Visitors to Abu Dhabi International Airport this week will be forgiven for thinking they've stepped back in time or onto the set of the latest Spielberg blockbuster.
Einstein, a 23 metre, 4.5 tonne skeleton of an Apatosaurus, arrived at the airport earlier this week, where he will spend the next two and a half months on display in the Arrivals Hall in Terminal 1.
Discovered in Dakota, USA, Einstein has been carefully transported in ten cargo crates to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) and Etihad Airways. Accompanied and reconstructed by a team of paleontology experts, the entire process was achieved in less than a day – though somewhat longer than the average passenger's 27.5 minute transit through Abu Dhabi airport.
Einstein's skeleton is now in situ, and the exhibition will formally open to the public next week, with information available on the dinosaur's past and vital statistics, as well as opportunities for visitors to have their photos taken with the relic. The exhibition will be free of charge, and visitors will be able to see Einstein without checking in or making a journey through the airport.
ADAC will host Einstein until the end of September, giving Abu Dhabi residents and visitors an unbeatable opportunity to view one of the first significant prehistoric dinosaur skeletons to be assembled in the Middle East to this day.
Dan Cappell, vice president non-aeronautical revenue, Abu Dhabi Airports Company, said:
“This is a unique moment for Abu Dhabi. Einstein is an incredible relic from prehistoric times and provides a great educational opportunity for children and their families, allowing people young and old to learn about a part of the world's history that is normally only accessible in museums. The summer period sees thousands of families passing through the airport, so this is an excellent opportunity to give Einstein the audience he deserves.
“We hope he will act as an inspiration for others to explore the exciting pre-history of our region, so that the next dinosaur we display could well have been born, raised, buried and discovered in the UAE.
“We anticipate significant interest in Einstein and look forward to welcoming people to Einstein's exhibition at the Abu Dhabi International Airport, where they can make the most of this one-off opportunity to view a not-so-little piece of history.''
In October, Einstein's skeleton will be auctioned off internationally at a reserve price of $2 million, with 20 per cent above the reserve of the auction price going to the charity for endangered species of Arabian wildlife. Exact details of the auction have yet to be finalised.
Einstein is an Apatosaurus (also known as a Brontosaurus), a long-necked vegetarian dinosaur who lived during the Jurassic Period, approximately 150 million years ago. The name Apatosaurus comes from a Greek word meaning ‘deceptive', referring to the difficulty early paleontologists had in identifying the dinosaur's bones. He is a juvenile specimen – an adult Apatosaurus can reach up to 30 metres in length and weigh 23 metric tons.
Although no dinosaur remains have been found in the UAE, the recent discovery of dinosaur footprints in Yemen have reinvigorated interest in the region's prehistory, and Abu Dhabi has its own Department of Cultural Landscapes within the Authority for Culture and Heritage who are responsible for investigating remains across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Unusually for an exhibit of this type, Einstein is 85% composed of his original bones, making him one of the most ‘authentic' assembled dinosaurs of his kind.