Rendering of Al Hosn site, Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The newly renovated Qasr Al Hosn Fort will have a grand opening in Abu Dhabi on December 7, the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) announced. Several programmes are being planned to celebrate the history and culture of the emirate, to mark the occasion.

Qasr Al Hosn is the oldest and most significant heritage site in Abu Dhabi city, encompassing two iconic buildings: The Inner Fort dating back to around 1795 and the Outer Palace, which was built in the 1940s. A witness to Abu Dhabi’s vibrant history, over the past two centuries it has previously been home to the ruling family, the seat of government, the consultative council and the national archives.

An aerial view of Qasr Al Hosn in the 1960s. It has been home to the ruling family, consultative council and national archives.

The historical site will now consist of four different sections including the Qasr Al Hosn Fort, the Cultural Foundation, the National Consultative Council building and the House of Artisans.

The newly renovated premises of the Cultural Foundation will host a diverse visual and performing arts programme, alongside the opening of the first Children’s Library of its kind. To mark the occasion of its reopening in December, the Foundation’s Visual Arts Centre will present a landmark exhibition which will focus on the building’s history as a beacon for local artists. The Cultural Foundation will reopen in phases, with December 7 allowing public access to the Visual Arts Centre, featuring exhibition halls and art studios.

The two remaining components — a theatre and the Children’s Library — will open in 2019.

Qasr Al Hosn in Abu Dhabi city encompasses two iconic buildings: The Inner Fort and the Outer Palace.

“Qasr Al Hosn retraces the history of the city of Abu Dhabi, our very first building. It stands as a constant in our evolving city. It is a testament to the heart and spirit of our people and the repository of our collective memories, and its reopening is a key moment for both the citizens of Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE,” said Mohammad Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi.

“In addition, we are thrilled to reopen the Cultural Foundation, which has always played an integral role in the cultural scene of Abu Dhabi, the UAE and the region. With the Al Hosn site, we look to foster a sense of community and make a home for Emirati culture. It is a place to both reflect on our past and embrace the present, as we look to shape Abu Dhabi’s future,” he added.

Saif Saeed Gobash, Undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi, said the reopening of the Qasr Al Hosn would create a unique cultural site in the capital.

“With the historic Qasr Al Hosn Fort and the Modern Heritage Building of the Cultural Foundation sitting side by side, Al Hosn will be a year-round destination open to the wider community including nationals wishing to know more about their heritage, to art-lovers and intellectuals exchanging ideas and engaging in the active cultural scene.

“We wish to create, once again, a true home for creativity and learning, dialogue and debate, a space which celebrates not just our past but our contemporary Emirati culture as well,” he added.

Al Hosn site

Al Hosn site has been designed to reinstate Qasr Al Hosn fort in a coastal landscape, while also celebrating the urbanisation that has come with the city’s rapid growth.

The master plan is divided diagonally into two areas with distinctive and coherent identities. On one side is the historic area around Qasr Al Hosn, which re-establishes the original setting of a solitary building on a sand plain, with an organic and natural coastal desert landscape. On the other side is a modern heritage area around the Cultural Foundation, an urban city grid layout with a more man-made, geometrical expression of hard surfaces destined for a series of cultural activities.

Qasr Al Hosn

Qasr Al Hosn’s Inner Fort and Outer Palace are major reference points to the history of Abu Dhabi, telling the story of the city and its people, their history and modern heritage. The permanent exhibitions in these spaces will offer a multi-layered visitor experience, creating awareness of Qasr Al Hosn as the constant witness to Abu Dhabi’s narrative; providing insights into the lives of the men, women and children who lived in the Outer Palace; and exploring the story of the conservation of the Fort’s structures. The exhibitions will be brought to life by a permanent collection and mediations ranging from archival materials to audio-visuals and interactive experiences.

Public programming in the Qasr Al Hosn Fort area will include specialist tours such as archaeology, and architectural tours; re-enactments of aspects of daily life and rituals at the fort; a Majlis programme that will introduce the fort’s visitors to the history and significance of the majlis; and activities for children and youth.

Cultural Foundation

Founded by the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1981, the Cultural Foundation was the region’s first dedicated multipurpose non-profit cultural centre, conceived as a public institution with a mandate to foster all forms of intellectual and creative activity.

The reopening of the Cultural Foundation comes after an extensive refurbishment, with major upgrades including the introduction of the first Children’s Library of its kind, a vibrant open gallery for visual arts, indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces, a 900-seat theatre and outdoor amphitheatre, learning and workshop facilities, and food and beverage areas.

House of Artisans

Located alongside Qasr Al Hosn and Cultural Foundation, House of Artisans will serve as a focal point for the promotion and preservation of the UAE’s intangible heritage. In 2011, Unesco listed the Al Sadu [weaving] on its List of Intangible Cultural Elements for Urgent Safeguarding, and House of Artisans was founded as a coordinated effort to protect and support this and other traditional Emirati crafts and those who practice them.

House of Artisans will serve as a centre for not only preserving and displaying the traditional crafts of the UAE, but will also enable the all-important transmission of knowledge and skills around these crafts, ensuring their future survival for generations to come. With a focus on the core skills of weaving, palm braiding, and embroidery, House of Artisans aims to bring these traditional crafts of the past to the heart of contemporary culture, and will offer training courses, educational workshops and other public events.