Sheikh Zayed's footsteps

Timeframe: Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nayhan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, visits London in 1969 for talks about his plans for founding a nation.
Tim Graham / Fox Photos / Getty Images
Tim Graham / Fox Photos / Getty Images

It is June 10, 1969, at London's Heathrow Airport, and Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nayhan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, descends from the first-class cabin of a BOAC flight to begin a state visit to the United Kingdom.

In public, the Ruler will be greeted with all the pomp and ceremony accorded to a world leader, watching Queen Elizabeth, mounted on her favourite horse, Burmese, as guest of honour at the Trooping the Colour.

Behind the scenes, though, there is serious work to be done. Like all the so-called Trucial States, Abu Dhabi is bound by archaic treaties that effectively give Britain control of the emirate's foreign affairs in return for imperial protection from enemies.

But the clock is ticking. The previous year, the Labour government of Harold Wilson made it clear it would dissolve those treaties, withdrawing Britain's armed forces from the region by December 2, 1971.

Plans are under way to create a new union of nine Gulf emirates, including the seven that now form the UAE, along with Bahrain and Qatar. The road ahead is difficult though, with many doubting that the planned union will succeed.

In Zayed's mind, there is no doubt. Photographs of his visit to London for more talks about his plans for a nation, show a man who looks serious but calm and confident, certain of a destiny that will come to fruition.

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Published: August 3, 2011 04:00 AM