Project Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Sheikh Zayed Bridge

Linking the dunes over the sea

Intent on an innovative design for a third bridge spanning the Maqta Channel, the municipality of Abu Dhabi assigned BESIX the final stages of the job. The eye-catching project features architecture inspired by the rolling dunes of the desert.

Designed by an icon

Abu Dhabi is known around the world for its forward-thinking design, architecture and unusual buildings. For a new bridge planned to span the waters of the Maqta Channel, which separates the Island of Abu Dhabi from the mainland, the municipality chose a winning design by the renowned architect Zaha Hadid. The asymmetrical two-decked design, at 912 metres long, represents the dunes of the United Arab Emirates and features three pairs of steel arches.

Unique geometry, harsh conditions

Complex and extensive temporary structural steel works were needed to erect the distinctive structure under extremely tight time constraints. Even more, it took a seasoned construction firm to successfully coordinate the activities of the 2,300 people working on the bridge, often very high from the ground and in high-traffic areas. Finally, the diverse equipment needed for the construction, which included 22 cranes and 11 marine barges, had to be precisely mobilised and timed. The structure of the bridge itself must be built to last and able to withstand high wind speeds, extreme temperatures and potential earthquakes.

Durable and dramatic

Opened to the public as planned in November 2010, the Sheikh Zayed Bridge traversed by 1,600 cars per hour and has an engineered lifespan of 120 years. The temporary steel structures required for the construction of the bridge were erected by BESIX in under one month, an unusually rapid achievement. BESIX was also responsible for all utility works on the bridge, including the dramatic lighting of the structure.

Project details

Project name

Sheikh Zayed Bridge

Area(s) of expertise


Contract type



Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates


Six Construct


Abu Dhabi Municipality

Building Period

2010 - 2011


Zaha Hadid Architects

Total value

€ 53.4 million

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