Qasr al Muwaiji is an impressive structure that has watched over the oasis for around 100 years. It was built in the early years of the 20th century in the time of Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa the First by his son Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Khalifa. After Sheikh Khalifa’s death, the fort passed to his son Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa. Throughout this time, it was a simple but striking building: 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.
In 1946, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was appointed Ruler’s Representative in Al Ain and moved to Qasr al Muwaiji. The fort became his diwan and his family home. His eldest son, HH 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.
During his time at the fort, Sheikh Zayed made many additions, reflecting its growing importance. Thediwan complex doubled in size and the kitchens and guest rooms were enlarged to accommodate the increasing number of visitors that Sheikh Zayed welcomed. The mosque was also improved, and Qasr al Muwaiji’s significance as a focus for the community increased as people came there to gather, pray and celebrate.
Sheikh Zayed became Ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966, and both he and his son HH Sheikh Khalifa moved to Abu Dhabi. At around this time, the fort was abandoned and its buildings demolished, and for some years it was used as a date plantation. But a number of phases of restoration, culminating with this regeneration project, have made Qasr al Muwaiji a thriving place of sharing and learning once again.