Memorial is a new immersive experience, where visitors take on a series of interactive experiences and learn about Sheikh Zayed as a person and as a leader, while exploring his inspiring legacy and forward-thinking vision.

The Founder’s Memorial has continued its role in commemorating the late Sheikh Zayed’s extraordinary career through virtual cultural tours presented via live broadcast on the Memorial’s Instagram page. The tours have adhered to precautionary and safety measures imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These tours saw increasing attendance from individual followers and a number of global governmental and private sector delegations. They have had the opportunity to virtually tour the Memorial.

In line with its social responsibility, The Founder’s Memorial received a delegation from the Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination for a tour presented by cultural tour specialists at the Memorial in sign language. The delegation briefed the visitors on the role that the founding father played in supporting people of determination. They also outlined how he aimed to foster a suitable ecosystem to develop the potential of people of determination.

An immortal biography in a creative mould

The Memorial offers its visitors an integrated and unique experience that encompasses its various sections and content. This provides them with a deeper insight into Sheikh Zayed’s personality and his ideas by giving them the opportunity to listen to rare recordings of Sheikh Zayed. They are able to contemplate his words and explore the causes he supported and advocated. This is also accomplished by viewing a collection of rare photos, videos, and personal stories told by people who knew him closely at the Memorial’s multimedia and interactive experiences system.

The centrepiece of The Founder’s Memorial is a monumental public artwork named The Constellation, a dynamic three-dimensional portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed that can be experienced differently from multiple viewing points around the memorial. This artwork was awarded first place in the CODA Artistic Design Award 2019 in the institutional artworks category. The internationally recognized award honors successful and innovative projects that integrate the artistic aspect of interior, architectural and public space designs.

This award is an addition to the achievements that crowned this artistic work that represents a great addition to the cultural scene in the UAE and that is considered as one of the most prominent architectural monuments in the world. This artwork has previously won two awards - Best Indoor and Outdoor Lighting Project Award and Best Innovative Lighting Project Award in 2018 during the 13th edition of the Light Middle East.

Housed in a 30m-high pavilion, The Constellation contains 1,327 geometric shapes suspended on 1,110 cables, with the artwork weighing more than 250 tons. By night, the suspended shapes shine like stars, a reminder of Sheikh Zayed’s role as a guiding light for the UAE and its people. This celestial display evokes the timelessness of Sheikh Zayed’s vision, which continues to guide the UAE along the path to progress and prosperity.     

The memorial includes various types of trees and plants that are part of the rich natural environment of the Arabian Peninsula, which reflects the late Sheikh Zayed's passion for nature and his keenness to preserve the local environment. The green spaces house 188 trees spread across the Founder's Memorial in a way that allows visitors to learn more about their characteristics. This is in addition to the elevated walkway encircling the space that includes the wise words of the late Sheikh Zayed which remained a source of inspiration to many generations.

Visions and Ambitions

Since its inauguration, the Founder's Memorial has organised and hosted many events and activities that reflect the founding father’s approach and express his noble values. This included hosting the most prominent global event in the world - the Global Conference of Human Fraternity, during which His Holiness Pope Francis, Pope the Catholic Church, and His Eminence Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Sheikh of Al-Azhar, signed the Document on Human Fraternity in the presence of more than 400 leaders, religious representatives and cultural and intellectual personalities from different countries.

This is in addition to the launch of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity in 2019 on the site of the Founder's Memorial in conjunction with the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi. The award is one of the most important initiatives to implement the Document and aims to celebrate individuals or institutions that work on consolidating peace and coexistence, building bridges of cultural and human communication, and proposing successful and influential practical initiatives to bring societies together in the long term.

The Founder's Memorial has also played an active role in national and community initiatives and events, including the National Day, Martyr's Day, Flag Day and Emirati Women's Day, as part of its value as a national cultural monument that immortalizes the legacy of the founding father and his prominent role in establishing the country and achieving its development. The Memorial has designated a special schedule for activities that are held to celebrate these events in order to attract visitors from different cultures and provide them with the opportunity to participate in these events in a way that allows them to learn about the country’s history and culture.

In a national initiative that reflects the founding father’s visions and ambitions, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, launched the National Experts Programme in the Memorial that celebrates these ambitions. The programme aims to prepare a diverse foundation of advisory national cadres that help accelerate development in various sectors in the country.

In addition, “Sheikh Zayed: A Century of Memories,” was organised by Lest We Forget, a community-based initiative supported by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, and featured a collection of personal stories and artifacts related to the late Sheikh Zayed that were provided by members of the UAE community. 

The second temporary exhibition, organised by the EU delegation to the UAE, and entitled “Sheikh Zayed and Europe: A Journey,” honored the life of the late Sheikh Zayed, documented his diplomatic relationships with a number of European leaders, and celebrated the longstanding ties between the UAE and Europe.

The memorial also hosted the Sister Cities event, in which Karen Pence, Second Lady of the Unites States, on behalf of the American city of Houston, presented a commemorative gift to the city of Abu Dhabi. The memorial presented a commemorative gift of a model of a piece of the geometric shapes used in designing the artwork "Al Thuraya" (The Constellation,), in appreciation of the deep bonds between the two cities.

Moreover, a youth forum was held at the Founder's Memorial in Abu Dhabi. It was organised by World Muslim Communities Council, WMCC in late 2019, under the theme "Building Future Leaders: Commitment, Integrity and Innovation" presenting a set of recommendations most notably the empowerment of Muslim youth to lead the institutions of their societies, as well as promote their ideas, visions and aspirations.

The Founder’s Memorial also served as the site for the official lighting of the Special Olympics World Games torch, in a high-profile ceremony organised by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company [ADNOC] and attended by thousands of athletes, volunteers and supporters.     

Destination for VIPs

Since opening in 2018, the Founder's Memorial has witnessed a large number of official visits by high-ranking personalities, reflecting its position as a monument that commemorates the life of a leader who has been a source of inspiration to others, including the President of the Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghanii; Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria;  Ibrahim Kasuri Fofana, Prime Minister of the Republic of Guinea; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe; Jeong Kyeong-doo, Minister of National Defense of South Korea; Second Lady of the US, Karen Pence; and H.E. Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum., as well as Meir Ben Shabbat, advisor and head of the Israeli National Security Council.

Visiting the Memorial

The Memorial welcomes visitors daily from 9 am to 10 pm. Free parking spaces are available throughout the week on Street 18. Walking visitors can enter the Memorial from the Corniche side, in addition to a drop-off and pick-up space for taxi and tourist bus passengers. Visitors can explore the Founder's Memorial and join the cultural tour with cultural tour specialists, to get to know the personality and insightful vision of the late founding father, the benevolent leader, allowing visitors coming from all walks of life to appreciate the beauty of the place and benefit from its valuable content and messages.

Under current circumstances, the Founder's Memorial visitors must make pre-reservations and obtain access passes online at (https://visit.szgmc.gov.ae:82/). Booking a tour with cultural tours specialists, as well as schools, universities and groups visits are also available at www.thefoundersmemorial.ae or 024100100. More information on the Founder's Memorial can be accessed via Facebook and Instagram @ FounderMemorial.