The Founder’s Memorial | Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed’s wisdom remains a guiding light for the UAE and it’s people, as embodied by the centrepiece of the site, The Constellation.” H.E Yousef Al Obaidli

The Founder’s Memorial, a new public art installation has been unveiled in the capital. The cultural landmark, located at Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, is a permanent national tribute to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan replacing the giant portrait that resided in the same spot for many years.


Open to the public from Sunday 22nd April, the centrepiece of this tranquil landscaped space is The Constellation, a unique three-dimensional artwork designed by American public artist Ralph Helmick. The monumental artwork brings Sheikh Zayed’s portrait to life via a series of 1,327 geometric shapes suspended at different heights on hanging cables. The abstract artwork can be experienced from the elevated walkway and from various vantage points across this 3.3 hectare site.


When commissioned to immortalised Sheikh Zayed, Helmick wanted to create something unique that was different from any other portrait or painting that hang in various official places and hotels throughout the Emirates. He designed The Constellation, a stunning concept that whilst striking in daylight really comes into its own after sunset when the ‘platonic solids’ as the shapes are known shine like stars. Set to astronomical timing, the 2,000 lights slowly illuminate to reveal a stunning celestial display that Helmick conceptualised to eternalise Sheikh Zayed’s legacy as a timeless guiding light that steered the nation towards progress and prosperity.


Launched in 2018 as part of the Year of Zayed, which marks what would have been Sheikh Zayed’s hundredth birthday, The Founder’s Memorial offers visitors a glimpse into the life and legacy of the Father of the Nation. Stop off at the visitors centre to discover more about his visions and his journey to unify the region into what we know today as the seven emirates of the UAE.

A multimedia presentation gives insights into Sheikh Zayed’s life and the timeline of the founding of the nation with film footage, anecdotes from those who knew or met him and audio clips of interviews with the visionary leader. Emirati tour guides are available to give complimentary tours of the site, available in both Arabic and English, for those who are looking for further insights into Sheikh Zayed and the memorial itself.


Like the Grand Mosque, the memorial features flora and fauna from the region in memory of Sheikh Zayed’s love of nature. The Sanctuary Garden, the plaza that surrounds The Constellation is filled with trees and plants indigenous to the UAE thatthat are clearly labelled for curious visitors. Alongside all the ghaf and sidar trees there are plenty of date palms and sweet acacia and there’s a modern interpretation of the traditional Arabian falaj irrigation system. Various seating is dotted across the garden where visitors are encouraged to sit and reflect in this serene space which is surprisingly quiet and free of traffic noise even with its close proximity to the busy corniche and surrounding roads.



As you wander throughout the space you will discover native plants such as desert cotton, henna, toothbrush tree and harmal housed in the Heritage Garden, all traditionally used for their medical properties in bygone, simpler times. Words of wisdom and inspirational quotes from Sheikh Zayed are carved into the pathway along the elevated walkway.


While The Founder’s Memorial offers international visitors and expats who reside here an insight into the incredible life of Sheikh Zayed it also gives the younger Emirati generation a glimpse into the history and culture of their forefathers and how their country has evolved under the guidance of a great leader and his family. The memorial site is open daily from 9am to 10pm and is free to visit. My top tip would be to visit late afternoon so you can see the space in daylight and then enjoy the sunset while waiting for The Constellation to light up after dark.

The Founder’s Memorial

Location: Corner of Corniche Road/18th Street near the Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi


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Read more about Sheikh Zayed and his legacy in previous post Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque | Abu Dhabi

I was invited to the media launch of The Founder’s Memorial. The views in this post are all my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2018. All rights reserved.

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