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Inside Qasr Al Watan, Presidential Palace At Abu Dhabi

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Watch the video for a virtual tour of the palace.

I had the most amazing view of the magnificent Grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the world’s largest mosque, shimmering bright white across the sea, directly from my room at Hotel Bab Al Bahr. But it was Qasr Al Watan, the Presidential Palace, literally translated as ‘Palace of Nation’, that I was eager to visit, besides the mosque, on my short trip to the desert city.  

United Arab Emirates has some of the world’s grandest structures. Though Dubai is more popular in terms of all that it offers with its glittering skyline but Abu Dhabi the capital of Emirates also has some very opulent structures that are architectural masterpieces too. And the latest addition to that is Qasr Al Watan, the Presidential Palace.

Qasr Al Watan palace
The main facade of Qasr Al Watan, The Palace of Nation

After visiting the Grand mosque, it was already evening and in few hours the palace would have closed for the day, so I hurried to the Presidential Palace that was thrown open to public visit in March 2019. A shuttle takes the visitors down the ceremonial pathway along the beautifully landscaped lawns and gorgeous fountains till the marbled entrance pavilion of the grand contemporary palace sitting against the blue canvas of sky looking like quintessential fairy tale palace straight out of ‘Arabian Nights’.

Entrance pavilion
The entrance pavilion opposite the main facade of palace

The imposing palace, a working palace with offices of President, Vice President and the crown Prince, is built in traditional Arabian style and spread across 380,000 square-metre of land. It also functions as hosting venue for state dignitaries from across the world. The remarkably massive palace, that took about 7 years and 150 million man-hours to build, is a unique cultural landmark that symbolizes Arab heritage and Islamic architecture.

Also read about Things To Do In Abu Dhabi In A Day

The Grand Architecture:

The majestic structure has an elegant facade of white granite and limestone that symbolizes purity and peace. The most prominent feature of the palace is the Great Hall. Equipped with escalators and capsule lifts, the palace also has eight other halls that have designated functions.

The Great Hall

A 100 meter wide and 100 meter long elaborately decorated hall is the main attraction of the palace with its blue, white and gold interiors. The hall is surmounted by a stunning dome that soars to boast of being the largest in the world with a diameter of 37 metres. Arabic calligraphy and floral patterns in gold adorns the exterior of the dome. 5000 intricate geometric and floral patterns inspired from Islamic art and Arab iconography adorn the huge hall.

The great hall
The blue white and gold interiors of the hall with dome

The typical projecting window called mashrabiya has stained glass panels.

Stained glass panels in traditional projected windows
Mashrabiya with stained glass panels

The massive dome is supported by decorative honeycombed corners or muqarnas, another Islamic architectural feature of the ceiling. Four mirror cubes placed strategically at four corners of the hall add to the opulence by reflecting patterns and light.

Muqarana at corners of ceiling

House Of Knowledge

A ‘House of Knowledge’ in the east wing hosts manuscripts on ancient history of Emirates, encyclopedias, ancient maps, astronomical observations and Holy books like Quran, Bible and David’s Psalms as a mark of tolerance.

An additional library with 50,000 books and digital collections occupies another section of the palace.

Hall Of Presidential Gifts

A large hall is dedicated to the ‘Presidential Gifts’ and houses the diplomatic gifts received from dignitaries during state visits.  On display are some ornate swords, khanjar, vases, carpets, crystal and more.

Gifts display from state guests
Few of the Crystals and China gifts from world dignitaries

The Presidential Banquet Hall

The golden and blue theme of interiors continues at the Presidential Banquet hall with golden arches and contrasting blue upholstery of the dining chairs. Imagine the opulence with 149,000 pieces of silver, crystal and china used for official dinners.

Banquet hall
Banquet hall with its opulent interiors

Spirit Of Collaboration Hall

This hall is official meeting room of regional institutions like Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, League Of Arab, Federal Council of UAE and some others. A grand setting, this hall boasts of a 12 tonne chandelier made of 350, 000 pieces of crystal. The chandelier is so huge that it holds within itself a small staircase that facilitates its cleaning.   

12 tonne chandelier
The chandelier with a staircase

A huge golden oval calligraphic art piece depicting a quote by late President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, holds center-stage just outside these halls and becomes the photography frame for the visitors.

Calligraphy oval
Calligraphy oval

The richness of the palace is also visible in its humongous doors made of solid maple wood for its pale shade and durability. Hand crafted with intricate design and embellished with 23 carat French gold, each door was constructed in 350 man hours.

The Meeting Room

Official meeting room
The State Meeting Room

Most international meetings are organised in the Meeting Room and the decor is often changed depending on the guests being hosted or the event organized.

Tourist Facilities At The Palace

Palace in Motion Light And Sound Show:

When the visitors are done gaping at the jaw-dropping grandeur of every design detail on the walls, ceiling and patterns of floor inside the palace, a fifteen-minute light and sound show in the palace grounds leaves them further amazed. The captivating laser show brings the Arab history and concept behind the ‘Palace Of Nation’ alive on the facade of the palace.

  • Regular show timings are 7:30 pm but depends on sunset.
  • Shows are only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Dining:

A cafe ‘Legma’ near palace exit serves snacks and beverages.

Shopping:

Souvenirs and mementos can be bought from the shopping center at the palace visitor center.

Visiting Hours And Entry Tickets 

Directions to palace
Reaching the palace
  • Palace remains closed on Monday.
  • On Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday visiting time for tourists is from 10 am to 6 pm
  • Thursday, Friday and Saturday visiting time is from 12 pm and light and sound show begins at 7:30 pm
  • Entry tickets are 30 AED per head with extra if you want an audio guide

Glimpses Of Palace Grounds

Abu Dhabi was a desert land some years ago with not much to talk about in architecture. However a visit to this capital city now makes it impossible to imagine otherwise. In about just three decades, the city boasts of some incredible grand architecture and has gone a successful makeover.

A few things to keep in mind while visiting the palace:

  • Wear disposable masks and sanitize hands
  • Make it point to visit on weekend so that you do not miss the evening laser show.
  • Follow instructions by the visitor center for an pleasant experience.
  • There is no requirement of ‘abaya’ at the palace grounds for women

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