Abu Dhabi at night

New York University
Abu Dhabi

Eight years ago, 148 adventurous undergrads from around the globe took up residence in a pair of low-slung buildings in downtown Abu Dhabi, becoming the campus’s inaugural class. As those students immersed themselves in the coursework and, for many, unfamiliar culture, the permanent 40-acre campus was being planned 20 minutes away on the partially man-made, nearly 17-square-mile Saadiyat Island. Occupied in 2014, the new campus has it all: art gallery; research building; athletic facility with pool, indoor running track, and climbing wall; stadium; arts center populated with theaters, rehearsal rooms, and film editing studios; and ample outdoor spaces. Saadiyat is quickly becoming the country’s cultural epicenter—New York University shares the island with the recently opened Louvre Abu Dhabi. Today the student population stands at 1,250, and that number will eventually grow to 2,200. Herewith, a CliffsNotes view of NYU in the UAE.

Reporting and Photographs by Kate Lord

The Campus Center library

The Campus Center—the heart of the school—serves as a communal basecamp and houses the library (pictured) as well as offices, meeting rooms, lounges, study areas, dining halls, and athletic facilities.

Study group

An informal study group gathers in the Marketplace in the Campus Center.

wood shop on campus

The Arts Center’s wood shop, home to the Woodworking SIG (student interest group); some of the other 60 SIGs include the Business and Finance Society for economics and entrepreneurship enthusiasts and Cinema Paradiso for movie lovers.

Students work on ReefRover

Created and developed in the Engineering Design Studio located in the Social Science Building, the reefRover is a submersible drone that gathers coral reef data.

Luminescent materials glow in the Structural Biology and Biophysical Chemistry lab.

Luminescent materials glow in the Structural Biology and Biophysical Chemistry lab.

painting class

Students hone their brush skills during a painting class.

Students celebrate the stray cats on campus

Students celebrate the stray cats on campus through custom stickers, mugs, and T-shirts.

Faiza the Falcon, the school mascot

Faiza the Falcon, the school mascot pictured here on an indoor volleyball court, is a nod to the national bird of the United Arab Emirates.

Table tennis

The school’s men’s and women’s table tennis teams compete in the Abu Dhabi Inter-University Sports League, so practice (this day, in a multipurpose room in the Arts Center) is serious business.


Members of the Oh, SHOOT! SIG perfect their archer’s aim on an outdoor basketball court (there are indoor courts as well).

Saadiyat Public Beach

Saadiyat Public Beach, with an entry fee of around $7 and activities including yoga and windsurfing, is just 2.5 miles northeast of campus.

the Campus Center

The acclaimed Rafael Viñoly Architects designed all of NYU Abu Dhabi, including the Campus Center.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Sharing the island is the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the largest museum on the Arabian peninsula. On display are Middle Eastern antiquities and Western artworks by, among others, Leonardo da Vinci, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, and René Magritte.

concertgoers joy

Grammy Award–winning Beninese singer Angélique Kidjo made her debut performance in the East Plaza, much to the delight of concertgoers.