Aside from being the largest emirate and second-most populous city in the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is also one of the country’s oldest inhabited places. It is said that the capital has had settlers eons ago.
As one of the oldest inhabited places in the UAE, Abu Dhabi is the perfect place to learn about and dig deeper into the country’s fascinating culture and history.
Abu Dhabi Cultural and Historical Destinations
Below are the 5 best places to immerse yourself in culture, history, and even arts in the UAE’s capital city:
1. Qasr Al Watan
Translated as “Palace of the Nation,” Qasr Al Watan is the presidential Palace of the UAE.
The architecture of the Palace itself will amaze you since its façade boasts white granite and limestone, showcasing a variety of elaborate carvings and designs.
Buy tickets online for the Qasr Al Watan tour, and you’ll get the chance to explore several areas of the Palace to know more about the UAE’s culture and history.
First, the House of Knowledge features an exhibition of treasured artifacts and manuscripts highlighting the UAE’s and Arab region’s significant contributions to art, literature, science, astronomy, and other areas.
On the other hand, the Qasr Al Watan Library has an impressive collection of about 50,000 books featuring centuries of Arabian knowledge and culture.
The Great Hall is an area that will appeal to your artistic side. This place boasts elaborately designed architectural features, including mosaic patterns, ornaments, archways, and a stunning central dome.
You can also explore a collection of gifts received by the UAE from other countries. The zone for Presidential Gifts vibrantly showcases the most valuable diplomatic presents signifying cultural exchange and international diplomacy among different nations.
Lastly, while on tour, make sure you watch Palace in Motion. It is fascinating lights, and sounds show celebrating the country’s journey in three spectacular acts presented in front of the main Palace.
This daily show usually starts at sunset.
Other areas you can also visit in Qasr Al Watan are the Presidential Banquet, Spirit of Collaboration, and Media Room.
Qasr Al Watan is located in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi’s premier leisure and entertainment destination, where you can find a variety of the most fun and unique things to do in the UAE.
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2. Heritage Village
Run by the Emirates Heritage Club, the Heritage Village gives you a glimpse of the traditional Bedouin lifestyle. It features old-fashioned Emirati housing, a souk, and artisans producing handicrafts, such as pottery, weaving, and glassblowing.
The village also has falconry displays and craftsmen demonstrations.
Additionally, the Heritage Village features a traditional mosque and museum. This museum boasts prized Emirati treasures, jewelry, weapons, and historical tents.
The village also has copies of the original handwritten Quran on display for everyone to see.
Lastly, the village has a replica of a traditional irrigation system showing how the palm groves were hydrated in the past. It is a great way to know more about the Bedouin way of living.
3. Miraj Islamic Center
Another place to learn more about the UAE’s fascinating history and culture is the Miraj Islamic Center.
You will find an extensive collection of museum-like displays featuring Islamic art pieces from Egypt, India, Iraq, Kashmir, Russia, Syria, and other countries where Islam is practiced.
Examples of art pieces you will find here are meticulously crafted weapons and jewelry, jewel-encrusted ceremonial objects, hand-woven pictorial and bejeweled carpets, silk textiles and royal robes, and Arabic calligraphy-engraved vases and miniature paintings.
During the tour, a guide will brief you on the history and origin of the art pieces and the interesting techniques used to produce them.
The Miraj Islamic Center is near the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which means you can drop by this place after visiting the mosque. It also has a rooftop café that offers panoramic views of the Emirates Palace hotel and the beautiful waters of the Arabian Gulf.
4. Qasr Al Hosn
Qasr Al Hosn is the oldest standing building in Abu Dhabi. It is one of the most important historical landmarks in the capital city.
The stone building was originally the official home of the ruling family. However, it was also used as a seat of government. It housed the National Consultative Council established by the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founder of the UAE.
Qasr Al Hosn is made up of two major iconic buildings: the Inner Fort and the Outer Palace, which serves as the watchtower.
As a museum, Qasr Al Hosn houses various artifacts and literature encapsulating the development of Abu Dhabi from a settlement relying on fishing and pearl diving in the 18th century to a modern, global city.
Some of the archival materials you will find here date back to as far as 6000 BC.
The museum has also opened a new zone, the House of Artisans, which offers visitors the chance to learn about and try their hand at making traditional Emirati arts and crafts.
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5. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
If you want to get a deeper look into and understanding of Islam, visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This mosque is an important religious site and educational and cultural hub in Abu Dhabi and the country.
The majestic, enormous mosque conveyed the key Islamic concepts of peace, tolerance, and diversity. In addition, it was intended to be a tangible, living reference of modern Islamic architecture that connects the past with the present.
It was also built for learning and a center for Islamic science.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque features 82 domes, two minarets, and a marble and gold façade that won’t fail to mesmerize any onlooker.
Inside, you will be amazed by a massive hand-knotted carpet with an elaborate Islamic medallion design. This work of art, which is the largest globally, was made by renowned carpet maker and artist Dr. Ali Khaliqi.
The mosque also houses seven crystal chandeliers of different sizes made by Faustig of Munich, Germany.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the few mosques that allow people of all religions to enter. As such, sign up for a guided tour of this majestic house of worship.
Visit these five places when you’re in the mood to learn more about Abu Dhabi’s captivating history and culture. You will expand your knowledge and develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the city and its past and current inhabitants.