Dubai Brits party for William and Kate
Tens of thousands of Britons joined street parties in the United Arab Emirates on Friday to mark the royal wedding in London, despite a decided lack of enthusiasm among other expatriate communities.
Hotels in the oil-rich UAE offered an Arabian fantasy to guests willing to fork out $450 to $1,500 (300-1,010 euros) for an overnight stay with a royal high tea thrown in and the wedding broadcast on giant screens.
At the Meridien Mina Seyahi in Dubai, entrance to the "street party" was free. By noon, more than 1,000 Britons had made their way there carrying red, white and blue flags and pictures of royal couple Prince William and his bride Kate.
Among the guests were three Kate-wannabes in bridal white veils -- but wearing short skirts and low-cut blouses more suited to the hot Dubai weather. Traditional British fare of fish and chips and beer were on the menu.
"This (wedding) is a part of history and we wanted to dress the part," said Gemma Petch as her friend Kat Twaites, also in a white top, joined the long queue for drinks.
"I think it is better to be in Dubai than in London right now," Twaites said, soaking up the party atmosphere by the beach while occasionally turning to a giant screen to watch the wedding.
Bikini-clad women and other scantily dressed royal lovers cheered loudly when Kate first appeared on screen, with some even hugging total strangers.
Craig Butt wore a Prince Charles mask and posed for pictures with a Queen-masked Amy Foster who tried to mimic the Queen's trademark hand waving.
Two more British expatriates, Mark Baker and Julie Anne, dressed as William and Kate and had many requests from fellow party-goers to have their photographs taken with them.
The British embassy staged its own "Street Party" on the lawns of the consulate in Dubai, with guests asked to pay 100 dirhams ($27) to enter and also to bring their own picnic baskets.
"We have lots in store... including a traditional street party and VIP marquee and hope all our guests will enjoy the celebrations with us," British Consul Guy Warrington told the Gulf News.
Sarah Johnson, a British woman among those partying on Friday, said some Australians and New Zealanders had also joined in the celebrations.
Another party organiser said the political unrest in the Middle East had not affected the party mood in the UAE which remained insulated from regional troubles.
Bahrain's crown prince turned down an invitation to the royal wedding because of unrest in his Gulf kingdom.
And Britain on Thursday abruptly withdrew the Syrian ambassador's invitation, saying the Damascus regime's crackdown on protesters made it unacceptable for him to attend.
"That question of how appropriate it is to celebrate here (in Dubai) has not even come up," the party organiser said, asking not to be identified. "This is a party place."
A local FM Radio had dozens of Britons phoning in to discuss party plans, with the anchor repeatedly advising: "Don't drink too much."
There was noticeably less royal wedding enthusiasm among other expatriate communities in Dubai, with very few Asians or Emiratis attending parties.
Dubai taxi driver Irfan from Pakistan was among the few people working in the UAE which takes its Friday weekend very seriously.
Asked if he had driven any fares to royal wedding street parties Friday, Irfan asked: "What wedding? Where?" He admitted ignorance about Britain's royals, but added that he knew England cricket skipper Andrew Strauss very well.
Gulf newspapers have also been lukewarm in their wedding coverage.
Not a single Arabic language newspaper published in Dubai front-paged the royal marriage, opting for smaller write-ups and photos of the couple inside.
The biggest picture in the Dubai-based Al-Bayan, a government-owned daily, on Friday was of French President Nicholas Sarkozy walking with Bernadette, the wife of former president Jacques Chirac.
© 2011 AFP