Mohammad Bin Zayed tours the Qasr Al Hosn site in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court

Abu Dhabi: His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on Wednesday opened the historical cultural site of Qasr Al Hosn, the oldest and most significant heritage site in Abu Dhabi.

The site was re-launched after the completion of a reconstruction and renewal project that was conducted by the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi and included four connected areas, which are the Al Hosn Palace, the National Consultative Council, the Cultural Foundation, and the House of Artisans.

The Qasr Al Hosn, which is located in the centre of the city of Abu Dhabi, transformed from a centre of fishing and pearl fishing to one of the world’s modern international cities.

Shaikh Mohammad said that the area showcases Abu Dhabi’s ancient history, as the fathers and grandfathers built the landmark with determination while pointing out that through their cohesion and solidarity, and due to their sacrifices, everyone is now living in a modern country that has a prestigious stature among nations.

Shaikh Mohammad expressed his happiness and pride at the re-launch of the site, which is a historic landmark of the UAE’s ancient society and rich heritage. “We are inspired by the values of the grandfathers and founders, and we recall their inspiring stories and convey their heritage, culture, values and civilisation to future generations,” he said.

Shaikh Mohammad stands for a photograph with the organizers and partners in the renovation and restoration of Qasr Al Hosn. Image Credit: Ministry of Presidential Affairs

The opening ceremony was attended by Dr. Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi, Speaker of Federal National Council; Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Shaikh Tahnoun Bin Mohammad Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Ruler’s Representative in Al Ain Region; Suroor Bin Mohammad Al Nahyan; Shaikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council; Shaikh Essa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan; Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs; Shaikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chief of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court; Shaikh Theyab Bin Zayed Al Nahyan; Shaikh Khalid Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs, ZHO, and Shaikh Diab Bin Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Department of Transport.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed tours the Qasr Al Hosn site with Mohammad Mubarak Al Mazrouei, Undersecretary of the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi (R), Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs (2nd R) and Mohammad Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism and Abu Dhabi Executive Council Member (4th R). Image Credit: Ministry of Presidential Affairs

During the ceremony, Shaikh Mohammad, the other Shaikhs and dignitaries and the attendees toured the area and learnt from Mohammad Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi, about the reconstruction and renewal of the Qasr Al Hosn, which was transformed into a museum that showcases the history of Abu Dhabi.

They also visited an exhibition, titled, “Artists and the Cultural Foundation: Beginnings,” which exhibits works by Emirati artists, as well as the “House of Artisans” that showcases traditional Emirati handicrafts.

The ceremony also included a storytelling light show on the walls of the palace, the Cultural Foundation, and the courtyard extending between the two sites.

A general view of Qasr Al Hosn. Image Credit: Ministry of Presidential Affairs

The ceremony presented scenes about the country’s heritage and stories related to the palace, which symbolises the emirate’s ancient history. The audience then witnessed the story of how the people of the region moved from the desert to the coast, and how the Bani Yas tribe settled in Abu Dhabi Island and formed its first community.

Qasr Al Hosn is the oldest and most significant heritage site in Abu Dhabi city, encompassing two iconic buildings: The Inner Fort, which was built around 1795, to protect the settlement of Abu Dhabi established on the island in the 1760s, and the Outer Palace, 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.

Now transformed into a national monument following several years of rigorous and ambitious conservation works, Qasr Al Hosn is a monument that traces the city’s development from a settlement reliant on fishing and pearling in the 18th Century, to a modern, global metropolis. Visitors may also visit the historic National Consultative Council building, site of the early discussions and negotiations on the unification of the Emirates.

Performers participate in a show during the opening of Qasr Al Hosn. Image Credit: Crown Prince Court

The Inner Fort exhibition traces the story of Qasr Al Hosn and the many historic events it has witnessed, exploring the settlement of Abu Dhabi island, everyday life in the Fort and showing how this historic landmark was once both a ruling family home and a busy administrative centre.

The Outer Palace was constructed by Shaikh Shakhbut Bin Sultan Al Nahyan in the 1940s. The rooms display the stories of the people who lived in the Palace and their everyday lives. Visitors will explore the personal quarters of Shaikh Shakhbut Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, or part in the Ruler’s Majlis. Films, interactive displays and oral histories bring these stories to life, together with original artefacts and treasures from the past.

The newly renovated premises of the Cultural Foundation will host a diverse programme in its new Visual Arts Centre, including a landmark inaugural exhibition focusing on the building’s history as a beacon for UAE artists. After the opening of The Cultural Foundation allows access to the Visual Arts Centre, which in addition to the exhibition halls will feature workshops and art studios. The two remaining components – a 900-seat theatre and the first Children’s Library of its kind – will open in 2019.

Performers participate in a show during the opening of Qasr Al Hosn. Image Credit: Crown Prince Court

The inaugural exhibition of ‘Artists and the Cultural Foundation: The Early Years’ features more than 100 works by local artists active in the institution’s early days in the 1980s and 90s.

Curated by Maya Allison, Chief Curator and Executive Director, NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, with Alia Zaal Lootah, Senior Curatorial Assistant, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Artists and the Cultural Foundation will reflect on the building’s history as a convener of artists and creatives and its role in nurturing a cultural scene in the UAE Featuring historical and modern works by key UAE artists whose careers launched at the Cultural Foundation, as well as several new commissions, the exhibition will be a visual and symbolic representation of the artistic diversity of the UAE.

Artists and the Cultural Foundation: The Early Years traces points of connection and divergence among these early cohorts of Cultural Foundation artists, inviting visitors to reflect on the past and present of Abu Dhabi’s home-grown art community.

Performers participate in a show during the opening of Qasr Al Hosn. Image Credit: Crown Prince Court

Located on Al Hosn, alongside Qasr Al Hosn and the Cultural Foundation, the House of Artisans is an initiative dedicated to the safeguarding and promotion of the UAE’s intangible heritage. Exhibitions, workshops and training courses focusing on traditional Emirati handicrafts such as Al Sadu (weaving), Khoos (palm frond braiding) and Talli (embroidery) will enable the all-important transmission of knowledge and skills around these crafts, ensuring their future survival.

The crafts represented in House of Artisans celebrate the creative and artistic relationship between the people of the United Arab Emirates and the locally available natural resources. Within the diverse landscapes of the UAE — from the desert, to the oases, to the coast and sea — artisans have developed skills to meet functional and economic needs. The crafts made through these skills show a deep artistic sensitivity. Shared from generation to generation, this intangible heritage now preserves not only the practical skills but also the shared values associated with Emirati identity.

Al Hosn site will be marked with a week-long celebration from December 7 to 15. Free tours, events and musical performances will bring the site’s history to life and offer visitors a glimpse into the story of Abu Dhabi and its people.