Here’s how to learn more about UAE history and culture

Mark the UAE’s 48th anniversary by diving headfirst into the country’s rich history, traditions and culture.

The UAE is 48 years old and is still a young nation. However, and given the modernity that surrounds us today, it’s easy to forget about the country’s rich past shaped by Bedouin traditions.

The good thing is that there are many opportunities here in Abu Dhabi for us to revisit the yesteryears of the UAE, giving us a glimpse of life and practices before the progress.

As the UAE celebrates another year since it was founded in 1971, we explore the ways we can all learn more about the country’s glorious past.

Al Hosn

The city’s oldest stone building to this day represents Abu Dhabi’s strength and resiliency.

Erected in 1761, the fort served as a bastion to protect the surrounding settlement during pre-UAE days.

Fast forward to 2019 and this historic landmark is now home to a permanent exhibition featuring photographs, oral testimonies and artefacts documenting the capital’s evolution and history – a must see for history buffs!

The other sections in the compound – namely the Cultural Foundation (home to a theatre and children’s library), House of Artisans and National Consultative Council – each feature charged and free programmes and activities that promote and preserve Emirati traditions.

AED 30 for adults, AED 15 for children aged six to 11. Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street. Sat-Thu 9am-7pm, Fri noon-10pm. Contact: 02 697 6400,

Qasr Al Watan

This sprawling palace is no longer just exclusive for official functions. Qasr Al Watan –= or Palace of the Nation – has witnessed (and continues to do so) countless federal meetings and assemblies with foreign leaders and dignitaries.

The grand palace features a striking central dome, a chandelier with 350,000 pieces of crystals, and multi-purpose halls.

The House of Knowledge section contains various artefacts and gifts offered by many visiting officials throughout the years. There’s also a library with a vast collection of books portraying the UAE’s cultural, social and political history.

AED 60 adults, AED 30 children. Al Ras Al Akhdar. Daily 10am-8pm. Visit:

Guided experiences

Who better to ask about UAE traditions than the locals themselves?

The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi has a programme that offers non-Emiratis the chance to experience local customs on a more personal level.

From discovering local hospitality in an Emirati home to guided photography tour around the city to visiting traditional markets to tasting genuine Emirati food – there are lots of programmes to choose from both in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

Best of all, the tailor-made activities are headed by knowledgeable local guides.

Prices and schedules vary. To book, visit:

Heritage Village

This cultural attraction brings to life traditional Emirati village and Bedouin lifestyle.

See artisans throw pottery, spin and weave fabric, and produce metal wares from scratch.

You can even get to learn how to create your own crafts with guidance from skilled Emirati craftspeople.

While you’re there, browse the stalls for local dried herbs, hand-made soaps and souvenirs and bring them home with you.

Free entry. Emirates Heritage Club, near Marina Mall. Sat-Thu 9am-4pm, Fri 3.30pm 9pm. Visit:

Visit Al Ain

The more relaxed city of Al Ain has played an important role in shaping the history and traditions of the UAE.

The Garden City – as it’s affectionately known – boasts stunning landmarks such as Al Ain Museum and Al Ain Heritage and Cultural Village, both of surrender a glimpse into age old traditions.

If you do head over to the city then don’t miss Al Ain Oasis, a sprawling sanctuary of thousands of date palms and a wide variety of plant species.

Oh, and here’s a bit of trivia: This lush oasis still uses the ancient irrigation system of Falaj, which has been around for more than 1,500 years, we’ve been told.

Meanwhile, the Hili Archaeological Park is a time capsule where you can view many artifacts such as ancient monuments, an age-old tomb, Bronze Age settlements and pre-historic fossils.

We think that the best way to maximise your time in Al Ain is to opt to sign up for tours organised by companies such as Rayna Tours and Travels, and Skyland Tourism.

The Founder’s Memorial

Learning about the UAE is not complete without delving into the life of its founding father, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

A permanent tribute, the Founder’s Memorial is designed with multimedia experiences showing rarely seen footages, articles, interviews and personal accounts about the late leader.

A site tour is also available for free to help visitors gain a deeper understanding of Sheikh Zayed and his massive role in unifying the UAE.

A good time to visit in the evening when you can see The Constellation – a stunning illuminated 3D portrait of Sheik Zayed.

Free entry. Intersection Corniche and 18th Street. Daily 9am-10pm. Visit:

If you want to learn more about Sheikh Zayed and the country’s road to independence, we recommend that you read the book Zayed: From Challenges to Union written by historian Dr Jayanti Maitra.

Watch the latest UAE documentary

If you want to know more about the UAE then Image Nation Abu Dhabi have produced History of the Emirates, a documentary that painstakingly explores the country’s history as far back as 125,000 years until its official founding in 1971.

The five-part series has five thematic episodes – society, innovation, trade, belief and unity – and uses never-seen-before archival footage combined with groundbreaking technology, such as CGILiDar scanning  and  360-degree camera work.

A three-part series narrated by Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons will be aired on National Geographic in December 2019. Visit:

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