x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Every nook of Qasr Al Hosn has a story to tell

More of a palace than a fort, Qasr Al Hosn is a historical document capturing the different times and changes that occurred to the island upon which it stands.

One day when I was growing up, my grandmother decided to "kidnap" me for an afternoon.

She dressed me up as a princess and took me to visit a palace. For the longest time I called it "the dragon's castle".

Exploring old forts used to be a favourite activity for my grandmother and I; palaces and castles in various parts of Poland, or wherever we happened to be travelling in Europe.

On this particular occasion - I can't remember how old I was but I remember the awe - the fascination and fear I felt walking inside this Gothic palace was overwhelming.

I later learnt it was actually called the Wawel Royal Castle of Krakow, in Poland. The area is tied to a legend of a dragon and its slayer, and this dragon's cave exists to this day on Wawel Hill on the bank of the Vistula River. The dragon is known as The Dragon of Krakow, or Wawel Dragon.

Memories of our explorations and this family tradition of visiting old forts and palaces came back to me two years ago, when Sheikha Osha, daughter of the former Ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan, took me on a special tour of her former childhood home.

Three of her granddaughters accompanied us, and just as I used to stop at every corner of a palace with my grandmother, we stopped together and listened to Sheikha Osha's stories from inside Abu Dhabi's oldest and most historic building.

More of a palace than a fort, Qasr Al Hosn is a historical document capturing the different times and changes that occurred to the island upon which it stands, and the people that lived, visited and worked there at different periods of time. Every nook of Qasr Al Hosn has a story to tell.

When Sheikha Osha went from one room to the other, she would share moments from her past, and I imagined for a few minutes my grandmother standing next to us, listening in. She always wanted to meet someone who had actually lived in those palaces or forts we visited.

It was a dream and an honour to me to be there, and it would have been a dream come true for my grandmother.

If she hadn't passed away just a few months after I toured Qasr Al Hosn, it was the first place I would have taken her to visit and hopefully meet Sheikha Osha.

I have visited forts and palaces in every emirate, and each one has a unique tale. If I know my grandmother, she would have insisted that we climb a few of the watchtowers, no matter how crumbling and small they may be.

"A place remembers its occupants; the walls and floors save bits of their souls," was something my grandmother would say.

Only recently, after visiting Qasr Al Hosn with Sheikha Osha, did I truly appreciate what she meant.

 

rghazal@thenational.ae