Set within the Presidential Palace compound, Qasr Al Watan is the official meeting place for the UAE Cabinet and Federal Supreme Council. Since opening in 2015, it’s hosted an impressive roster of names for global summits and official state visits, from Pope Francis to India’s PM Narendra Modi. As of March 2019, the doors are open to the public, too, seven days a week.
Display of pride
The Birmingham Qur’an replica, a gift from the UK’s Prince Charles, is part of a vast collection of rare manuscripts and artefacts on display in The House of Knowledge, a section designed to highlight the Arab world’s significant contribution to science, arts, humanities and literature. Through 2019, three holy books – the Holy Qu’ran, the Holy Bible and the book of David’s Psalms – have been displayed together in honour of the UAE’s Year of Tolerance.
Front of house
With its magnificent domes, ogee archways and breezy courtyards, the architecture is inspired by Mughal palaces of the 1600s to 1800s. Dazzling in the Gulf sunshine, the use of white limestone and granite symbolises purity and peace, while the doors are hand-carved in solid maple. Its crowning glory, though, is that dome: it’s one of the largest in the world (yes, even bigger than Abu Dhabi’s epic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque).
A visitor takes in the vast, 23-carat gold-adorned Great Hall, in the heart of Qasr Al Watan. Measuring 100m2, the space features 5,000 different geometric and floral patterns in hand-laid tile work and carvings. No wonder the palace took seven years and 150 million man-hours to complete.
Hall of mirrors
This towering mirrored cube is one of four installations placed within Qasr Al Watan’s Grand Hall to emphasise architectural details, reflecting and magnifying the craftsmanship covering every inch of the room.
Summits of the Arab League and GCC take place beneath this 12-tonne chandelier in the Spirit of Collaboration room. Consisting of 350,000 crystals, it had to be assembled on site and has space for a technician to go inside and carry out repair work.
Shower with praise
The palace and its gardens sit on Abu Dhabi’s Ras Al Akhdar peninsula, surrounded by fountains.
Glow and behold
A light and sound display entertains visitors after dark. Projected onto the building’s facade, the nightly three-act Palace in Motion show tells the story of Qasr Al Watan alongside the UAE’s past, present and future vision. The usual showtime is 7.45pm but may change and is subject to sunset time.