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A view of the main lobby at the Cultural Foundation. Image Credit: Samihah Zaman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The Cultural Foundation, one of Abu Dhabi’s most prominent landmarks, has reopened to the public this week after being closed for the past decade due to renovation work.

First opened in 1981, the centre for art and learning was closed in 2009 as part of extensive renovations to the Al Hosn site, one of the first urban settlements in the capital. Works focused on the nearby Qasr Al Hosn fort - Abu Dhabi’s first royal residence - but the foundation’s facilities were also upgraded.

As a result the foundation now hosts the Abu Dhabi Children’s Library, a 900-seat theatre, and workshops for calligraphy, art, resreach, exhibitions and cultural learning.

The foundation is now expected to again become a hub for art and culture, adding to the city’s other cultural offerings such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Manaarat Al Saadiyat.

On Wednesday the venue was toured by Shaikh Khalid Bin Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council and chairman of the Executive Committee, along with senior officials from the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism.

“Abu Dhabi’s strength as a cultural hub is the deep link between our history and future aspirations,” said Shaikh Khalid Bin Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. “Investment in immersive spaces like [the Cultural Foundation] will develop the young leaders of the future.

“The Cultural Foundation, situated next to Abu Dhabi’s oldest landmark, Qasr Al Hosn, is the manifestation of the vision our founding father,

Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who set the cornerstone for a modern national that preserves its heritage and history,” he added.

Reem Fadda, director of the Foundation, said the venue will help educate and engage residents due to its central location.

“This Foundation has been the heart of art and culture in Abu Dhabi, and it is that history that we want to revive. We want to make art and culture inclusive and accessible for all,” she said.

Speaking about the Children’s Library, which replaces the Foundation’s original national library, Fadda said that entrance was free, and children under the age of 14 can also borrow books for free after registration. The facility boasts 35,000 titles, mainly in Arabic, English and French, with some in Hindi, Spanish, Mandarin and German.

On the ground floor, the library boasts workshops and exhibition areas for children. Its first floor includes life-sized sand dune models, falaj-inspired book systems, and camp-themed reading spaces. There is also a soft toddler pen, a reading tree and an imaginative creature zone. The second floor has workstations, study rooms and private tree houses designed to provide an atmosphere conducive to learning and relaxation for older children.

Among the other new spaces at the Foundation is Bait Al Khatt, a space dedicated to the learning and production of Arabic calligraphy, especially calligraphy within Islamic culture. This area will host daily classes, and it will be led by Mohammad Al Mandi, master Emirati calligrapher known for his angularly designed scripts that are included on the UAE passport, the country’s banknotes, and within the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

At Al Marsam Al Hor, there will be a year-round programme of classes and workshops in a variety of mediums and forms, including oil painting, sculpture, ceramics, pottery, fashion design and jewellery making.

A series of studios also house the works of three Emirati artists, who are completing their second cycle of the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism’s Artist in Residency programme.

A range of performances has also been planned for the venue, with a musical performance by oud master, Nasser Shamma, and the 2350 BC Orchestra kicking off the season.