Qasr Al Watan: A Must-Visit Palace in Abu Dhabi

Qasr Al Watan

Its white granite and limestone facade dazzles in the light of the setting sun, opalescent beside the sapphire blue of the Arabian Gulf and the emerald green of lush gardens. It is so brilliant you can see its reflection on the shiny courtyard tiles.

This is Qasr Al Watan or United Arab Emirates’ Palace of the Nation. This presidential working palace in Abu Dhabi invites the world on a one-of-a-kind journey into the culture and history of the people of the UAE.

There is so much to see at Qasr Al Watan. Here are a few of them.

1.    The Architecture

Architecture - Best Palace in Abu Dhabi
Architecture – Best Palace in Abu Dhabi

Magnificent and marvelous are just a few of the words that will come to mind when you finally come face to face with Qasr Al Watan. Make no mistake; it is a functioning working palace built to host visiting dignitaries and outfitted with all the conveniences that any modern hall of government needs to serve its purpose.

However, the entire palace is undeniably stunning, with architecture that is heavily anchored on centuries of Arabian and Islamic design.

There is the traditional arched colonnade supporting a covered walkway that helps shield visitors from the intense Gulf sun. You’re also unlikely to miss its many domes, also in white but dotted with golden swirls that glisten so alluringly under the sun.



There are also the arches, the traditional ornamental honeycomb-pattern moldings (i.e., muqarnas), the traditional lattice-work windows (i.e., mashrabiya), the exceptionally crafted stained glass windows, the crystal chandeliers, and the pristine marble slabs arranged carefully to yield traditional decorative patterns on the floors and walls. These are some of the things that speak so profoundly about the palace’s and the UAE people’s heritage.

Even the patterns’ dominant colors of white, brown, light blue, and dark blue have deep meaning. The white stands for purity and peace, brown for the desert, light blue for the clear blue sky, and dark blue for the Arabian sea.

2. The Great Hall

Great Hall - Best Palace in Abu Dhabi
Great Hall – Best Palace in Abu Dhabi

The Great Hall is the first place you will see when you finally venture inside the palace. It is the grandest and biggest hall in the palace at 100 square meters (1,076.39 square feet), and it is probably the most splendid.

Notice the columns, the arches, the patterns on the moldings, ceiling, and the floor. Every inch seems etched with distinct Arabic and Islamic designs. Incredibly, however, the patterns don’t clash but work together to create a wonderfully unified look and feel.

You can experience the Great Hall’s ornate patterns differently by looking at them through the mirrored cubes stationed at the corners of the Great Hall. Make sure to look through every one of the cubes; each provides a different perspective, a unique panorama of patterns and images.



While in the Great Hall, you can’t miss the central dome, one of the Great Hall’s most striking features. At 37 meters (121 feet) in diameter and standing aloft at 60 meters (197 feet), the central dome dwarfs the large room, making one appreciate the immense scale of the palace.

3. The Spirit of Collaboration

Spirit of Collaboration - Palace in Abu Dhabi
Spirit of Collaboration – Palace in Abu Dhabi

Wouldn’t it be exciting to walk where the Gulf’s leaders come to talk and decide about the region’s future? Visit the Spirit of Collaboration room.

The Spirit of Collaboration is a circular room that is the official meeting venue of the Federal Supreme Council. The Arab League Council and the Gulf Cooperation Council also meet here to talk about shared issues and ambitions and decide the region’s agenda.



Its most striking features include the dome, with its intricate gold-leaf patterns, and the mammoth 350,000-crystal chandelier that hangs from it.

4. The House of Knowledge

House of Knowledge - Best Palace in Abu Dhabi
House of Knowledge – Best Palace in Abu Dhabi

Qasr Al Watan is not a typical tourist stop. While you might visit it because of its extraordinary beauty, you will leave it bearing knowledge about the heritage of the Arab people. Qasr Al Watan is a place of learning, after all. Thus, one of the key rooms in the palace is the House of Knowledge.

This room is essentially a museum that showcases all kinds of knowledge that has its origins in the Arab world. Come here to find a broad collection of manuscripts and artifacts, every one revealing an Arab connection.

In particular, the House of Knowledge highlights the Arab region’s contributions to astronomy, literature, art, science, and many other domains of knowledge during the Arab Golden Age. Thus, there are artifacts devoted to prominent scientists, physicians, astronomers, and notable works of art and literature. Also displayed are Arab traditional musical instruments and manuscripts that take one through the evolution of Arabic calligraphy.

5. Al Barza

Al Barza - Best Palace in Abu Dhabi
Al Barza – Best Palace in Abu Dhabi

Majlis refers to a venue where members of a council, a legislative assembly, or the community meet and sit together to discuss business and other important matters. An inherent feature of majlis is the etiquette that accompanies being in a majlis. Specifically, majlis is a place of welcome.

Traditionally, majlis were tents. Private homes can also have majlis. Over the years, majlis has also evolved into large assembly halls.  Al Barza is Qasr Al Watan’s majlis, a barza is a majlis presided over by sheikhs, elders, and chieftains. At Qasr Al Watan, the barza is a vast hall that can hold 300 people.



At the apex of the rectangular hall is a line of single-seater settees for those presiding over the meeting. There’s a large open area at the centre, bordered by a row of short-legged tables and around three rows of camelback sofas on the left and right sides of the hall.

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