Abu Dhabi, the neighbouring Emirate of Dubai, is also the capital of the UAE or United Arab Emirates. While Abu Dhabi is not as glamorous or over-the-top as Dubai, it has its own charm, style, elegance and beauty. Rich in culture and heritage, you would find several religious and historical monuments that give you a glimpse of the history, culture and heritage of the Arab world. The recent addition to the prominent places in Abu Dhabi is the Qast Al Watan, which is located inside the Presidential Palace grounds. The Qasr Al Watan is open to the public and here is what you should know before you take a tour of this palatial building of Abu Dhabi.
What is Qasr Al Watan?
Opened in March 2019, Qasar Al Watan is a working palace inside the Presidential Palace grounds. Although the Presidential Palace does not house the private resident of the rulers, it is home to the formal offices of the President, Vice President and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. It is also the official meeting place of the Cabinet and Federal Supreme Council of the UAE. While all these buildings and places are not open to the public, the Qasr Al Watan welcomes locals, residents and tourists alike to give a glimpse of the architecture, culture and governance of the place.
Qasr Al Watan Timing and Tickets
Qasr Al Watan is open to the public every day of the week from 10 AM to 8 PM. Tours are conducted every half an hour, each tour lasting 60 minutes. A ticket costing DH60 for adults and DH30 for kids would open doors to Qasr Al Watan and its gardens. You can also choose a garden only ticket (DH25 for adults and DH12 for children). If you want to join a guided tour, you would have to pay an amount of DH30 per person. Each tour includes not more than 20 people. On the other hand, if you are already a group of 20 people, you can ask for a private guided tour at the cost of DH600. You can either buy the tickets at the visitor centre or book them online. The cost is the same in both cases.
What to Expect in Qasr Al Watan
Once you get your entry tickets, you would be chaperoned to the entrance of Qasr Al Watan via bus. It takes only a few minutes and you also get to enjoy the beautiful view and gardens of the grounds. Once you reach Qasr Al Watan, you would be welcomed with a cup of coffee and the traditional dates, followed by which you would enter the grand doors of the building. Qasr Al Watan is an epitome of Arabic architecture and brilliance, and what you are going to see inside would surely astound you.
Inside the Qasr Al Watan in Abu Dhabi
Architecture and Opulence
Nothing will prepare you for the grandeur and opulence of the interiors of the Qasr Al Watan. The architectural style of the building is contemporary juxtaposed with traditional Arabian style. The white marble, the intricate details, the artistry, the geometric and floral patterns (over 5000) and the gold embellishments would remind you of the classic Arabic style seen in other cultural monuments of the place, including the Grand Mosque. Pay some special attention to the grand doors of the building, each made of solid maple and hard carved designed embellished in 23-carat gold. It is said that it took 350 hours to build and design each door of Qasr Al Watan.
The Grand Hall
The Grand Hall lies in the heart of Qasr Al Watan and is easily one of the grandest and most opulent rooms of the entire building. Measuring an area of 100X100, it is the largest room in the building. The highlight of the room is its main dome, which is said to be the largest in the world, with 37 meters diameter. Another feature of the room is that it has four mirrored cubes, each housing an interesting art installation. This is something that would attract people of all ages, especially kids.
Al Barza or Majlis
Second largest room in the building, the majlis is a form of counsel that the leaders use for governance. The room is beautiful and opulent just like its counterparts and can contain 300 people at a time. You should not miss the multimedia presentation which would give you information about the importance of majlis as well as the history of the UAE. Spend some time here to check out this ornately designed room and its seating arrangements.
House of Knowledge
Just as the name suggests, the House of Knowledge is a place where you would be able to access rare manuscripts and artefacts of the palace. It also gives you a deep insight into the contributions of the Arab world in the different fields including literature, science, arts, humanities, etc. The collections in this room is surely impressive but what would really impress you is the giant gold sculpture places in the room. Known as The Power of Words, this sculpture, which looks like a cage, is an inscription of a quote by Sheikh Zayed.
Another place where you would get to know more about UAE’s history, culture, heritage and contributions is in its library. The Library can be visited free of cost after a simple registration and you would be able to access more than 40,000 books on a varied subjects, starting from history and archaeology to literature and arts. You can also access a digital collection that contains 16 million items.
Spirit of Collaboration Hall
To know more about the leaders of UAE and their governing styles and traditions, you must visit the Spirit of Collaboration. It is here that the Federal Supreme Council, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation held their meetings. One of the most impressive things about this room is its 350,000-crystal chandelier that weighs 12-tonnes.
The Presidential Banquet
A finely furnished dining hall, the Presidential Banquet would give you a glimpse of how the rulers and their guests dine. You would get to walk around the room and check out the 149,000 one-of-a-kind pieces of china, silver and crystal used for dining in the palace. It must be emphasized here that these pieces of cutlery and dinnerware were made exclusively for the palace.
This is the room that houses all the gifts received by the UAE from diplomats around the world, during the last 50 years. Right from rare carpets from Turkmenistan to an ornate and shield from Kazakhstan, there are several interesting things to see in this special room.
Light and Sound Show
The light and sound show can be enjoyed by those who visit the Qasr Al Watan during the evening time. Showcased every evening at 7:30, it tells you the story of the past, present and future of the country by projecting light and sound on to the Qasr Al Watan. You would have to assemble in the gardens to watch this spectacular show. Plan your tour in the evening so that you can catch this splendid show.
After walking around Qasr Al Watan, it is obvious that you would feel hungry. Luckily, you do not have to venture out of the palace grounds to replenish yourself. The place has a cafe, tea house, casual dining and even a fine dining restaurant. So, whether you want to grab a quick snack or a have a sit-down dinner or lunch, you would be spoilt with variety of dining options here.
If you want to take something back with you as a reminder of Qasr Al Watan, do not forget to visit the gift or souvenir shop. There are two, one at the Visitor Centre and one inside the palace, both selling gifts and souvenirs related to Qasr Al Watan.
Here is some additional information that would make your visit to Qasr Al Watan smooth and hassle-free.
• Wheelchairs are available for the handicapped and the elderly at the entrance of the palace.
• You can rent strollers for kids at AED40 or carry your own as well.
• You cannot smoke anywhere inside Qasr Al Watan or the palace grounds other than in the dedicated area for the same.
• You are prohibited to carry items like penknives, scissors, alcohol, long umbrellas, bicycles, roller-skaters, pets or animals, large bags, any weapon, CS gas, skateboards, etc.
Visiting a new city or country gives you the opportunity to know everything about it, including its history, culture, etc. Qasr Al Watan offers you all this in a platter and hence make sure to visit it during your holiday in the UAE.