‘He is a celebrity’: Prince William electrifies Expo 2020 Dubai

Future king brings British royal glamour to Dubai for the final part of his historic visit

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As it happened: Prince William's visit to the UAE

As ­Elton John’s Rocket Man boomed out across Al Wasl Plaza on Thursday, Prince William’s first official visit to the UAE came to a soaring close.

It was the UK’s “national day” at Expo 2020 Dubai, where all things British were celebrated.

But the people were only interested in one thing – the Duke of Cambridge.

His first official visit to the UAE was marked by a series of high-level engagements. The duke met Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, and toured the Abu Dhabi mangroves. Earlier, he visited Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port to see how it tackles the illegal wildlife trade.

But the Expo 2020 leg of the historic visit brought the trip to life. It was here where he embarked on an impromptu walkabout, shook hands and met families who had been queuing for hours.

“I’ve been a fan of his mother when I was very little, so I’ve been following him all my life,” said Hania Kazmi from Pakistan, who has lived in the UAE for six years and was waiting outside the UK Pavilion. “We were born in the same year,” she said with a chuckle.

“I’ve followed him since I was young through social media and all these things,” said Ms Kazmi. “Maybe he is going to be a king, and he is a celebrity.”

People began to gather outside the pavilion several hours before Prince William was due to visit at 7pm. Children waved Union Jacks and groups of people spontaneously broke into God Save the Queen as the British royal took over the Expo 2020 site for the day.

Prince William arrived at pavilion with the British ambassador to the UAE, Patrick Moody, and met UK ministers such as Nadine Dorries. But then the formalities were over.

As he walked outside, chants of “William, William, William” inspired a meet and greet where he shook hands and spoke to his fans who had waited hours in the afternoon winter sun.

Standing beside Ms Kazmi was Tinus Deysel. “It is exciting to know he is right here,” he said.

“I’m from South Africa, so growing up it was part of the Commonwealth. I will be in awe to see him and will be sending a picture, hopefully, to my mother soon.”

The Clarke family of four were visiting Expo 2020 while on holiday here from Portsmouth in England.

“We were visiting Expo and were quite keen to see Prince William while he is here,” they said. “As a royalist, it is really important to support him.”

After the meet and greet, Prince William met representatives of British businesses before heading to Al Wasl Dome, where the UK pavilion showcased talent from across Britain.

The band of the Coldstream Guards, one of the oldest British regiments, marched under the dome, in a musical extravaganza that also featured the music of Tom Seals and John Newman

“As our future king, it is a great opportunity [to see him],” the Clarke family said.

“There is a huge expat population here and tourism links between UK and Dubai. Maintaining and building on that is fundamental four our relationship to continue. I think it is fantastic he is here. It is great for the British population here as well.”

Updated: February 11, 2022, 4:40 AM