If you have ever wondered what a presidential palace looks like on the inside, you will soon have a chance to find out.
From Monday, visitors will be able to take a glimpse into Abu Dhabi’s latest cultural attraction, Qasr Al Watan at the Presidential Palace compound.
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, announced on Monday that the building based in the palace compound will open for visitors to take part in tours.
The decision to create the new cultural landmark, he said, came from the President Sheikh Khalifa in a bid to boost cultural understanding of the UAE.
The doors to Qasr Al Watan, or Palace of the Nation, will open daily from noon on March 11.
But when can you visit? What will you see? And how much will it cost?
The National has put together a handy guide detailing all you need to know about visiting Qasr Al Watan.
What is Qasr Al Watan?
It is a building inside the compound of the Presidential Palace, which houses the formal offices of the UAE's President and Vice President and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and has also played host to a roster of global leaders since 2015. The Presidential Palace is the official meeting place for the UAE Cabinet and the Federal Supreme Council - the highest constitutional authority in the UAE.
When can you visit?
After Monday, Qasr Al Watan will be open daily from 10am to 8pm.
How much does it cost?
A palace and garden ticket, which gives you access to all public spaces, inside and out, costs Dh60 for an adult and Dh30 for children aged four to 17 years. Alternatively, a garden only ticket to access the grounds and visitor centre costs Dh25 for adults and Dh12 for juniors.
Once you are on the grounds, there is an option to book onto a tour. Standard guided English or Arabic tours, directed by a tour guide, run every 30 minutes and cost Dh30 per visitor. Numbers will be limited to 20 visitors per tour. Alternatively, individuals or groups of up to 20 can arrange for a private guided tour in either English or Arabic for Dh600.
What will you see?
Visitors will be able to see examples of Arabian craftsmanship and art and will be able to create traditional calligraphy on interactive screens, as well as explore centuries of knowledge in books focusing on the UAE in the Qasr Al Watan library. In addition, they will gain a deeper understanding about the rulers and institutions of the country. Those visiting at night receive a special treat of a light and sound show told in three acts covering the past, present and future vision of the country.
Can you eat there?
Yes, food and drinks are available from five locations on site, offering everything from grab and go options, to casual dining, a tea house, and even fine dining. There are two grab and go cafes, one in the visitor centre and one at Zayed Gate, two sit down restaurants in the main building, as well as a café in the library.
What else do I need to know?
It is forbidden to take pictures or film security staff or security systems in the palace or on the grounds, but you can take pictures anywhere else at Qasr Al Watan as a private visitor.
There is ample parking on site, and no charge to self-park. Valet parking is also available at the visitor centre, seven days a week between 9.30am and 9.30pm, for Dh80.
Wheelchairs are available for disabled people and the elderly. And a limited number of pushchairs are available for hire for Dh40. Pushchairs must be checked in at the security screening area in the visitor centre. A dedicated smoking area is located outside the visitor centre. Smoking is not permitted anywhere else inside the palace or its grounds. There is no Wi-Fi available on site.
And a number of items are banned, such as:
- Penknives or knives of any kind
- Long umbrellas
- Bicycles, folding bikes, roller-skates or skateboards
- Pets or animals
- Large bags that cannot fit through airport-style security scanners
- CS gas (tear gas) or any weapon
And most importantly, is there a gift shop?
Yes, there are two gift shops – one in the visitor centre and one in the main palace building, selling “exquisitely crafted gifts” and souvenirs inspired by Qasr Al Watan.
*This story has been updated since publication.