The museum is based in the palace of the former UAE President, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918–2004), and his family. It was originally built in 1937 on the western side of the Al Ain Oasis, the largest oasis in Al Ain. Sheikh Zayed lived here until 1966. It was made into a museum in 1998.
The museum presents many of the rooms in the palace, including an art gallery. Many of the rooms are majlis or meeting rooms for receiving visitors. In one of the courts there is a replica grand court tent, representing a link with Bedouin life. There is also a Land Rover similar to the one driven by Sheikh Zayed in the desert to visit Bedouin communities.