What is Zabeel Palace?
Nestled within the historic, leafy and salubrious neighbourhood of Zabeel (also known as Za’abeel), moments from Dubai’s city centre but filled with parkland and home to equestrian centres, Zabeel Palace is the administrative headquarters and official residence of the Dubai Royal Family. As the official royal residence, it’s one of the many homes of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, and many of his family members. While built in what was then an empty desert, Zabeel Palace is now a beautiful and conveniently accessed royal residence, surrounded by beautiful gardens filled with birds, flowers and peacocks.
While visitors are not allowed to tour or access the palace, it is possible to venture up it along the driveway and take in its impressive front entrance. Guests are met with grand gates, topped with bucking horse statues – an homage to the UAE‘s long affinity with horses and the Dubai ruler’s love for equestrianism. At night, these gates are illuminated, creating a beautiful spectacle visible from all the way up the long drive. As with all royal residences, Zabeel Palace has a police presence, and visitors can’t get too close, but they are able to see the gardens, roaming peacocks, and a beautiful view of the Dubai skyline.
Little do many people know, but there are actually two Zabeel Palaces, the first one dating back to the late 1950s and comprising three smaller buildings. However, in 1963 – almost 10 years before the official formation of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, one of the nation’s founding fathers, missed the new place in what was, at that time, an arid desert landscape. The new palace was designed by Ing. Otto Bulart (the man behind Dubai’s Clock Tower) of Overseas AST, who built a rectangular building linking the three existing palace structures to form one single complex – the new Zabeel Palace. Ing. Bulart
Sheikh Rashid officially moved into his new home in 1965, remaining at the palace until his death in 1990. Surrounded by sands, Zabeel Palace of the Sixties and Seventies was a secluded family residence, but over time, the palace – and its neighbourhood – grew exponentially, and today, modern buildings surround the once understated family residence.
Can I visit Zabeel Palace?
Unfortunately, it’s not possible for the public to visit or tour the interior or grounds of Zabeel Palace, as the palace is the official home of Sheikh Mohammed and the Dubai Royal Family, but it is possible to come right up to the majestic from the gates and enjoy its beautiful and peaceful location. Visitors are allowed near the palace and up its long driveway and can admire the greenery and open space, with plenty of trees and a variety of birds and peacocks strolling around. The drive is lined with palm trees and fluttering UAE flags – a spectacle in itself – and benefits from some of the most beautiful and unobstructed views of the Dubai Frame – the metaphorical portal between old and new Dubai.
Visitor parking is available near the palace, and the drive’s gates are open throughout the day for visitors to come and enjoy. Zabeel Palace is a popular stop on Dubai’s hop-on and hop-off busses.