The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh have begun a five day visit to the Gulf as part of a concerted attempt to boost British presence in the region.
Landing in Abu Dhabi late last night, The Queen was greeted by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and several UAE ministers.
Pictured: The Queen and Prince Philip arrive at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi
It is her first visit since 1979 when she was a guest of UAE founding father and ex-president of the Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan.
Her first engagement was to pay her respects to the late ruler at the Grand Mosque, where she was joined by UK foreign secretary William Hague and his wife Ffion.
“This visit by the head of the Church of England to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is reflective of the multi-faith dialogue and tolerance that is common to both the UAE and UK,” the British Embassy said.
The Duke of York has also joined the royal party in his role as the UK’s special representative for international trade and investment.
Speaking to reporters, Prince Andrew welcomed news of the royal wedding between his nephew Prince William and fiancée Kate Middleton and said the event would be “absolutely fantastic”.
“I understand the wedding is going to take place over a bank holiday weekend so it will be another excuse for a good party.”
On her first full day of engagements the Queen visited Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi, where she was welcomed H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai.
Following the meeting Sheik Al Maktoum said: “We have a firm desire to build better relations and expand cooperation at all levels based on the common future vision which is full of optimism and confidence.”
For her part, Queen Elizabeth expressed her delight at visiting the UAE for the second time, commending UAE’s leadership keenness to develop and boost ties of friendship and cooperation between the two sides.
Abu Dhabi has recently sought to build a leading tourist destination, including the opening of Ferrari World earlier this year
United Arab Emirates
The UAE is a collection of seven emirates that united in 1971 after gaining full independence from the UK.
The Duke of York said: “I think you have to look back to the fact this is a long-standing relationship between the UAE and the United Kingdom which reaches back over 40 years when the UAE was a protectorate.
“A lot of work has gone on in the intervening period.
“Since the new UK government came in there’s been an increased level of concern for this particular region in terms of investment, in terms of business opportunities.
“This has been reciprocated by the UAE and other countries in the region.”
Abu Dhabi in particular has excelled in recent years, as the emirate seeks to utilise abundant gas reserves to build a leading tourism destination.
Developments – including Yas Island and Ferrari World – have placed the destination on the map, with the industry leading World Travel Awards recently recognising the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority as the World’s Leading Tourist Board.