Beyond the spectacular white granite and limestone, a main function of Qasr Al Watan is to host visits by heads of state. These visits are usually received by the President, the Prime Minister or the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi where diplomatic gifts can be exchanged – manifesting an ancient tradition that has lined the way to be a symbol of goodwill, and a reflection of mutual respect.
Walking through the Palace of the Nation, visitors can view a unique collection of diplomatic gifts that echo the diversity and cultures of many of the world’s nations. Each gift is carefully chosen and considers the culture, religion and personal taste of the person receiving it, and reveals valuable information about the cultures and economies they represent.
Many of the gifts on display at Qasr Al Watan are inspired by the purpose of a state or diplomatic visit. Here is a quick sneak peek into some of the distinctive gifts visitors can enjoy at the Palace:
A symbol of strength and national heritage, the falcon is one of the most important animals associated with the identity of the UAE. In the past, it was an important form of hunting, while today it is one of the most honored sports in the country and is associated with the Arab values of courage, honor and nobility. For instance, falcon masks are used when hunting to cover the eyes of the falcon to calm it down during travel.
The masks seen here have been gifted by Germany, a renowned manufacturer for falconry equipment.
Traditional weapons play an important role in the communication of the history and heritage of the United Arab Emirates. Alongside their practical use for hunting and protection, local swords, daggers and rifles have social and cultural significance and can communicate identity and status. These weapons are often gifted as a sign of respect.
Visitors can find a ceremonial dagger that was gifted by the Sultanate of Oman and a golden sword gifted by Saudi Arabia.
Many countries have national animals which communicate the heritage, identity and values of a nation. While the United Arab Emirates has many indigenous animals that are protected and admired, it is the falcon and Arabian oryx that are often used as official symbols.
The objects on display at Qasr Al Watan represent the national animals of many other countries. Given as gifts by visiting dignitaries, their presence here celebrates the friendship and connection between the UAE and the world.
The United Arab Emirates continuously works to protect its heritage by making sure that the skills and knowledge connected with various types of artisanry are passed down to future generations. Visitors will notice that decorative arts are a common choice of diplomatic gifts and showcase the traditional artisans of a country.
For example, the Ukrainian Amber on display at Qasr Al Watan has a long history of being a source of happiness, vitality, and protection against evil. Famously known as the gemstone of eternal youth.
While the Gold Wreath, gifted by Greece, has seen similar gifts to it be offered to the Greek God Apollo. With delicate carving that reflects the craftmanship during the Hellenistic period, Gold Wreaths with ivy leaves and berries constitute excellent examples of the workmanship of goldsmiths in Hellenistic times.
Symbols rich in cultural meaning are often used in diplomacy. Every country has emblematic places, icons, or features that represent their national pride. Due to their cultural importance or their symbolic meaning, they epitomize the identity of a nation. On display is a Model of Petra, gifted by Jordan, and an etching emblem from the Vatican City State to name a few.
Sacred Symbols: Gifts of Friendship, Mutual Respect and Tolerance
Other items gifted represent the culture of the country or a specific religion. The gifts are not intended to be elaborate but represent a gesture of friendship, mutual respect and tolerance.
Over the centuries the Holy Qur’an has been highly valued as a diplomatic gift due to its importance as the religious text of Islam. The incorporation of different types of binding, material and ornamentation add an artistic dimension to it.
Due to the importance of Islam in the region, religious manuscripts have been a symbol of diplomacy. Various artistic elements are added with the inclusion of binding, material, and ornamentation.
In the religion or Holy Quran display case, a black cover can be seen embroidered in gold. The golden embroidery is a verse from the Holy Quran and the black cover itself is part of the dressing of the Kaaba which is the holiest place for Muslims; located in Mecca in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The dressing changes on a yearly basis and is called the Kiswa. What can be seen on display is a gift from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is a small part of the larger dressing.
Carpets from Turkmenistan, ornamental vases from the Phoenician era, and gold wreath that trace back to ancient Macedonia are just of the few priceless possessions you can find at Qasr Al Watan. Visit Qasr Al Watan to see a distinctive assortment of diplomatic gifts received from heads of state and foreign dignitaries across the years.
Qasr Al Watan is open Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 10:00AM to 6:00PM and 12:00PM to 7:30PM from Thursday to Saturday; for more information visit: www.QasrAlWatan.ae