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Fort and Birthplace

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For more than 100 years, this fort in Al Ain has played a major role in the history of the United Arab Emirates and today offers visitors an opportunity to understand its story
Located at the western approach to Al Ain city, Qasr Al Muwaiji has played an important role in the history of the United Arab Emirates and represents a fine example of early 20th century mud-brick architecture.

 

Qasr Al Muwaiji was built in the time of Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa the First (r. 1855-1909) by his son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Khalifa. Later it became the home and administrative base for the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, when in 1946 he became the Ruler’s Representative in the Al Ain Region.  

 

His eldest son, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was born at Qasr Al Muwaiji two years later, and spent much of his youth there, learning from his father.
Qasr Al Muwaiji- Fort- Thumbnail

The Fort

The building has always presented a simple but striking form: a square enclosure with projecting corner towers and a grand entrance gate. It was used as a diwan (a council or seat of governance) and as a place for the community to congregate.
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan made many additions to the fort, reflecting its growing importance as the place of government in the region and the location for discussions, reception of visitors, deliberations and decision making. He added new diwan buildings and kitchens, and expanded guest accommodations to address the increasing number of visitors.
The fort’s mosque also was enlarged, and Qasr Al Muwaiji’s significance as a focus for the community increased as people came there to gather, pray and celebrate. When Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan became Ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966, both he and his son, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, moved to Abu Dhabi. Beginning in the 1970s, the compound underwent several phases of restoration, culminating in a major regeneration project that has again made Qasr Al Muwaiji an important public space in Al Ain.
 

The Exhibition

An exhibition hall, housed in a glass-walled space within the courtyard of Qasr Al Muwaiji, has been built to tell the story of the fort and its inhabitants, with a focus on His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates.
The exhibition sets out the chronology of the members of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family with a connection to Qasr Al Muwaiji, but above all, it highlights the accomplishments of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The exhibit also traces the history of Qasr Al Muwaiji, from the earliest archaeological evidence through to today, and includes its role in hosting visiting travellers. The displays also explain the importance of water to life in Al Ain and its oases, including nearby Muwaiji Oasis.
 

The Oasis

The Al Muwaiji Oasis is the smallest oasis in Al Ain and contains approximately 21,000 palm trees, as well as a falaj irrigation system that uses ground-level and underground water canals to bring water from the nearby mountains. Even the grounds of the fort have been used over the years for date palm cultivation.

Timeline

1897-2015

1897

Earliest evidence for the date of Qasr Al Muwaiji’s construction, from a coin excavated on the site.

1897

1928

Qasr al Muwaiji is used to distribute aid under Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Khalifa during the economic depression.

1928

1946

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is appointed Ruler’s Representative in Al Ain. He establishes his family home and official diwan at Qasr al Muwaiji.

1946

1948

HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is born at Qasr Al Muwaiji, the eldest son of Sheikh Zayed and Sheikha Hassa.

1948

1950s

Sheikh Zayed orders the expansion of Qasr al Muwaiji.

1950s

1966

Sheikh Zayed becomes Ruler of Abu Dhabi and appoints his son, HH Sheikh Khalifa as Ruler’s Representative in Al Ain. They both move to Abu Dhabi.

1966

Late 1970s

First phase of restoration work is begun at Qasr al Muwaiji.

Late 1970s

2009

Extensive archaeological excavations and conservation work begins at Qasr al Muwaiji.

2009

2015

 Qasr al Muwaiji opens to the public.

2015

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Did You Know?

Archaeological work has unearthed traces of agricultural activity near the fort from as far back as the 18th century.

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Khalifa bin Zayed Street,

opposite Ruler's Representative Court

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Daily 9am to 7pm,

Except Monday (closed),

Friday -3pm to 7pm.

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