Opened in 2017, this striking modern museum engagingly chronicles the birth of the UAE in 1971, spurred by the discovery of oil in the 1950s and the withdrawal of the British in 1968. Documentary films, photographs, artefacts, timelines and interactive displays zero in on historic milestones in the years leading up to and immediately following this momentous occasion and pay homage to the country’s seven founding fathers. Free tours of the adjacent circular Union House, where the agreement was signed, are available.
The museum building is an elegant design by the Canadian architecture firm Moriyama & Teshima. Its parabolic roof represents the sheet of paper upon which the declaration was written, while the seven golden columns in the entrance hall symbolise the pens with which it was signed. An expansive white travertine plaza links the building with the historic round Union House and the re-created guesthouse where the founding fathers stayed while the negotiations were underway. The original flagpole where the rulers gathered after the deal was done looms above a reflecting pool.
The generously proportioned below-ground galleries are accessed from the monumental entrance hall via a sweeping white marble staircase. On your right hangs a giant painting by Emirati artist Abdul Qader Al Rais that depicts the geography of the UAE. Just beyond are giant, eye-catching photographs of the rulers of the seven emirates that founded the nation, along with their family tree and personal effects such as Sheikh Zayed’s cane and sunglasses and Sheikh Rashid’s passport. Further on, you can catch 3D documentaries on the founding years, the original first page of the Constitution and a ‘road to unification’ digital timeline.
The name, by the way, has nothing to do with the airline: Etihad is simply the Arabic word for ‘union’.