The rebirth of the Qasr Al Hosn as a museum that tells the story of the UAE and charts the rise of a modern Abu Dhabi is an impressive addition to the cultural offerings in the capital.
Thousands of visitors from all over the world flocked to the oldest heritage site in Abu Dhabi on Friday for the reopening following a decade of renovation and conservation.
“It is almost like we are standing in the very birthplace of the UAE,” said Jordanian Awj Khalil, 44, who has lived in Abu Dhabi for the past six years.
“Abu Dhabi has been trying hard to market itself as a cultural destination and offer something different than Dubai. This is definitely going to be a huge boost for tourism here.”
The verdict was overwhelmingly positive as tourists and residents lined up for a glimpse into the UAE’s history.
Some like Indian tourist Antim Pandey, 32, had even timed their vacation to coincide with the opening.
“I am interested in history, culture and the connection between India and the UAE is so strong that I really did not want to miss this,” he said.
The museum opened alongside reconstructed buildings of the National Consultative Council and Cultural Foundation. The site also features heritage activities, exhibitions and a revolving auditorium.
Constructed more than 250 years ago, the fort once housed the ruling family of the region and was the residence of the former Abu Dhabi ruler, Sheikh Shakhbut.
The new museum chronicles the past by delving into the records of the Baniyas confederation of tribes and Al Nahyan family.
French national Clarisse Roche, 35, who lives in Al Ain, described the renovated site as a “beautiful addition” to Abu Dhabi.
“It is a wonderful mix between the traditional heritage of the UAE and the surrounding cityscape,” she said.
“Traditional culture and heritage is something that has been missing in this region so the organisers have to be congratulated for being able to put this together.”
Surrounded by modern skyscrapers and shopping arcades, the traditional fort commands attention and drew newcomers such as Jean Christopher Martin, who moved to Abu Dhabi three months ago.
“This is a lovely contrast to all the tall buildings and shopping centres that you associate with this region,” said the 54-year-old French national.
His wife, Christine, 50, enjoyed spending an evening exploring the site.
“This is exactly what we were looking for. It’s great to be able to meet people from other countries who are also exploring the UAE’s heritage,” she said.
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed reopens Qasr Al Hosn in Abu Dhabi
Neighbourhood Watch: The historic heart of Al Hosn beats again
A complete transformation in less than one lifetime
Visitors spent time gaining a better understanding about the region’s history.
“It is a brilliant opportunity to find out more about the UAE,” said Abu Dhabi resident Maham Farooq, who made an unplanned stop with family when they saw crowds milling outside.
“We were just driving by and decided to see what the fuss was about,” said Maham’s father Mohammed Farooq from Pakistan.
“There is such a wonderful welcoming atmosphere here. I have lived in Abu Dhabi for 17 years but we have never had anything like this before.”
Indian-national Luqman Shihabhupheen, 22, said the site would be a jewel in the UAE’s tourism crown.
“It’s definitely going to be a success, being able to see all these old style buildings and the pictures from down the years is fantastic,” he said.
Qasr Al Hosn is open from Sunday to Thursday from 10am to 10pm and on the weekends from 10am to 11pm.