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History

The one constant witness of Abu Dhabi’s story, Qasr Al Hosn stands as a national monument that encapsulates the development of the city - from a settlement reliant on fishing and pearling in the 18th century, to a modern, global metropolis.

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1761 – 1795

The Origin of Abu Dhabi

With the islands rich natural resources and surrounding shallow waters, Sheikh Dhiyab Bin Isa – Sheikh of the Bani Yas tribe from the inland Liwa Oasis – ordered for the watchtower to be constructed of coral and sea stone. Designed to naturally withstand the land’s harsh climates, as it overlooked and controlled coastal access to the island – whilst simultaneously protecting the bourgeoning community that was growing around it.

Did you know? The water found on Abu Dhabi was not a single well, but shallow pools known as “scrapes”.
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1795 – 1850s

A Tower Becomes a Fortress

During his reign – between 1793 to 1816 - Sheikh Shakhbut Bin Dhiyab ordered the construction of more towers, which were linked to create an imposing defensive enclosure that commanded nearby shipping routes. It was during this time that the fort was used as his seat of government, military headquarters, as well as his family home.

Did you know? Qasr Al Hosn was named "Hosn Abu Dhabi" which literally translates to Abu Dhabi Fort. Since its inception, only those who control the walls of the fort assert their right to rule
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1855 – 1909

A Community Takes Shape

In 1855, Sheikh Zayed Bin Khalifa, also known as Zayed the Great, united the tribes of the region, determined to establish economic prosperity and to strengthen diplomatic relations abroad.

With Qasr Al Hosn at the heart of the community, Abu Dhabi saw immense growth. Fishing remained a valuable industry for the city and by the late 1800s, the city commanded over 400 pearling boats – the largest number in the Gulf.

Did you know? Spanning over half a decade, Sheikh Zayed the Great’s rule was the longest reign in Abu Dhabi’s history.
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1928 – 1966

The Fort Expands

It was in 1939 that Qasr Al Hosn once again became the site of momentous economic change after Sheikh Shakhbut Bin Sultan Al Nahyan negotiated the country’s first oil concessions with Great Britain.

Using a portion of the funds, he then built an iconic palace that enclosed the founding walls of the fort; tripling the size of the site. This palace instantly became a symbol of Abu Dhabi’s rising economy and growing prosperity.

Did you know? In the early 1950s, as a part of the renovation the decorative arch outside of the Qasr Al Hosn gates was added.
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1980s – 1990s

Today’s Qasr Al Hosn Emerges

During this time, Qasr Al Hosn remained the heart of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s plans; with the fort serving as his family home, seat of governance for the new nation – ordering a full restoration for the Al Hosn site, with the intention to turn it in to the city’s national archive and to encapsulate the historical developments of Abu Dhabi.

Did you know? That it was within the National Consultative Chamber that meetings took place to negotiate the union of the United Arab Emirates in 1971
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1990 – Present Day

Conserving a National Monument

Over the last decade, the white render covering the walls of Qasr Al Hosn trapped corrosive moisture on the surface of the original coral stone bricks. Following this discovery, an extensive conservation project was put in to action to renovate the fort’s walls – allowing for the structure to ‘breathe’ and once again revealing the original foundation

Did you know? The conservation team restored the palace’s traditional ‘Barjeel’ ventilation system – an ancient form of natural air conditioning.