Becky Anderson on this country's recognition of diversity and tolerance
The UAE's unifying message is a real cause for celebration
A few Sundays ago, with the roar of Formula One cars still ringing in my ears after an epic Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, I stood on the deck of a yacht moored in Yas Marina, anchoring my show, Connect the World. I’ve been living in this city for three years now, and looking at the lights of the F1 circuit from the water, surrounded by my crew as well as colleagues who had made the journey from overseas, I was struck – not for the first time – by how truly international this city has become and how it is coming of age. In a region where negative stories can sometimes overtake the positive, the troubles of the Middle East felt very distant indeed.
I am extremely fortunate to have a job that takes me inside so many of the stories that form the ever-changing tapestry of Abu Dhabi, the UAE and the entire region. Presenting Connect the World and Inside the Middle East is an inspiration and an education every day.
In 2017, on Inside the Middle East we have encountered artists, musicians, fashion and jewellery designers, filmmakers and more, from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, and from Lebanon to right here in the UAE. What has united many of our guests is their determination to leave their mark in a positive way. The composer who wants to use his music as a force for change in societies that need it, the singer looking to take her own uniquely Arab sound to the world and tell a fresh story about her home, the designer helping to curate a jewellery collection that represents the great civilisation of Egypt, and teaching young designers to use their own talents, the woman trying to make a mark for Dubai on the global fashion map. These are all stories that reflect the growing and infectious energy of the people in this region, and the change they are driving and inspiring.
That change is also something you see every day where I have made my home. Because the pace of change is so rapid here, you get to witness the grand vision of Abu Dhabi and the UAE rising around you. You feel part of its story because you see it literally taking shape. Perhaps no better example of this exists than the magnificent new Louvre Abu Dhabi. Ten years in the making, it is a world-class addition to the burgeoning cultural scene of this city.
Louvre Abu Dhabi is so much more than an ambitious structure; it really is a gift to the people of the UAE, and to the world. Walking through its 23 galleries you are struck by the fact that, in spite of its vastness, visiting is a deeply personal experience. Among its 600 artworks, covering everything from ancient Egyptian pieces to contemporary works, its vision suddenly becomes clear. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism, explained to me that the beauty of this museum is that it will "talk to everybody". It is indeed a beautiful vision: he said that anyone, no matter where they are from, or which religion, will find a piece that will reflect them, and he is probably right.
There is something so touching about this. In a region that has perhaps suffered more than any from conflict and division, its powerful, unifying message is one that celebrates diversity, inclusivity, and the joy of forging connections across cultures, nations and people. For many reasons, it is truly a cause for celebration.
Becky Anderson presents Connect the World on CNN International