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Qasr al Hosn - A new look at this national treasure

posted on 29/07/2007: 3882 views

Abu Dhabi's oldest building is to become a "Trafalgar Square for the Emirates” and a cultural heart for the nation following a multi-million dirham project that will radically alter the site's landscape and interior.

The majestic Qasr Al Hosn – also known as the White Fort – will become a repository and museum depicting all aspects of UAE culture and a place for Emiratis to celebrate national triumphs, according to officials. "We are trying to redevelop the Qasr Al Hosn, and we're not trying to just turn it into a museum that you could find anywhere in the world,” said Dr Xander Veldhuijzen, an associate of Prince Research Consultants, a UK firm advising on the project.

"We are making a place where Emiratis and tourists can come and enjoy the feeling and spirit of the place. A place where UAE nationals can come and reminisce and talk about their memories. A place where people can come and celebrate when the UAE football team win the World Cup – a Trafalgar Square for the Emirates.”

The fort was originally built as a watchtower to guard a waterhole in 1761, becoming a fully fledged fort on what is now Abu Dhabi island in 1793 when the site was settled by Sheikh Shakhbut bin Dhiyab Al Nahyan. Various rulers added to the fort over the centuries, conveying an "image of power” to the population and creating a refuge for tribes people during troubled times and a majlis for resolving civic disputes, said Dr Veldhuijzen.

It remained the seat of power for the Al Abu Falah dynasty of the Al Nahyans until 1966, when Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan became the first ruler to live outside its walls. Since then, the fort has housed the emirate's police and the Centre for Documentation and Research.

Once renovated, the fort is likely to feature interactive displays in which members of the public can make audio recordings of poems and songs that have been passed down to them over the generations.

Swathes of palm trees have already been cleared from beside the fort as architects prepare to improve the vista, being overseen by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach). Adach officials have remained tight-lipped about one of the biggest projects being handled by the authority – with final decisions about the plans yet to be agreed upon by the UAE government.

"The project is indeed under development – but any details and information relating to it will not be released until National Day, December 2, when the project will be inaugurated,” a spokesman said. Over the past 13 years, Dr Veldhuijzen has toured the UAE to research fort architecture and he has scoured the world for documents relating to Abu Dhabi's oldest historical building. (Emirates Today)


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