The first place we decided to visit in the UAE was the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi, Qasr Al Watan. An amazingly beautiful palace made out of white granite and limestone. All the shining elements, golden details, and all the rich patterns are indeed coming together in a breathtakingly beautiful palace.
But, Qasr Al Watan is more than a palace. As they say: “It is a unique testament to the spirit of the United Arab Emirates’ people and its leaders. The Palace invites the world to share our culture, knowledge and inspiring journey. Qasr Al Watan is more than just a palace, it is an enriching interactive journey in a contemporary setting that reveals and reflects on governance, knowledge and craftsmanship.”
History of the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi
To celebrate the heritage of the country, Sheikhs Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the United Arab Emirates) and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces) decided to open the palace to the public in 2019.
Prior to its opening, the palace was used only for official purposes. Mainly hosting foreign leaders of states, and for meetings of the country’s supreme council and federal cabinet. Even after being opened to the public, the palace continues to be used for these purposes.
The palace opened to the public on the 11th of March 2019, in a ceremony hosted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai).
Things to see in Qasr Al Watan
In 2020, the Qasr Al Watan Presidential Palace was nominated for the World Travel Awards as the main cultural tourist attraction in the Middle East.
Admire Qasr Al Watan from outside
With a façade made of white granite and limestone, the mainly white palace is intricately designed and ornately decorated. It includes a dome with a diameter of 37 m. 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.
The Great Hall
The Great Hall is simply breathtaking. Within this grand space, visitors will gain a deeper appreciation of the region’s architectural and artistic legacy. From the central dome and archways to the ornamentation and mosaic patterns, The Great Hall is truly a sight to behold. Every visitor can also reflect upon the mesmerising details of The Great Hall. By exploring the mirrored cubes positioned at every corner of this exquisitely crafted zone.
Envisioned the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Qasr Al Watan Library is preserving and sharing centuries of Arabian knowledge and culture with the world. Featuring a collection of 50,000 books from various ages of Arabian scholarship. This library is an expansive space where history and knowledge help inspire the future.
The Spirit of Collaboration
The Spirit of Collaboration room has many shades of blue, white and gold shine through the patterned dome. The space, which hosts bodies such as the Federal Supreme Council, the Arab League and the Gulf Co-operation Council, is open for tours also to the public.
Some projections on the vast walls show the UAE’s leaders over the years. During meetings, the space can seat up to 800 people depending on how the room is configured. Another architectural marvel is the striking chandelier, which is one of the world’s biggest. It was built with 350,000 crystals and weighs 12 tonnes. It is illuminated only on special occasions.
The Presidential Banquet
Discover how UAE hosts the world. We can see an immaculately set banqueting hall. Wherein officials from around the globe are treated to a unique taste of Emirati hospitality. Visitors of The Presidential Banquet can enjoy an in-depth introduction to the customs, protocols, cuisine. Also even the unique collections of silver, crystal and china that make this experience a truly remarkable, world-class affair.
The “Power of Words” Sculpture
“Wealth is not money or oil; wealth lies in people and it is worthless if not dedicated to serve the people.” These words by Sheikh Zayed, have been transformed into a monumental golden sculpture by Emirati artist Mattar bin Lahej.
It is one of three works – part of the series Power of Words – which is live at Qasr Al Watan. There are two other sculptures out of silver and they are in the palace’s garden. These are also based on Sheikh Zayed’s quotes, which speak of his appreciation for education.
How to get to Qasr Al Watan
Arriving to the Visitor Centre by car, you will see the Visitor Centre car parking. There are a lot of parking spaces available and there is no charge to park here. Once you purchase you entry ticket and pass the security control (see below), you can get on a free shuttle bus that will transfer you to the entry of the Presidential Palace. This bus service will bring you back for the exit as well.
When to visit Qasr Al Watan – Opening hours
The opening hours are subject to change, please keep an eye for updates. When we were there in July 2022, this was the schedule:
- Open: 11:00am
- Last entry: 6:30pm
- Palace closes: 7:45pm
- Palace in Motion show: 8:00pm
- Last entry to the Palace in Motion show: 7:30pm
How to dress to visit Qasr Al Watan
As a courtesy to other guests in the Presidential Palace and in accordance with local laws and customs, they ask all guests to wear respectful clothing when in the palace. They also kindly recommend long trouser – covering the knees and covered shoulders. That they check upon entrance.
On arrival, you and your belongings will need to go through to an airport-style security check, too. Try to bring as little as possible, this will help you to get through the security screening quicker.
New entry requirements – Update: 2022 Summer
The below information applied in 2022 July & August. If you plan to visit Qasr Al Watan, please check the latest regulations and entry requirements, as they are changing from time to time.
For UAE nationals
To enter, you will need a “green pass” status on ALHOSN mobile app. Or a proof of being fully vaccinated along with a negative PCR test result within the last 14 days. Non-vaccinated guests can enter by providing a negative PCR test result within 48 hours prior to entry.
It can happen that you cannot have access to ALHOSN app – as most of the foreigners & tourists. Then you also need to present a proof of being fully vaccinated along with a negative PCR test result.
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