Even though Dubai is the more glamorous Emirate of the seven that make up the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, its closest neighbor and capital city of the country, has just as much to offer everyone, from record-breaking theme parks to venues that host global events. Paying a visit to this beautiful city is one of the best things to do in the UAE.
If you step away from all the modern attractions and activities the city has to offer, you will find yourself drawn to its rich heritage and culture. There is arguably no better place to learn about the fascinating history of the Arab world. The monuments are magnificent, and almost everywhere you turn, there is a convergence of old and new.
One place that is an integral part of the city, but was shielded away from the public eye (save for a few guests), is Qasr Al Watan, also known as the “Palace of the Nation.” It is a striking segment of the capital city’s presidential palace complex that holds the UAE’s constitutional authority and hosts global leaders visiting the country.
In a stroke of good fortune for history and architecture buffs everywhere, the Qasr Al Watan has opened its gates to the public.
The Qasr Al Watan Experience
Qasr Al Watan provides an immersive, educational, and inspiring tour of Arabian and Emirati excellence. There is so much to see and do that you may need to return several times to see it all.
You’ll behold one of the finest examples of royal Arabian architecture, be introduced to calligraphy, and have access to vast, timeless manuscripts and books detailing the region’s history, culture, constitution, and archaeology, as well as be able to travel back in time through light and sound.
The charm, style, beauty, and elegance of Qasr Al Watan will take your breath away.
Highlights of Qasr Al Watan
Discover some of the areas that will make your presidential palace booking a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- The Great Hall
The Great Hall sits squarely in the center of Qasr Al Watan, and, as the name implies, it is the most opulent and grandest of rooms in the palace building, with a 100m x 100m area measurement and a central dome that is the largest in the world.
The highlight of the room, however, is the mirrored cubes in every corner of the room, each featuring fascinating art.
- The Presidential Banquet
The president banquet hall is an immaculately set and finely furnished dining hall where visiting international officials are treated to a taste of Emirati hospitality.
When you visit the hall, you will also be introduced to Emirati protocols, customs, and cuisine. You also get to walk around the room, taking in the 149,000 one-of-a-kind crystals, silverware, and china that are exclusively made and used for dining at the palace.
- Majlis or Al Barza
The Majlis is similar to a senate chamber in that members of the UAE government meet in it for council-like sessions. It is an ornately designed room with seating for up to 300 people at a time.
Travel Tip: Do not rush out of this room, or you will miss the multimedia presentation on the history of the Majlis and its significance in UAE history and culture.
- Spirit of Collaboration Hall
When you first enter this room, you are immediately wowed by the circular layout and iconic chandelier, which weighs 12 tonnes and contains 350,000 crystals. Still, you will leave with a greater appreciation for the traditions that shape how the UAE is governed.
The Spirit of Collaboration Hall is where the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Federal Supreme Council, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation held their meetings.
- House of Knowledge
The house of knowledge is a bibliophile’s dream. It houses many rare artifacts and manuscripts that give you an in-depth look at the Arab world’s contributions to various fields such as science, literature, humanities, arts, astronomy, and more.
The guided exhibition at the House of Knowledge features curated pathways that are intriguing and delightful.
- Qasr Al Watan Library
The Qasr Al Watan library features an incredible collection of timeless literature. It is an expansive space with over 50,000 books from different periods of Arabian civilization. These books are texts on arts, literature, archaeology, and other subjects that preserve and share the history of Arabian knowledge with the rest of the world.
The Qasr Al Watan library, second only to the House of Knowledge, is unquestionably the best place to learn more about the UAE’s heritage, culture, and history.
Travel Guide Tip: With an estimated 16 million publications, the Qasr Al Watan digital collection is even more impressive. Make sure to take a look at it.
- Presidential Gifts Room
The exhibition in this room is a gift collection spanning more than 50 years.
These were sent from diplomats the world over, and some of them are rare,such as an ornate shield that is a gift from Kazakhstan and the masterfully woven carpets from Turkmenistan.
During your tour of this room, you will get up close and personal with these gifts while watching a spectacular display of international diplomacy and cultural exchange.
Plan Your Visit
Here are some tips to help you prepare for your visit so that you get the most out of your time at Qasr Al Watan.
Opening Hours: The Palace of the Nation is typically open seven days a week, but hours are subject to change, and it may be temporarily closed on occasion; after all, it is a working government building. It is best to make a presidential palace booking so that you can be notified if anything changes.
That’s all there is to it, except for the fact that you must leave the following prohibited items behind: paints, pets, weapons of any kind, including pocket knives, large bags, long umbrellas, and so on. For the complete list, you should consider calling the contact number for the palace as the list of prohibited items is constantly being updated.
Remember to dress modestly and get ready to have a good time!
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