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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Qasr Al Hosn and the Cultural Foundation: what you need to know

The re-opening of the historical site will bring back plenty of memories for Abu Dhabi residents

This is what the Al Hosn site will look like in the future - but we look back on what it meant to Abu Dhabi in the recent past. Photo / DCT 
This is what the Al Hosn site will look like in the future - but we look back on what it meant to Abu Dhabi in the recent past. Photo / DCT 

Residents who have grown up in the capital will be thrilled to hear that the Cultural Foundation and Qasr Al Hosn will be reopening permanently after 10 years. The opening on December 7 will bring back memories of the book fair, which was held in the courtyard, and most vividly, the large library.

More recently, Qasr Al Hosn, which translates to the 'palace fort', has been home to the annual Qasr Al Hosn heritage festival, which started in 2013. Visitors to this festival are treated to a glimpse of what the city looked like before all the high-rises and paved streets.

An old traditional Emirati wedding is re-created for the Qasr Al Hosn Festival . Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
A traditional Emirati wedding is re-created for the Qasr Al Hosn Festival in 2017. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Built around 1795, the Hosn (fort) was Abu Dhabi’s first permanent structure. In 1939, Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan built the outer-palace (Qasr), and the ruling family established residence. The founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan built a majlis outside Qasr Al Hosn in 1968 to receive guests and dignitaries in a place with modern conveniences. The majlis then evolved into the National Consultative Council, which facilitated the negotiations around the unification of the Sheikhdoms.

The late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan attending the first session of the National Consultative Council in Abu Dhabi, October 3, 1971. Photo / Al Ittihad 
The late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan attending the first session of the National Consultative Council in Abu Dhabi, October 3, 1971. Photo / Al Ittihad 

In 1981, the Cultural Foundation opened its doors in the same block: this was the country’s first multi-purpose community centre, comprising the first library, a theatre and an exhibition hall. It established itself as the city’s first destination for lovers of art, culture and literature.

The Foundation’s theatre was the host of many school functions, graduation ceremonies, drama and comedy plays, and on the weekends it was a place to watch films. Between 2009 and 2018, the Cultural Foundation underwent extensive conservation measures, including repairs and rehabilitation. Its much-anticipated reopening will start in December, and will bring two new exhibition halls, an outdoor gallery, and artists’ studios.

The Cultural Foundation’s remaining components – a 900 seat theatre and a first-of-its-kind Children’s Library, serving children and young people of all ages – will open in 2019. Public programming in the Qasr Al Hosn fort area will include specialist history, archaeology, and architectural tours, as well as re-enactments of aspects of daily life and rites of passage at the fort. Activities for children will include games and traditional lessons.

Read more: Further details of the art offerings in Qasr Al Hosn

The space between Qasr Al Hosn and Cultural Foundation has been designed with the aim of creating an interactive communal space. This area will contain break-out spaces, water features, and a prayer area.

Opening hours will be 9am to 7pm from Saturday to Thursday and 12pm to 10pm on Friday. The landscape area and the prayer rooms will always be open. Prices and ticketing will be announced soon.