Zayed Centre, is a little place in Al Bateen that serves mainly as an homage to Sheikh Zayed himself, though provides an interesting account of the history of various aspects of Abu Dhabi at the same time. Confusingly, it is sometimes also known as the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Centre or the Zayed Exhibition but if you put the former into google maps it finds the right spot with the title ‘Collection of Sheikh Zayed memorabilia’. And it’s just across from Tasha’s cafe in Al Bateen marina for an easier landmark!
It’s quite an unusual little place, with several different exhibitions housed in different rooms, and it’s not really that clear where to start, so just start wherever seems logical and work your way around. The first room we went into told the story of ADCO (Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Productions) and the oil discovery, along with a timeline and some information about the specifics of oil pumps and pipes(!), but more interestingly, a great collection of old photos.
Next door to this is a room dedicated to the history of the postal service in the UAE, which is actually quite compelling! Despite the current modern day frustrations with the local postal service, it is intriguing seeing how far the service has come!
Following the rooms around, next you’ll come to the biggest room of them all, and the one where the Sheikh Zayed Memorabilia is housed. It’s a bit of an odd mixed bunch, from personal cars to photos and favourite rifles to gifts from international world leaders, some more obscure than others!
The museum also houses the world’s largest stamp mosaic (as qualified by Guiness World Records) which forms a colourful and impressive portrait of the leader.
Finally, the final small room you reach is all about the UAE Police force and I personally found it surprisingly fascinating to see how the force has transformed along with how the uniforms and vehicles have changed over the years.
The style and layout of the exhibitions place do have a bit of a dated feel about them, but there is some very interesting information waiting to be uncovered for the curious. It’s definitely a much better museum than the photos make it look – it’s all about the information contained within rather than the appearance.
There’s also a beautiful little mosque on the Zayed Centre site – the mosque of Zayed the Just (what else?!).
Certainly one of Abu Dhabi’s lesser known curiosities, it’s worth a visit to see a side of the country’s history that I’ve not seen covered elsewhere.
The centre is open on weekdays from Sunday to Thursday from 7.30am until 2.30pm and guided tours are available if you book in advance – call 02 665 9555.