My day in Abu Dhabi got off to a wonderful start, the city has more to it than meets the eye. My morning began beautifully with a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. My next destination in Abu Dhabi was the Qasr Al Watan, an attraction I can safely say I hadn’t heard of. The Presidential Palace only opened to the public in March 2019 and is a working Palace so you can’t always visit. Leaving the bus in the car park I entered a small and ornately decorated building where I went through the security scanner and then onto a bus. Having seen the palace from above I knew it was large but I was still surprised to find it was a short bus ride to the main building. The road is lined with lush courtyards, sculpted gardens gardens which are as ornate as the building. White granite is decorated with golden swirls of Arabic calligraphy on the domes.
Sadly, due to time constraints of the tour I only had 45 minutes to explore. I decided to maximise my time inside the building and not look around outside. The grand wooden doors opened and I entered into a room ornately decorated with 5000 unique geometric and floral patterns. Whites, golds and blues intertwine across the walls, floors and lead you up to the ceiling to chandeliers. The Great Hall is a sight to behold, with a mirrored cube in each corner. These provide a unique place for reflecting upon the artistic design of Qasr Al Watan.
There are only certain areas open to the public, so I wasn’t expecting to see much. 45 minutes was no where near long enough, I could have stayed all day.
I enjoyed learning more about the Arabic culture and seeing where the world leaders party and hold meetings during their visits. My favourite room was the meeting room for the UAE cabinet. Did you know they have golden waste bins and handkerchief boxes? This surprised me, though I was totally blown away by the chandelier. It weighs 12 tonnes and even has a staircase running through it (I would like a light like this in my house!). The positivity of Qasr Al Watan is infectious, I loved seeing how they focus on the Spirit of Collaboration, knowledge and acceptance. More humans should have this focus in life.
I quickly peeked into the banquet hall on my way past but was quickly running out of time to see everything. So I chose to head to the other side of the building to see the library (I could have spent hours looking at all of the books). It was a rather sped up tour of the room but it houses manuscripts on a range of subjects from astronomy to literature and the Arabian culture.
Leaving tthe House of Knowledge in the East Wing I found a golden lattice sculpture created by Mattar Bin Lahej, featuring a Quote from Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Wealth is not money or oil; wealth lies in people and it is worthless if not dedicated to serve people.
Before I left I decided I wanted to visit the toilet (I know … too much info), the taps are gold and the bathrooms are rather fancy. Totally worth the search to say I have washed my hands from a golden sink!
My favourite part of my visit to the Qasr Al Watan and the whole of the UAE is their view on tolerance and acceptance. 2019 was the Year of Tolerance which was a reflection of the UAE’s mission to become a more inclusive society and to promote positive social change for people of determination. As a dinosaur on a mission to prove everyone can travel, I love the way the UAE treat anyone with a disability. Especially the opportunities to visit famous landmarks with a carer and skip the crowds and queues.
Sadly my whirlwind tour of this beautiful Palace was over. But, excitingly i,t was time for lunch at Beirut Palace in Marina Mall. How could I say no to falafel and hummus before having a game of spot the camel whilst we drove back to Dubai. Abu Dhabi was better than I expected and I will be returning to stay in the future. One day barely scratched the surface and though I love Dubai, I enjoyed the more laid back feel of the UAE’s capital.
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