The Gulf says goodbye to Queen Elizabeth

The funeral of the late monarch is a historic moment, and one to remember the power of longstanding friendships

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip with former UAE president Sheikh Khalifa. Getty
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From all around the world, national leaders will be travelling to London to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, which is taking place on Monday, and the state reception the evening before. The expansive guest list demonstrates the intense impression the late monarch made throughout her 70-year period on the British throne. The Middle East is well represented, with leaders such as Jordan's King Abdullah having left for the country on Friday. Many more are set to be present.

The presence of the GCC's leaders, whose respective royal families have built not just strong national ties with the UK but also personal ones through the monarchy, will be particularly heartfelt. On the day of the Queen's death, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said: "Her incredible lifetime of service and duty to the United Kingdom is unparalleled in our modern world."

Conversations during this time have not just been about remembrance, but also the future. On Saturday, President Sheikh Mohamed spoke to King Charles III by telephone to congratulate him on his accession to the throne, wishing him well as he takes up the mantle that his mother bore so well for so long. Earlier that same day, Sheikh Mohamed spoke with UK Prime Minister Liz Truss.

Many more of these discussions about the future will happen after the funeral, but before the event it is natural that most have focused on remembrance.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud offered his condolences to King Charles III by phone. On Friday, The National spoke to recently retired veteran Kuwaiti diplomat Khaled Al Duwaisan, who met the Queen on more than 150 occasions. About the final time, at her platinum jubilee in June, Mr Al Duwaisan said: “I can’t believe that at this age, her mind, her body, her sense of humour – she was wonderful.“ He also discussed how her passing was felt deeply in Kuwait and the help that her relationship with the country offered during Iraq's invasion of the country in 1990. And on Wednesday, Mansoor Abulhoul, the UAE's ambassador to the UK, wrote in an op-ed for The National that: "For Emiratis, she represented the very best of British identity and character ... The UK is an important friend and ally, and the Queen served as monarch for the entire history of our country. So today we feel profound sadness, as well as gratitude."

It is not just leaders and officials who are having these conversations. Nouria Naji, director of the Yemen Education and Relief Organisation that works to improve access to education for poorer children in the country, described "a great honour and great pride" at being made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for transforming the lives of women and children in Yemen. In the UAE, residents have been flocking to Dubai's Queen Elizabeth 2 Hotel to leave flowers and pay their respects. Next to the memorial, Suma Gogana spoke of the moment as a "huge loss for everyone".

Tomorrow will be the culminating point of what has been a fittingly ceremonial and historic period to say goodbye to Queen Elizabeth, who will go down as one of the great modern leaders. In his interview, Mr Al Duwaisan summed up the momentousness of the episode, saying “Britain will not be the same as when she was in power”.

That is true, but in the days and weeks ahead, more about the exciting future of a new UK will become clear. Its friends in the Gulf and around the world will be watching closely.

Published: September 18, 2022, 1:30 PM