Last updated: 02/24/2022
Discover the beautiful Qasr Al Watan, the Presidential Palace of the United Arab Emirates located in the capital Abu Dhabi. A place full of stories and incredible architectural beauties!
THE PRESIDENTIAL PALACE QASR AL WATAN
Qasr Al Watan is one of the most important buildings in the UAE. Built between 2010 and 2017 to house dignitaries and leaders, the presidential palace boasts more than 1 million square meters of intricate stonework, as well as numerous decorative elements in the style of the Mughal era. “Qasr” means “palace” in Arabic and “Al Watan” means “the fatherland” and therefore the translation would be “Palace of the Fatherland”.
The palace opened to the public in 2019 in a ceremony hosted by Sheiks Mohammed bin Zayed and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai). Prior to its inauguration, Qasr Al Watan was used only for official purposes, mainly hosting leaders of foreign states, and for meetings of the country's supreme council and federal cabinet. Even after being open to the public, the palace continues to be used for these purposes.
Visitors can explore a number of facilities and attractions during their visit, including extensive gardens, grand hall, visitor center, courtyard and more. In the evening, a sound and light show brings the building's exterior to life and celebrates the culture and heritage of the UAE. A curiosity is that in 2020, the Presidential Palace Qasr Al Watan was nominated for the World Travel Awards as the top cultural tourist attraction in the Middle East.
ARCHITECTURAL HIGHLIGHTS OF QASR AL WATAN
- The facade of Qasr Al Watan is made of white granite and limestone and has intricate designs inside and out.
- The palace is richly decorated with a total of 149,000 unique pieces of silver, crystal and porcelain.
- The building includes a dome measuring 37 meters in diameter and a chandelier made from 350,000 crystal pieces. The dome is located on top of the central chamber known as “The Great Hall”, which is surrounded by two wings to the east and west.
- In the east wing is the “House of Knowledge”, where a number of artifacts and other objects of importance are stored, including gifts from visiting officials from other countries and 2 religious texts: the Quran (including a replica from the Birmingham manuscript) and the Bible (including the Psalms of David). There is also a library with over 50,000 books that document the country's cultural, social and political history.
- The west wing has corridors that are used for official purposes. There is a room known as the “Spirit of Collaboration” where meetings of the UAE Cabinet and the Supreme Federal Council are held, as well as summits of international bodies such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Arab Republic and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Elsewhere, banquets are held for official events, as well as diplomatic gifts from other countries.
WHAT IS THE VISIT TO THE QASR AL WATAN LIKE
The visit to Qasr Al Watan is paid. You can buy the ticket at the Visitor Center box office on the spot or in advance through the official website (see more information at the end of the post).
Once you have your ticket in hand, you will go through security (metal detector) and will be directed to a line where you will have to wait for a minibus that takes visitors to the building open to visitors. Upon arrival, you are free to stay as long as you like at the attraction. We recommend that you take the opportunity to get to know the place without haste, because the palace is beautiful and there are many details to observe. Below is a map with the main highlights of the visit to the presidential palace. Some details about each of them can be found below. Note that the rooms are not always open for visitation and the map changes according to the attractions that are open. We brought two official brochures to show the differences:
This press room is the start of Qasr Al Watan's visit. Visitors have the opportunity to take photos to mark their passage through the palace. Photos can be picked up at the gift shop at the end of the tour.
This Great Hall houses the heart of Qasr Al Watan, where visitors get to witness the beauty of traditional Arabic crafts and art. In addition to the beautiful central dome measuring 37 meters, the ornamentation and mosaics make this place a dazzling spectacle. Visitors can also appreciate the details of the Great Hall, exploring the mirrored cubes positioned in each corner of this exquisitely decorated room.
Here are some diplomatic gifts that were exchanged as symbols of good relations between nations. This exhibition offers visitors the chance to get up close and personal with some of the most important diplomatic gifts received by the UAE. Visitors also learn about the cultural considerations and protocols involved in selecting diplomatic gifts.
This place was built for the purpose of hosting important meetings and forums. The place is the official meeting point of the UAE Cabinet and the Supreme Federal Council and where the future of the region is decided. This is where entities such as the Supreme Federal Council, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council come together to express ambitions, set agendas and map the way forward. Highlights include a beautiful light fixture and the circular layout of the room, which symbolizes the UAE's commitment to equality and lighting.
The Presidential Banquet is the space that hosts the main state banquets. Finely decorated, this is where designees from all over the world are welcomed to taste the flavors of the United Arab Emirates. Visitors can learn more about customs, protocols, cuisine, in addition to admiring exclusive collections of silver, crystal and porcelain that make the environment extremely refined.
6. AL BARZA
The spirit of participatory politics in the UAE, as in other parts of the Arab world, is embodied in the Majlis. It is a meeting place where, in the background, there is a large painting of the sheikh and seats arranged at both ends of the room.
7. PRESIDENTIAL MEETING ROOM
This Presidential Meeting Room is used for diplomatic visits and is where foreign officials and dignitaries from around the world are received by the leaders of the UAE.
In Qasr Al Watan's library are several books on the culture, economy, political and social history of the United Arab Emirates. The library has a large collection of knowledge resources in the fields of science and arts in the UAE. Official and historical documents from local and international sources can be accessed along with the country's Constitution and laws. The library also houses publications from cultural institutions, research centers, official authorities and publishers across the UAE. There are books on archeology, history, heritage, memoirs, biographies, human and social sciences, statistics, administration, culture, literature, arts and other sources of public interest.
In addition to the library's extensive collection of books and resources, a series of community initiatives, including panel discussions and musical performances, encourage dialogue and the exchange of knowledge. The collection includes printed books, e-books, audio and video books, periodicals, multimedia, university letters, research articles, newspapers and magazines, documents, encyclopedias, book summaries, reference dictionaries, databases and rare manuscripts. .
In this space it is possible to know a little more about the contributions made by Arab scholars. Visitors can learn about the Arab influence on civilization and human knowledge and progress. In this exhibition, there is a vast selection of valuable artifacts and manuscripts that showcase the Arab region's most notable contributions to astronomy, science, art, literature and much more.
10. POWER OF WORDS
It is one of three sculptures, produced by artist Mattar Bin Lahej, that turned the words of the founding father of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed, into art: “Wealth is not money or oil; wealth is in people and it is worth nothing if it is not dedicated to serving people”. The other two sculptures are silver, are located in the palace garden and are also based on quotes from Sheikh Zayed, which speak of his appreciation for education.
Palace in Motion is a light and music show that takes place outside the palace every day at 7pm (can change according to sunset time), when images are projected onto the palace facade. The show lasts 14 minutes and consists of a story told in three acts, about the past, present and future vision of the United Arab Emirates. The last entry allowed is half an hour before the start of the show. See an example below:
WHERE TO EAT AND SHOP AT QASR AL WATAN
- WHERE TO EAT: There are a variety of dining options to suit all tastes and budgets. O Dhiyafat Qasr Al Watan and Al Fowala are restaurants in the main area of the Palace (both are temporarily closed due to the pandemic - confirm before going). If you prefer coffee, try the Maqha Al Maktaba inside the library (it is also temporarily closed). For a simpler meal, Legma is the “grab and go” option that is located in the Visitors Center and outside the palace.
- WHERE TO BUY: There is a small shop in the palace that offers a range of unique gifts and souvenirs inspired by the palace's designs and the rich heritage of the United Arab Emirates.
OUR VISIT TO QASR AL WATAN
We received free tickets to visit Qasr Al Watan and we can say that it was one of the most interesting places we visited during our trip to the UAE. We were driving and when we arrived in front of the palace, we went to the right to the parking lot (pay attention to the signs, as the letters are small and can be confusing) and proceed on foot to the visitor center.
Right at the entrance, we were asked to show the green status of the Al Holsn app (due to the pandemic - confirm the requirements before you go). We then pass through security before boarding the minibus to begin the visit. Tip: sit on the left side of the minibus for a beautiful view arriving at the palace. The minibus stops next to the palace, in an area of garden and water fountains (which will also be the location of the end of the tour). We went to the front of the palace to have a panoramic view of that beautiful architecture, before entering.
The feeling we had upon entering was a “wow!”. The palace is truly stunning, especially the Great Hall, which impresses with its size, magnificent decoration and rich geometric details. In addition to the highlights already mentioned at the beginning of the post, there are mirrored cubes that hold exhibitions. What we liked the most was a presentation about the details of the construction of the palace with photos, videos and information.
We took the opportunity to take many photos of the place and glimpse every detail of the palace. We can only imagine how leaders from around the world are welcomed at this place that was made to impress! Due to the time we visited, we didn't have the opportunity to stay even to see the light show and projections that are held at night. But, we can say that Qasr Al Watan cannot be left out of any script in Abu Dhabi.
HOW TO BUY TICKETS FOR QASR AL WATAN
You can buy tickets to visit the presidential palace through the official website (in English and Arabic) through from this link. Just select the date of visit, the number of adults and children and click on “Add to Cart” to add to the shopping cart. If you prefer, there are some tours and excursions that include a visit to Qasr Al Watan (see options below and click for more information).
- Address: Al Ras Al Akhdar, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
- Schedules: vary according to the period of the year – check in this link
- Entrance: AED60 adults | AED30 (4 to 17 years) | Palace in Motion AED25 only
- Architectural Craftsmanship Tour: AED20 (entry ticket required)
- Observation: Confirm access rules on account of COVID-19 before going. You may need to present proof of vaccination and RT-PCR test performed in the UAE or “green status” in the ALHOSN UAE app.
We thank the Experience Hub for tickets to visit Qasr Al Watan. All reports in this post were based on our own experiences.
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