Qasr Al Watan, Abu Dhabi’s presidential palace that is a unique cultural and architectural landmark in the UAE capital, has been nominated by World Travel Awards as the Middle East’s Leading Cultural Tourist Attraction 2020.
Qasr Al Watan means ‘Palace of the Nation’ and is part of the four-year-old, nearly 100-acre Presidential Palace, located on a peninsula at one end of the city’s iconic Corniche. It houses the formal offices of the UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan,the Vice-President and Dubai Ruler HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It is the official meeting place for the UAE Cabinet and the Federal Supreme Council.
The Palace, which was first opened to the public in March 2019,had shut its doors on March 14, 2020 owing to the nationwide fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the “working palace” remains closed to the public; the 10 zones that were opened to the public include the library, which has a collection of 50,000 books collected over 35 years,and the Great Hall, which has a dome that is 37 metres in diameter.
There is a 12-ton chandelier in the Spirit of Collaboration hall which hosts the Arab League and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) summits. Made up of 350,000 crystals,the chandelier had to be assembled in place.The palace,surrounded by lush, manicured gardens, took 150 million man hours to build. Inspired by Mughal architecture,its facade was constructed of white granite and limestone.
According to a palace tour guide, the palace’s pastel colours have a special significance.The three main colours — blue,yellow and white — represent a certain characteristic of the UAE. The blue stands for the Arabian Gulf waters, the yellow for the Arabian sands and the white represents purity and peace.
Qasr Al Watan’s 300-seat banquet hall, laid with 149,000 hand-engraved pieces of fine bone china tableware, is also open to public gazing. A palace and garden ticket, which gives access to all public spaces, inside and out, costs Dh60 for an adult and Dh30 for children aged 4-17 years. A garden-only ticket gives access to grounds and visitor centre and costs Dh25 for adults and Dh12 for minors.
Qasr Al Watan thus represents a first-of-its-kind insight into the Arab heritage and the governing principles that shaped the history of the UAE and its vision to the future. The palace, which is an enriching journey in a contemporary setting that reveals and reflects on governance, knowledge and craftsmanship of the UAE, deserves the prestigious award.