Gold with a hint of caramel and sunshine.
The colours that swirl across Qasr Al Watan have been chosen with care, says our guide. The beige and honey hues signify the UAE’s landscape of ever-shifting sands, the white is an ode to purity and the blue represents the sky.
Getting here has been relatively easy in spite of the quick run-in with the guards. [The palace may have high security, but they’ve been primed for our visit, we are gently pointed onto the right path.]
We’ve bought our tickets online, at Dh60 a pop; but if you get there without one, there’s a counter that’ll sort it out for you. Head next to the bus that stands past a metal detector – be warned, this is a thorough check; you’ll need to take any rings or jewellery you have off – and 3 minutes later, you’ll find yourself at the palace entrance.
We are below the central dome –the largest in the country says our guide, located at a height equal to seven stories and with a diameter of 37 metres. On the edges of this central space lie four installations, made of reflective glass that resemble a house of cards. Inside, there are videos that explain a different facet of the architecture on display.
First, we head past one side of this artwork to a room that has seen collections of conferences, where decisions are made and shared across the board. A round echo-chamber-type space that commands authority and calls for awe. The chandelier here is made of a glittery 350,000 crystal pieces.
Then there’s the room of gifts where one-off pieces lie in glass cases. One of the cherished presents is a falcon, given by France’s fine crystal glassware-maker Baccarat, that has been carved from a single piece of glass. “It’s one of a kind,” says the guide.
Next, we head into the House of Knowledge, which charts the journey of writing and proliferation of books in the region. And then, onto the Presidential Banquet room, with ornate pale grey chairs (all the way from Turkey) and place settings that have seen some rather illustrious guests.
One of the visitors was India’s Narendra Modi, for whom, says our guide, an Indian chef was summoned to cook so he eats his favourite flavours; “such is our hospitality”, he explains.
When the time comes to meander – for there is free time in the palace that’s on offer with this ticket – we walk onto the lawns that border a fountain.
From this vantage point you see the palace under the bright blue sky on your left, palm trees that graze the horizon in the centre and on the right, mirrored city scrapers that tower over the rest of the capital.
All-in-all the trip has been a venture into a dessert: All sunshine and caramel.
If you go...
Palace and garden tickets cost Dh60 for adults; Dh30 for children. Head to the ticket counter at the Qasr Al Watan entrance to request a guided tour. The garden-only ticket is Dh25 for adults; Dh12 for children.
Time needed: A minimum of an hour