This month, the United Kingdom comes together to celebrate a remarkable achievement – the platinum jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
For the United Kingdom, this means a long weekend of leisure and fun, with celebrations organised throughout the country.
For the United Arab Emirates, it provides a moment to appreciate the decades of friendship our country has enjoyed with the queen, and to reflect on the wider bond between our nations.
For me, as ambassador, it also creates an opportunity to fondly remember my professional and personal experiences during my time in the UK while representing our wonderful country.
It is incredible to consider that the queen has witnessed the entirety of the UAE’s 50-year-history during her tenure. In many ways, she represents a constant when so much else has changed and progressed.
Since the signing of the UAE-UK Treaty of Friendship in 1971, the UAE has become an independent nation that has always retained a strong bond with the UK. And we have maintained our friendship with the queen, who first visited us in 1979, sailing into Abu Dhabi on board the royal yacht Britannia, to be greeted by His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Last month, following the passing of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the queen’s grandson Prince William followed in her footsteps, travelling to Abu Dhabi to pass on condolences to our new President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
These personal touchpoints could be taken for granted, but they are important. Decades ago, the queen herself set the direction of our bilateral relationship. Today, both nations can point to significant benefits from that relationship, spread across a variety of industries and sectors.
Our economic ties are stronger than ever. More than 100,000 Britons have chosen to make the Emirates their home. We are by far the UK’s largest trading partner in the region, and have made huge investments in the UK economy – investments that will help the UK to boost its digital infrastructure and meet its net-zero ambitions. We tackle climate change and fight crime together. We have developed as true partners and we will continue to build a strong future together.
It could be said that these developments are purely economic or politically expedient, but this is untrue. Fundamentally, the strength of the partnership between the UAE and the UK rests on the relationship between our two peoples. And the queen, for decades, has served to remind us of the strength of that relationship.
When I first moved to London three years ago to take up my role as Ambassador to the Court of St James, I was privileged to visit Buckingham Palace - travelling from the UAE embassy in a horse-drawn carriage known as a landau - to present my credentials to the queen. I was struck, though not surprised, by her keen interest and knowledge of the Middle East and the Emirates. It was fascinating to hear her recall that 1979 visit and her memories of meeting His Highness Sheikh Zayed 40 years previously.
At the time, I described our meeting to this newspaper as “an extraordinary experience – almost a little bit sort of magical”. Looking back today, I am grateful that this was an experience I was able to have. I promised I would do everything possible to further strengthen the relationship between our two countries, and this promise continues to guide me in my role as UAE Ambassador to the UK.
The queen is an icon, a towering figure in the history of the UK and the world, and an inspiration to us all. In the 70th year of her rule, she continues to embody the spirit of openness and friendship for which she is greatly admired in the UAE.
It is no surprise that people in the UK will celebrate all that the queen stands for this month. And that Emiratis will take time to reflect on and honour the friendship that she has shown us. I certainly know I will.
Mansoor Abulhoul is the UAE ambassador to the UK.