London: Christo Javacheff is an artist renowned for wrapping the Reichstag in fabric, but his latest project `Mastaba`, the world`s largest permanent sculpture to be built in Abu Dhabi will be much bigger in scale and rival Egypt`s pyramids.
The flat-topped pyramid, estimated to cost pound 212 million, will be 492 feet high -- just taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza and three times the height of Nelson`s Column.
It is intended to be a landmark for Abu Dhabi in the desert, in the same way the pyramids are for Egypt and the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, with two million visitors expected annually.
Inspired by the colourful sands of the desert, Bulgaria-born Christo, 74, and his late wife Jeanne-Claude first envisaged the project about 30 years ago. But its completion has been delayed by various conflicts in the region.
The United Arab Emirates rulers have approved a site near Liwa oasis close to the border with Oman in the south-east of the country.
The region is home to some of the highest sand dunes in the middle east and the yellow and red colours in the sand have inspired the design, a leading daily reports.
"When the sun rises, the vertical wall will become almost full of gold," Christo said. The artist is collaborating with Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed al-Nayhan, the crown prince`s elder brother, with the royal family "very excited to realise the project".
The sculpture has been inspired by Islamic architecture. "When Louis XIV was building that kitschy castle Versailles, the greatest architecture in the Middle East had incredible simplicity... and play with colours," said Christo.
Construction of Mastaba will take 30 months, with hundreds of labourers involved. A German company has been commissioned to supply the coloured barrels.