|Images are projected onto the Louvre Pyramid in Paris at night to mark the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, November 8, 2017. AFP/Eric Feferberg|
A silver-toned dome with perforated arabesque patterns appears to float over the white galleries, creating what Nouvel describes as a "rain of light".
To reach the ground, each ray of light must cross eight layers of perforations, creating a constantly shifting pattern that mimics the shadows cast by palm trees or the roof of a traditional Arab market.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first of three museums to open on Saadiyat Island, where the UAE plans to launch the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry, and Norman Foster's Zayed National Museum.
Some five percent of the museum — which will open to the public on Saturday — is dedicated to contemporary and modern art, including a monumental piece by China's Ai Weiwei.
His 23-foot-high "Fountain of Light" is a spiraling structure draped in crystals inspired by communist plans for a massive monument that never actually saw the light of day.
300 pieces on loan
The main focus, however, is on world history and religions.
|French President Emmanuel Macron (C-L) looks at a piece of art as he visits the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum on Saadiyat Island, during its inauguration, in the Emirati capital, November 8, 2017. AFP/Pool/Ludovic Marin|
It currently has some 300 pieces on loan, including an 1887 self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci's "La Belle Ferronniere".
The oil-rich Gulf emirate has also spent years quietly building its own permanent collection.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is displaying more than 235 works of art from the Emirati collection, including Edouard Manet's "The Gypsy" as well as works by Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian and Turkey's Osman Hamdi Bey.
The authorities have put in place strict measures to protect the art from the heat in a country where summer temperatures soar well above 40 degrees Celsius (more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit).
The artworks are also guarded by Emirati forces in coordination with French experts.
The museum expects to welcome around 5,000 visitors in the first few days which follow the public opening on November 11, according to Mohammed al-Mubarak — the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism Authority.
"Because this is an international museum, we're expecting visitors from around the world," Mubarak said during a media tour ahead of Wednesday's inauguration ceremony.
"So a museum visitor from China will find something that speaks to her, to her history. A visitor from India will find the same."
The Louvre Abu Dhabi project initially sparked heated debate in France, where criticism erupted early on over the sale of a French name to an Arab state.
Questions of labour rights have also hung over the project, linked to the overall status of migrant workers in the Gulf.
The opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi comes after a more than five-year delay.