The Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi (Qasr Al Watan) has been built in just seven years. It is one of the most iconic buildings of the U.A.E. nowadays. Since March 2019, two years after opening, it is also possible to view the place as a visitor. Thus, being in the U.A.E. capital in April 2019, we felt very gifted to make use of that opportunity. Here is a review of our visit.
There is a desginated 207 major size picture gallery added to this posting.
I decided this posting to be the second best I did during the 1st half of 2019.
Presidential Palace – Location and Admission
The Presidential Palace is located in Al Ras Al Akhdar district of Abu Dhabi. The famous Emirates Palace Hotel, in which we had Royal High Tea during our April 2019 visit, is on the neighboring grounds (which still means quite a distance between the buildings – both areas are just huge). Thus, the Palace directly connects to the Persian Gulf.
There are two kinds of tickets if you want to visit Qasr Al Watan: The Garden Only ticket allows you to stroll around the area and explore the palace grounds – you may, however, not visit the palace itself. This is possible if you purchase the Palace & Garden ticket. The adult admission is 25 / 60 AED, which is roughly 6 / 15 EUR. You can explore the public areas of the Palace on your own, but there are also English and Arabic tours (30 AED additional charge). All tickets are limited to a certain day. The tour tickets have fixed time slots as well. A tour lasts one hour roughly. The palace is open 8:00 to 19:00 hrs daily, You may explore the grounds until 20:00 hrs, though. There is a light-show at 19:30hrs, see below.
There is a huge visitor parking lot, which is quite close to the roundabout from which you enter the palace area. Golf carts bring you to the Visitors Center (which is not too far away, you may also walk there). There, you can buy tickets, if you haven’t done online already and do the security screening. After the security procedures, every visitor is welcomed with an Arabic tea before you are driven to the Palace (which is mandatory, no option to walk).
Presidential Palace – The Garden and Area
Walking around the Garden and looking at the different installations around is really impressive. You always keep in mind that the Palace is not a residence for the Emirates’ leader, but just a palace where they work in and welcome official guests as well as citizens for audiences. Of course, you can explore the Palace from outside as well. You may also visit the Library which is a public place. We were quite late during the day, so that we just had a very limited stroll around.
Presidential Palace – Inside the Palace
From outside, this place is just great – after entering the palace, you will feel it is sheer amazing. At your visit, you enter the palace through the main gate and head right towards the impressive center square. Weird-looking mirrored cubes explain you the geometry behind Arabian design.
From center Square, you either head into the East Wing or the West Wing. The tour we took (see below) first lead us to the West Wing, which is hosting the key facilities. The first room we were visiting is an exhibition of diplomatic gifts received by the United Arab Emirates from other countries. The most impressive room is likely the conference area, which is extremely posh and modern. The chandelier had to be constructed in the room itself because it is too huge to fit through one of the doors. The third room in this wing is the room used for representative dinners. Nice thought to have a three-course one with the sheikhs in there.
There are only two rooms accessible for public from the center square. The most impressive one is used for public audiences. There is also a multimedia show about the Emirates. Unfortunately, this one is not displayed any more in the late afternoon hours, when we visited Qasr Al Watan. You may also visit the press conference room for a souvenir picture.
The East Wing majorly covers rooms about knowledge. This is a very special feature of the palace, as the rooms have no operational use in case of official reception. There are exhibits about science and the achievements of Arabian scientists. Literature enthusiasts find a couple of historic books and scripts. At the end of the East Wing, you also find the library, which is public. Unfortunately, we just made a look through the glass door, as the library closes at 18:45. A very popular picture place is the calligraphic sculpture at the beginning of the East Wing.
Presidential Palace – Services
We took a guided tour to explore the palace. Fatma, our guide, spoke perfect English and showed us the main areas. She also gave us some stories around the palace and the construction. However, we also received some wrong information, e.g. about the starting time of the light show. It was a very good service. There is also a cafe / restaurant within Qasr Al Watan. The souvenir shop also sells some drinks and sandwiches. You should take a look at the sanitary equipment of the palace as well.
The bus transfers worked very well and efficiently, especially after the light show (see below). There is no public WiFi available.
Presidential Palace – Light Show
If you are at the palace in the later hours of the day, you should not miss the amazing light show, which is projected on the palace walls. It is free and included in your visit and shows a lot of pictures about Arabian culture, the building and more. Of course, it is in parallel to music. People are sitting typically behind the edge of the amazing forecourt. The place is built in a way that you can enjoy an amazing view – there are even cushions to make it more comfortable to sit on the stone walls. Here are some picture impressions.
Presidential Palace – My View
For quite a long time, the Grand Mosque was the undisputed top sight in the U.A.E. capital. Maybe some may name the amazing Emirates Palace Hotel, which likely has a more unique character than the mosque. Since November 2017, the Louvre Abu Dhabi was a top addition to that list for culture addicts. I feel you at least have to add the Presidential Palace / Qasr al Watan to that list now. For me, it is even on the top of that list – no matter that this one is just a purely representative, modern building, which has no historic background. But it is just that impressive – and tells a lot about the attitude of the U.A.E. leaders towards their country and people. I feel you have to visit that Top Pick.
Presidential Palace – The Gallery
I felt that this magical place definitely deserves a gallery. You may find 207 pictures in here:
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