While summer heat is still couple of months away, there is no better way to spend the good weather soaking the warm sunshine, a walk in the park or a picnic on the corniche. With so much going on during the winter months in Abu Dhabi, a cultural day at the capital’s old fort is a great idea for those who want to indulge the history of the Emirates. The long awaiting refurbishment of Qasr al Hosn was finished by end of December 2018, along with the reopening of the Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi’s favorite cultural premises since 1981, a vision of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan from which a cultural awakening would spring forth, starting at the capital eventually impacting the United Arab Emirates as a whole. Nestled in the heart of Abu Dhabi and five minutes drive from World Trade Center, the complex offers a family-filled activities along three of my favorite places for coffee, artisan chocolate and vegan delicacies.
Qasr Al Hosn is Abu Dhabi’s oldest building and holds the first significant structure in the city: The Watchtower. Built in the 1790’s to overwatch the costal trade routes and to protect the growing settlement on the island. It consists of an inner fort and outer palace that has been the home for the ruling family, the seat government, a consultative government and a national archive. Now, after 11 years of conservation and restoration work, Qasr Al Hosn is transformed into a museum telling the story of Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates.
House of Artisans (بيت الحرفيين) -located on the same premises- showcases several handicrafts that emerged in the region such a Al-Sadu and al Khoos. The traditional weaving is practiced by women and men (Khoos) using wool from sheep, camels and goats or date palm fronds (Khoos). The distinctive designs and the techniques used project the creativity and artistry of the local community. You can also explore the decorative embroidery of the Talli practiced by Emirati women and enrich your knowledge of the sea crafts of boat building and fishing. Bait Al Ghahwa (House of Coffee) is a cultural experience that you can explore within the House of Artisans. Learn the traditions and etiquette of preparing Ghawa, a welcome drink the represents the generosity and hospitality of the host. With Different variations in the region, the Emirati version is infused with cardamom, saffron and rose water. A strong yet aromatic combination that is served with dates to balance the bitterness and flavors of each serving.
After the ‘historic expedition’, it is time to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee, and maybe a bite of chocolate. By the water feature, the geometrical structure holds two of UAE’s young and artisan ventures. The Espresso Lab by Ibrahim Al Mallouhi, a passionate entrepreneur and an Emirati Barista and a coffee sommelier, offers coffee prepared in an innovative and unique techniques that make specialty coffee stands out from commercial one. Next door is Mirzam Chocolate. The hand-picked cocoa beans, gently roasted and grinned then carefully tempered to create shiny chocolate that is the base for their extensive selection of chocolate bars, truffles and desserts. Their collection includes single origin bars, Winter in Morocco, Emirati Collection and more than 20 vegan items customers can choose from.
After the short break, its is time to visit The Cultural Foundation. All year round, art enthusiasts can indulge the artwork, exhibitions and installations of local and regional artists. The Foundation’s theatre hosts a variety of music and theatre nights all year round, with their first season launched in September 2019, the Theatre is buzzing with performances from all over the world. A unique Children’s Library is located on the first floor of the Foundation. Inspired by the surrounding nature, the Library spaces include a Book Mountain, The Dunes, Creature space and a toddlers area. It offers up to to 70 creative and interactive programs suitable for ages up to 14 years old. A dynamic variety of art and Arabic calligraphy workshops are scheduled on monthly basis along a Children’s Art Center and a Residency program support and advance professional artists.
Finish your visit by having a substantial lunch at Wild and the Moon. A Parisian concept that believes that the food we eat should be good for us, good for the planet and delicious. Their ingredients are ethically sourced, seasonal, plant based and 100% organic and gluten free. The restaurant offers a healthy alternative prepared with ‘love, light, and a little magic…’