A place to learn about Sheikh Zayed through art, nature, words, stories, and multimedia experiences
You have most probably heard about this impressive, newly opened, 3D Constellation sculpture representing the face of Sheikh Zayed near Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. But how many of you have already visited the Founder’s Memorial? As many other UAE residents, we were eager to visit this Foundation paying a tribute to the late Sheikh Zayed.
‘A place to learn about Sheikh Zayed through art, nature, words, stories, and multimedia experiences, The Founder’s Memorial offers visitors a range of personal encounters with the late Sheikh Zayed as a man and a leader, enabling people to gain a deeper understanding of his vast influence on the UAE and the world.’
Paying our first visit in May 2018 to the Founder’s memorial, here is why you should take the family and visit this new landmark in Abu Dhabi.
First of all, this memorial opened its doors in April 2018, during ‘The year of Zayed’ as late Sheikh Zayed was born in 1918. It is located along the 18th street, where the portrait of Sheikh Zayed used to stand for many years. Stretching over 3 hectares, the Founder’s Memorial comprises of the welcome centre building, constellation sculpture, heritage and sanctuary gardens and an elevated walkway. This memorial is open daily between 9 am until 10 pm and entry is free.
The outdoor installation is just spectacular in its size, and there is a lot to discover including a public art installation, an outdoor museum and gardens.
After parking in the alley along the 18th street, we made our first stop at the Welcome Centre. We were immediately proposed at the reception to join a free guided tour. These complimentary tours in Arabic and English last 30 minutes led by Emirati Cultural Tour Guides. They are very interesting to join, as they guide you through the memorial and enable you to gain a deeper understanding of Sheikh Zayed and his legacy. You can either book a tour by sending an email to email@example.com or at the Welcome Centre on arrival. Space is limited, so bookings are recommended.
Our tour started with a video that gave us an introduction about why, when and how the idea of this memorial came about and how it was built. We also enjoyed watching the interview of the American artist who actually won the competition and came up with this astonishing Constellation Design idea to represent late Sheikh Zayed.
‘At night, the shapes of The Constellation shine like stars, evoking the timelessness of Sheikh Zayed’s vision as a guiding light for the UAE people.’
The Constellation sculpture … in numbers
The monumental public artwork is called The Constellation and has been designed by international artist Ralph Helmick. Especially impressive at night time, the art constellation is a dynamic three-dimensional portrait of late Sheikh Zayed that visitors can experience from different perspectives, depending on their viewing point around the memorial.
The Constellation is actually made with an installation of 1 327 geometric shapes that are suspended along 1 100 twisted steel cables hanging from the top of the white 30-meter tall cube that is distinguishable from far away.
It took almost ten years to design and build this complex project and the cables and geometrical elements have been designed and built to resist to the UAE climate including wind, heat, and humidity.
‘The Constellation is one of the largest art installations of its kind in the world and is unique in its use of abstract portraiture on this scale.’
A stroll taking in the Sanctuary Garden, the Heritage Garden, and the Elevated Walkway around the artwork
Minimalism reigns around the cube and constellation with geometric shapes and white colors around.
The platonic solids
On the way to the memorial, there is a panel showing the shape of the geometric elements also called platonic solids. These regular solids have 5 different regular shapes, based on the number of their faces: four faces for the Tetrahedron, six faces for the cube, eight faces for the Octahedron, twelve for the Dodecahedron and twenty for the Icosahedron. Renowned for their beauty, these shapes have inspired scientists and artists for Millenia.
Within the Constellation, each of these 1327 handmade solids is used to represent individual stars. When night comes, the portrait of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is revealed through this celestial constellation.
The natural landscaping
The plants and tree species planted around the memorial are all indigenous and from the Arabic Peninsula such as the Ghaf tree, in order to highlight and preserve the local flora.
In the Heritage Garden, we discovered a variety of local plants known in the UAE for their traditional uses, including the Desert Cotton, Henna, Suwac, Alkali Weed, Carraluma and Harmal. These UAE native plants are also known for their traditional cultural and medicinal properties. There are different signage along the garden that explains the specific properties of each of them.
The sanctuary garden has a circular shape and encircles the Constellation pavilion. Ghaf trees, Simr and Sidr trees are planted here and there – with a total of 188 tress – and will provide beneficial shade along the walking paths.
We also enjoyed the reference to the ancient falaj irrigation system highlighted through a water feature close to the Sanctuary Garden. Made with black marble, it contrasts with the white marble flooring and stairs.
An elevated walkway encircles the site, offering captivating views of the artwork and the Abu Dhabi skyline. The path is punctuated with seven visionary quotes by Sheikh Zayed, offering a space for quiet contemplation of his wisdom.
The access to the Memorial
Free visitor parking is available at the site and accessible from 18th street linking The Corniche and Marina mall. On foot, the site can also be accessed from the Corniche.
The visiting hours during the month of Ramadan are from (9 AM to 2 PM) and from (8 PM to 1 AM) throughout the week.
THE FOUNDER’S MEMORIAL | Intersection between the Corniche and the 18th Street | Website: