The Cultural Dynamism of the Middle East
The Middle East is the still-beating heart of human civilisation. It is the crossroad of east and west, north and south; of past, present, and, most excitingly, of future. For centuries, this expansive region, home to an estimated 400 million people, has witnessed history unfurl.
Cultures, religions, and nations all intersect with great diversity and dynamism, at times harmonious and others conflicting, but always plentiful.
The sibilant whispers of blowing sand carry with them not only tales of the past, but also of a future where innovation and prosperity will have their time in the sun.
The curation of the Louvre:
The Louvre Abu Dhabi shares this history, as it stretches back to the birthplace of modern civilisation and beyond. Bear witness to the rise and fall of empires, the beginnings of globalisation, and the foundations of the modern world as we know it.
Opened in 2017 with an initial investment of more than $1.14billion, the Louvre is a modern marvel and a tribute to the very landscape on which it lies. The richly abundant collection is spread across 6,400 square metres of galleries, all held within a feat of architectural splendour. Inspired by a medina, the architect magically melds light, water and stone in an ode to the desert and the lapping Persian Gulf. It is a symbol of the region’s wealth of culture as well as the UAE’s ambitious future.
The museum is not just a preservation of the past, paused in time with its gaze turned back, but also a place for posterity. It is a celebration of where the paths of the world cross, which doesn’t only exist in the past, but is swaddled in the present.
Beyond the arts:
While the roots of civilization have a firm foundation in the Middle East, a forward-thinking flourish can also be seen in human development and education, where the region is constantly challenging prevailing preconceptions.
Through increased investment in education, the region is undoing the outmoded notion that the sciences are a male industry. UNESCO research found that, through unprecedented investment in women’s education, between 34 per cent and 57 per cent of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates in Arabic countries are now female, higher than that of European and American universities.
The Qatar Foundation’s WISE project, established by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, aims to bring innovation in education up to speed with technology and healthcare. The WISE Prize for Education elevates this field to the same level as literature, peace, and economics by recognising the contributions and innovations to education by groups and individuals. The invaluable research conducted by WISE also confronts challenges facing education across the globe.
In addition to the wellspring of culture and the growing emphasis on education, the Middle East is a place of burgeoning economic dynamism. Despite these turbulent times, the World Bank expects the region’s economies to grow by 5.4% in 2022, confounding initial forecasts.
Public and private sector innovation is nurturing talent and furrowing the way for further growth. A new wave of entrepreneurs can leverage Tunisia’s tech industry and fintech in Bahrain to light the way to a more connected and economically diverse region.
As foreign direct investment jumped 50 per cent in 2021 alone, the Middle East is capturing the world’s attention. In 2021, venture capital funding tripled that seen in 2017, exceeding $2.5 billion.
A 2020 report from Boston Consulting Group said, “The Middle East has become an active innovation center… As the economies of the region seek to diversify away from their historical dependence on oil and gas, and as the energy industry itself adapts to global market shifts, the importance of innovation will only increase.”
The Middle East offers far more than the lavishing luxuries of Dubai and boasts an economic climate that distances it from the discourses of instability that pervade Western media. An overture of culture and history has lifted the curtain on a new age of innovation and economic dynamism. One day, perhaps, the stories of today will be told and preserved with pride in the halls of magnificent museums.