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The Story Of Abu Dhabi And Its People Revealed In Qasr Al Hosn

The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) has announced that the newly renovated and restored Qasr Al Hosn Fort, Abu Dhabi’s most significant historic landmark, has been transformed into a museum narrating the history of the emirate.

Qasr Al Hosn is the major reference point in the history of Abu Dhabi, telling the story of the city and its people, their history and culture. The permanent exhibition in the restored Fort will offer a multi-layered visitor experience to discover and explore Abu Dhabi’s history, providing insights into the lives of the rulers and people who lived in the Outer Palace, and exploring the story of the conservation of the Fort. The displays will be brought to life by a permanent collection and interpretation tools ranging from archival materials to films, and interactive experiences.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman, Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi said: "We are delighted to reveal that Qasr Al Hosn will be open soon to narrate the story of Abu Dhabi and its people. This landmark is our greatest historical and cultural symbol, the witness to our remarkable history, in just two and half centuries, from a humble coastal settlement to the global metropolis we see today. Most importantly, it is the cherished cultural heart of Abu Dhabi. Many have longed for its reopening and we hope our people and all residents feel a sense of homecoming as much as we do."

Saif Ghobash, Undersecretary, Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi said: "From innovative installations, rare and important artefacts, to archival documents and everyday objects, the displays in Qasr al Hosn’s renovated Fort truly bring our past to life, documenting how our ancestors lived through the centuries. Equally fascinating is the archaeological and conservation work that has been done to restore the Fort to its full glory. We look forward to visitors learning the story of Qasr Al Hosn, and by extension, that of Abu Dhabi and its people."

The Qasr Al Hosn narrative begins with an overview of Qasr Al Hosn as a historic landmark, introducing audiences to the successive phases of the Fort as it evolved from a late 18th century defensive structure into a seat of rule; from the home of the ruling family and a community gathering point to a centre of government; and more recently its role as Abu Dhabi’s most important historic site and the cultural heart of the city. Archaeological investigations have revealed its origins and layers of history as each new ruler left his mark, building new structures and adding to others.

The narrative continues in detailing the journey of the Bani Yas tribes, as they migrated from their ancestral home in the Liwa oasis in Abu Dhabi’s desert, to finally settle on the coast. The life of the Bani Yas was characterised by nomadic movement according to the seasons, in search of fresh water and pastures. Having visited Abu Dhabi Island for centuries to fish, dive for pearls and collect salt, the Bani Yas established a small permanent settlement here in the early 1760s.

With the Bani Yas eventually moving their seat of rule to Abu Dhabi Island, the Qasr Al Hosn story explores this early settlement of the island. These were prosperous times, with the sea providing an ample livelihood for the fishermen and pearl divers, and around 1795 a Fort was built as the need arose for a defensive structure substantial enough to protect the growing community. in less than fifty years, a small village of palm frond dwellings had grown to a settlement of inhabitants.

The Qasr Al Hosn journey continues with an exploration of the rule of Sheikh Zayed the First, who despite ruling at a time of political struggles and upheavals throughout the region, steered Abu Dhabi into becoming the preeminent power on the Gulf coast and laid the foundations for the modern nation. He established a majlis, a regular meeting place of the community where the ruler would personally ensure the wellbeing of his people. Qasr Al Hosn became a home for dialogue and debate, and under his rule cultural expression flourished.

After the passing of Sheikh Zayed the First in 1909, a new chapter was beginning for Abu Dhabi. Various geopolitical factors, along with the invention of cultured pearls by the Japanese, had the economy in upheaval; however, new wealth was to be found in the form of oil. Successor Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan facilitated a momentous turning point in Abu Dhabi’s history when, in 1939, he granted the first oil concessions from his majlis in Qasr Al Hosn, paving the way for the dramatic transformation of the city. This same year saw Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan build a large new palace around the old Fort, an emblem of the new economy and the new confidence that was developing in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Father of the Nation, came to power in 1966, and his rule witnessed the transformation of Abu Dhabi into a truly global city. The pace of change was accelerating, as roads reached out across the desert and new buildings sprang up around Qasr Al Hosn, the one constant in Abu Dhabi’s history. Sheikh Zayed’s vision for Abu Dhabi’s development was reflected in the evolving function and significance of Qasr Al Hosn – as a symbol of the emirate, a centre of government administration, a national archive and a cultural landmark.

The Qasr Al Hosn journey also tells the stories of the men, women and children who lived and worked in Qasr Al Hosn over the centuries. From the time of Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan, Qasr Al Hosn was both a working palace and a family home, its courtyards, corridors and rooms full of the sights and sounds of daily life. The exhibits invite visitors to step back in time to explore what life was like for the people of the palace.

The narrative covers the story of union and consultation, highlighting the role of the National Consultative Council (NCC) in hosting discussions essential to the eventual unifications of the emirates. Constructed in 1968, on the site where Sheikh Zayed the First held his Majlis in the shade of the fort walls, the NCC building soon became the venue for historic occasions: following the formation of the United Arab Emirates on 2 December 1971, the Council hosted the early meetings of the Federal National Council.

In addition to the permanent displays, Qasr Al Hosn will host a varied, year-round calendar of public programming events. These will include archaeological 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 teenagers.

Encompassing two iconic monuments - the Inner Fort, parts of which date back to around 1795, and the Outer Palace, built in the 1940s - Qasr Al Hosn is the historic heart of the city and one of the core components of Al Hosn, a new cultural destination in the heart of downtown Abu Dhabi. Al Hosn is the city’s original urban block and comprises Qasr Al Hosn and the National Consultative Council building, the Cultural Foundation, and the House of Artisans.

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