ABU DHABI • It was a hot date last Saturday for thousands of people when Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors to court the public.
Light streamed down from a vast domed ceiling, filtering through sections of the open-air museum reminiscent of a traditional Arabic marketplace.
Inside, Emirati teenagers in flowing black robes snapped wefies next to a towering oil painting of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Hundreds of Asian, European and Arab expatriates in stylish attire roamed the vast museum alongside Emirati couples in Arabic dress.
Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first museum to bear the Louvre name outside France, presents around 600 pieces. Under a 30-year agreement, France provides expertise, loans works of art and organises temporary exhibitions - in return for €1 billion (S$1.6 billion).
The Louvre in France takes a €400-million share of that sum for the use of its name up to 2037.
For the next 10 years, the mother-ship in Paris will lend works to its Abu Dhabi partner on a voluntary basis.
For its permanent collection, the museum, designed by France's Pritzker prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, has acquired hundreds of pieces dating from the earliest Mesopotamian civilisations to the present day.
On opening day, guided tours wound through the spacious galleries as Asian and African dance troupes performed in the open-air sections overlooking the sea.
Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first of three museums to open on Saadiyat Island, where the United Arab Emirates plans to launch the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry, and Norman Foster's Zayed National Museum.