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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

New digital portal encourages visitors to explore new and old Abu Dhabi

"You have the Louvre and all these other places to enrich your life. Access is important. This app is providing access," says Louvre chief

Tourists of the inaugural tour visit the Eco-Centre at Al Ain Oasis. Christopher Pike / The National
Tourists of the inaugural tour visit the Eco-Centre at Al Ain Oasis. Christopher Pike / The National

Did you know that the Saluki comes from a breed of dogs called greyhounds? Or that Delma Island helped quench Abu Dhabi city’s thirst for water in the 20th century?

A landmark new digital portal that answers these questions and showcases the cultural riches of the emirate has been launched.

It also shines a light on some of the hidden gems and takes users off the beaten track outside of the major attractions of the capital.

Encompassing a new website, smartphone app and social media platforms, Abu Dhabi Culture is a one-stop guide for arts, culture and heritage.

Abu Dhabi Culture tells the history of heritage sites, showcases museums, galleries and cultural attractions, while also offering 360 degree tours. Users can study timelines, book visits, listen to podcasts and send e-postcards. An interactive map and contact details help people locate sites such as a museum on Delma Island. The portal will also feature fresh photos, driving directions, refreshed content and education kits.

The platform is designed for Emiratis, residents and tourists, while it’s also envisaged the platform will become a reference point for researchers and academics.

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“Abu Dhabi has a deep treasure trove of culture and the richest heritage,” said Saif Ghobash, Director General of the Department of Culture and Tourism, which launched the portal on Tuesday. “What makes this a landmark moment is our opportunity to bring all of this information - the richness of this immersion - together for the first time in an easy to use accessible form.”

Mr Ghobash said the aim is to provide in-depth knowledge on all cultural and heritage in the emirate for people inside and outside the UAE.

“It’s for faculty members, students, pupils, tourists and even tour guides who really want to have that edge in terms of content. Today we started at a certain level – but for every element the depth will be enhanced with more and more quality. More entities will feed into it. It will be a centre of knowledge.”

Mr Ghobash said the portal would also increase the attraction of Abu Dhabi for people considering visiting, while also enhancing their experience while in the country.

“It is free to access - we can play a role in enhancing content on the Lonely Planets of the world because of the information we have here.”

The launch comes as the UAE marks Innovation Month and officials from the DCT showcased how the app and website worked. Present was the director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, Manuel Rabaté. The museum opened to the public on November 11 and Mr Rabaté said the museum was very happy to be part of the new portal.

“It’s the same story, the same adventure – we have loans from Al Ain [National Museum],” he told The National.

“This app is an invitation to go to the museum – but to also guide you to the other offerings of Abu Dhabi.”

A popular feature was the 360 degree journey through Abu Dhabi’s cultural sites. The emirate’s major landmarks such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Louvre Abu Dhabi and Qasr Al Muwaiji all feature. But users can also explore hidden gems such as the Zayed Central Library in Al Ain and music centre, Bait Al Oud. These showcase the breadth of cultural activity across the emirate.

“This is what you have on the app, a strategy,” said Mr Rabaté. “You can have a small experience, a big experience. I lived in Paris and it’s the same thing – you have the Louvre and all these other places to enrich your life. Access is important. This app is providing access,” he said.

The Abu Dhabi Culture app is available in Arabic, English and French and can be downloaded on Apple’s iO3 and Android. It’s envisaged that more languages will be added in the coming months.

Steve Copestake is acting executive director of marketing and communication at the DCT.

"We'd never drawn all these things together before," he said. "But Visit Abu Dhabi will remain as out visitor portal."

The launch comes as Abu Dhabi is intensifying efforts to boost tourism. Official statistics for 2017 have yet to be published but it’s believed the emirate had five million hotel guests over the year. The target for this year is six million as Abu Dhabi benefits from last year’s opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi. A TV campaign promoting the emirate has also been launched.

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