The capital’s most enchanting place to visit.
Qasr Al Watan, Palace of the Nation, hewn of white granite and limestone, is Abu Dhabi’s most enchanting place to visit. Beyond its giant arches, an immersion in centuries of culture awaits.
Even before you encounter the enormous solid maple wood doors to the Great Hall, the brilliance of the exterior and beautifully inscribed domes catch your breath. As you enter, a hushed silence ushers you gently into an expanse of gold, blue, and white craftsmanship.
Purposely chosen to reflect the desert, sky, and sea of the region, the cornerstone colours provide an immediate sense of calm and peacefulness.
The East and West wings of the palace lead to open rooms which are more like time-travel chambers, portals through which you navigate the ages of advancement in the Arab world right back to the present. Both sides leave you feeling enlightened for taking the journey.
In the West Wing, the circular space of the Spirit of Collaboration room holds a powerful aura of leadership. This expanse is entirely designed and fit for purpose and hosts the UAE’s
Federal Supreme Council, the Council of Ministers, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Arab League.
Remarkably, presiding high above this political auditorium hangs a feat of exquisite engineering – a unique chandelier composed of 350,000 crystals. Suspended from a single point, it weighs an almost gravity-defying 12 tons, and houses an internal staircase.
The extraordinary illumination is an intellectual and spiritual reminder of the significance of the decision-making that takes place beneath it. Uncannily, it also absorbs sound, which is very welcome in a room that counsels statecraft.
This diplomacy is echoed in the Presidential Gift Room, in the East Wing, where you can peruse the artifacts presented to the UAE by visiting dignitaries. From Phoenician and Korean vases and Turkmen carpets to medals, sculptures, and swords, the offerings are a testament to the global goodwill towards the UAE.
Hours disappear as you ponder the artistry involved in each item and the meticulously considered selection of each one as culturally indicative of the gifting nations. The sculpture of a falcon from Her Majesty the Queen of England catches the eye, as does the full Samurai warrior armour.
In the House of Knowledge, artifacts of the Arab world’s contributions to science and humanities are impressively in abundance. Must-sees include an Italian map from the 16th century, on which Abu Dhabi is first named, and a replica of the Birmingham Qur’an. This near 1,400-year-old manuscript, written in the ancient Arabic script of Hijazi, is one of the oldest fragments of the Koran.
It is only when you emerge from the palace you realise the paradigm shift that occurs during one brief visit. Qasr Al Watan is a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the world outside. Under its vault, the only dissonance is the white noise inside your head, which fades the longer you stay and allow yourself to marvel.
In simple terms, Qasr Al Watan is something special. A reset for the soul, perhaps.
To further explore this palace for the people, visit qasralwatan.ae