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Macron hails Louvre Abu Dhabi as bridge between civilisations and religions
French President Emmanuel Macron has hailed the new Louvre museum Abu Dhabi as a "bridge between civilisations" and religions. He was speaking on Wednesday evening at the opening, which was attended by leaders of a number of Arab and Muslim countries, including United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Afghanistan.
"Beauty can save the world," Macron declared, quoting Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky and he told his audience that the museum should be a barrier against "obscurantism".
"Islam was born in this palimpsest of beliefs and culture," he said. "Those who want to make us believe that anywhere in the world that Islam was built on destroying the other monotheisms are liars who are betraying you".
The opening comes a decade after France and the UAE agreed to a 30-year partnership initially reported to be worth 1.1 billion dollars, including nearly half a billion dollars for the rights to the Louvre brand alone.
The 12-gallery museum, housing artworks from Europe, Africa and Asia, was designed by France's prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first of three museums to open on Saadiyat Island, where the UAE plans to launch the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry and Norman Foster's Zayed National Museum.
Some five percent of the museum, which will open to the public on Saturday, is dedicated to contemporary and modern art, including a monumental piece by China's Ai Weiwei.
History and religion
The main focus, however, is on world history and religions.
Among the exhibits are an early Koran, a gothic Bible and a Yemenite Torah, facing each other and open at verses carrying the same message.
Jean-Luc Martinez, president of the Louvre in Paris, said the new museum was designed "to open up to others, to understand diversity" in "a multipolar world".
The museum expects to welcome around 5,000 visitors in the first few days which follow the public opening on 11 November, according to Mohammed al-Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism Authority.
But the project has not come about without its share of controversy. The opening comes after a more than five-year delay and initially sparked heated debate in France, where criticism erupted early on over the sale of a French name to an Arab state.
The question of labour rights has also hung over the project, linked to the overall status of migrant workers in the Gulf.