Built as a protective watchtower around 1790s, becoming home to Al Nahyan family, the seat of government, and standing as our nation’s living archive, Qasr Al Hosn opens its doors as a museum telling the story of Abu Dhabi and its people, and a focal point for the celebration, promotion and preservation of the cultural heritage of the UAE.
Al Hosn will feature Qasr Al Hosn Fort, the Cultural Foundation, the National Consultative Council, and the House of Artisans
Abu Dhabi’s most important historic and cultural landmark to be opened with days of celebrations and public events
Abu Dhabi, 24 October 2018 – The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) today announced that the much-anticipated grand opening of Al Hosn, a new cultural destination located in the heart of downtown Abu Dhabi, will take place on 7 December 2018. Al Hosn is the city’s original urban block and will comprise four interrelated components: the historic Qasr Al Hosn Fort, the Cultural Foundation, the National Consultative Council building, and the House of Artisans. The official launch will be a celebration of Abu Dhabi’s rich history and culture, with days of public programming to mark the occasion.
Qasr Al Hosn is the oldest and most significant heritage site in Abu Dhabi city, encompassing two iconic buildings: The Inner Fort dating back to around 1795 and the Outer Palace, which was built in the 1940s. A witness to Abu Dhabi’s vibrant history, over the past two centuries it has previously been home to the ruling family, the seat of government, the consultative council and the national archives. Now transformed into a museum following several years of rigorous and ambitious conservation works, Qasr Al Hosn is a national monument that traces the city’s development from a settlement reliant on fishing and pearling in the 18th Century, to a modern, global metropolis, with the fort now surrounded by Abu Dhabi’s skyscrapers and a dynamic downtown area.
The newly renovated premises of the Cultural Foundation will host a diverse visual and performing arts programme, alongside the opening of the first Children’s Library of its kind. To mark the occasion of its reopening in December, the Foundation’s Visual Arts Centre will present a landmark exhibition which will focus on the building’s history as a beacon for local artists. Cultural Foundation will re-open in phases with 7 December allowing access to the Visual Arts Centre, which will feature exhibition halls and art studios. The two remaining components – a theatre and the Children’s Library – will open in 2019.
HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman, DCT Abu Dhabi said: “Qasr Al Hosn retraces the history of the city of Abu Dhabi, our very first building. It stands as a constant in our evolving city. It is a testament to the heart and spirit of our people and the repository of our collective memories, and its reopening is a key moment for both the citizens of Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE. In addition, we are thrilled to reopen the Cultural Foundation, which has always played an integral role in the cultural scene of Abu Dhabi, the UAE and the region. With the Al Hosn site, we look to foster a sense of community and make a home for Emirati culture. It is a place to both reflect on our past and embrace the present, as we look to shape Abu Dhabi’s future.”
HE Saif Saeed Ghobash, Undersecretary, DCT Abu Dhabi said: “With the historic Qasr Al Hosn Fort and the Modern Heritage Building of the Cultural Foundation sitting side by side, Al Hosn will be a year-round destination open to the wider community including nationals wishing to know more about their heritage, to art-lovers and intellectuals exchanging ideas and engaging in the active cultural scene. We wish to create once again a true home for creativity and learning, dialogue and debate, a space which celebrates not just our past but our contemporary Emirati culture as well. Al Hosn will stand as a proud representation of the identity of Abu Dhabi with an innovative offering of cultural and inspirational experiences.”
Al Hosn site has been designed to reinstate Qasr Al Hosn fort in a coastal landscape while also celebrating the urbanisation that has come with the city’s rapid growth; a celebration of Emirati heritage and identity, past and present.
The masterplan is divided diagonally into two areas with distinctive and coherent identities. On one side is the historic area around Qasr Al Hosn which re-establishes the original setting of a solitary building on a sand plain, with an organic and natural coastal desert landscape. On the other side is a modern heritage area around the Cultural Foundation, an urban city grid layout with a more man-made, geometrical expression of hard surfaces destined for a series of cultural activities.
Qasr Al Hosn has major significance for Abu Dhabi and its people. The name Hosn refers to the Inner Fort, built around 1795 and incorporating the city’s first permanent structure, a coral and sea stone watchtower built to protect the settlement established on the island in the 1760s. Qasr refers to the Outer Palace built around the Inner Fort by Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan in the 1940s, housing the ruling family as well as hosting the ruler’s majlis sessions. With the rule of Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan, witnessing the economical shift from pearling to oil, in the ensuing decades Qasr Al Hosn gradually changed in structure and function, transforming from the seat of political power and home of the ruling family to the cultural heart of the city.
Qasr Al Hosn’s Inner Fort and Outer Palace are major reference points to the history of Abu Dhabi, telling the story of the city and its people, their history and modern heritage. The permanent exhibitions in these spaces will offer a multi-layered visitor experience, creating awareness of Qasr Al Hosn as the constant witness to Abu Dhabi’s narrative; providing insights into the lives of the men, women and children who lived in the Outer Palace; and exploring the story of the conservation of the Fort’s structures. The exhibitions will be brought to life by a permanent collection and mediations ranging from archival materials to audio-visuals and interactive experiences.
Public programming in the Qasr Al Hosn Fort area will include specialist tours such as archaeology, 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 youth.
Founded by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1981, Cultural Foundation was the region’s first dedicated multipurpose non-profit cultural centre, conceived as a public institution with a mandate to foster all forms of intellectual and creative activity. It was the embodiment of Sheikh Zayed’s desire to nurture the cultural consciousness and identity of all citizens of the recently-formed nation of the UAE.
With the first National Library, a performing arts wing, and at its centre, an exhibition hall and art workshops, it became a home of culture, knowledge exchange, and debate for artists, poets, intellectuals and academics, and a beloved community space, a gathering place for friends and families. A beacon for the UAE and regional cultural scenes, the Cultural Foundation hosted many local and regional artists’ first exhibitions and became a window through which Abu Dhabi engaged with ideas and people from across the world.
The much-anticipated reopening of Cultural Foundation comes after an extensive refurbishment, with major upgrades including the introduction of the first Children’s Library of its kind, a vibrant open gallery for visual arts, indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces, a 900-seat theatre and outdoor amphitheatre, learning and workshop facilities, and food and beverage areas.
On 7 December the Cultural Foundation begins its gradual reintroduction to the public with its newly renovated Visual Arts Centre, introducing two exhibition halls, and artists’ studios - all of which will host year-round programming including open studios, Artists in Residence, talks, art classes and workshops. The December opening will see the Visual Arts Centre host a landmark exhibition with UAE artists reflecting on the building’s history as a convener of artists and creatives. The Cultural Foundation’s mission will be further enhanced by supporting and nurturing the development of creative initiatives in the cultural landscape of Abu Dhabi. The theatre and the Children’s Library will open in 2019.
Located alongside Qasr Al Hosn and Cultural Foundation, House of Artisans will serve as a focal point for the promotion and preservation of the UAE’s intangible heritage. In 2011, UNESCO listed the Al Sadu [weaving] on its List of Intangible Cultural Elements for Urgent Safeguarding, and House of Artisans was founded as a coordinated effort to protect and support this and other traditional Emirati crafts and those who practice them.
House of Artisans will serve as a centre for not only preserving and displaying the traditional crafts of the United Arab Emirates, but will also enable the all-important transmission of knowledge and skills around these crafts, ensuring their future survival for generations to come. With a focus on the core skills of weaving, palm braiding, and embroidery, House of Artisans aims to bring these traditional crafts of the past to the heart of contemporary culture, and will offer training courses, educational workshops and other public events.