New destination, old stop
Muhammad Yusuf reports on the remaking of a UAE heritage site as a new cultural destination
The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) has announced that the opening of Al Hosn, a new cultural destination located in the heart of downtown Abu Dhabi, will take place on Dec 7.
Al Hosn is the city’s original urban block and will comprise four interrelated features: the historic Qasr Al Hosn Fort; the Cultural Foundation; the National Consultative Council building and tHE HousE oF ArtIsAns. THE oFiCIAl launch will be accompanied by many days of public programming.
Qasr Al Hosn is the oldest and most sIGnIiCAnt HErItAGE sItE In Abu Dhabi city, encompassing two iconic buildings: the Inner Fort dating back to around 1795 and the Outer Palace, built in the 1940s.
Awitness toAbu Dhabi’s 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.
Nowtransformedintoamuseum following several years of rigorous and ambitious conservation works, Qasr Al Hosn has transformed itself into a national monument that traces the city’s development From A sEttlEmEnt rElIAnt on isHInG and pearling in the 18th century, to a modern, global metropolis, with the fort now surrounded by Abu Dhabi’s skyscrapers and the 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, 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 reopen in phases 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.
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman, DCT Abu Dhabi said: “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 rElECt on our past and embrace the present, as we look to shape Abu Dhabi’s future”.
Saif Saeed Ghobash, Undersecretary, DCT Abu Dhabi said: “Al Hosn will stand as a proud representation of the identity of Abu Dhabi with an innovative offering of cultural and inspirational experiences”.
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 multilayered visitor experience, creating awareness of Qasr Al Hosn as the witness to Abu Dhabi’s narrative by 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.
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 will introduce the Fort’s visitors to its history and sIGnIiCAnCE. THErE wIll Also BE activities for children and youth.
Founded by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1981, Cultural Foundation wAs tHE rEGIon’s irst DEDICAtED multIpurposE non-proit CulturAl centre, conceived as a public institution with a mandate to foster all forms of intellectual and creative activity.
The reopening of Cultural Foundation comes after an extensive refurbishment, with major upgrades including the introduction of the Children’s Library, 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.
The Cultural Foundation has a newly renovated Visual Arts Centre, two exhibition halls and artists’ studios 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 exhibition with UAE artists reflecting on the building’s history as a convener of artists and creatives.
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 transmission of knowledge and skills around these crafts. The focus will be on the core skills of weaving, palm braiding and embroidery.
A view of the north façade of Qasr Al Hosn.
Rendering of Children’s Library.
A view of the Children’s Library.
Qasr Al Hosn North Façade, 1960s.
Rendering of Al Hosn site, Abu Dhabi.
Rendering of Cultural Foundation interior.