Britain's queen makes first visit to UAE in 31 years

24th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip arrived in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, 31 years after their first visit to the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, the state news agency WAM reported.

"During the visit Her Majesty will attend the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and pay her respects at the tomb of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan," the UAE founding ruler who died in 2004, the British embassy said.

She was hosted by Sheikh Zayed on her first visit in 1979, and was invited this time by his son and UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

"There is a very deep friendship between Her Majesty and the ruling families here," British Ambassador Dominic Jermey told AFP.

"The relation we have now" is based on "a common perception of our political interests, a shared analysis of threats and very close business and investment links between our two countries," said Jermey.

"This visit is about looking into the future."

The UAE, Britain's biggest market in the Gulf region, is home to 120,000 British expatriates.

British "companies have been here for a long time. Oil and gas is clearly an area of excellence: BP and Shell both have long roots here," Frances Moffett Kouadio, the director of trade and investment at the embassy, told AFP.

The queen will also unveil the design of the new Sheikh Zayed Museum which will be built on Saadiyat Island, off the Abu Dhabi coast in partnership with the British Museum.

The museum is being designed by British architects Foster and Partners.

The queen will also be accompanied by her son, Prince Andrew, and Foreign Secretary William Hague, Gulf News daily said on Wednesday.

On Thursday evening, Queen Elizabeth will fly to neighbouring Oman to mark the 40th anniversary of the rule of Sultan Qaboos.

The seven emirates that make up the UAE were British protectorates until independence in 1971, while Oman has a history of close economic and military relations with Britain.

© 2010 AFP

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