Dubai's 'QE2' falls silent for Queen Elizabeth II's funeral

Britons express pride at watching the historic event on the former ocean liner, now a floating hotel

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As the eyes of the world fell on London's Westminster Abbey as Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest on Monday, Britons living thousands of miles from home paid their final respects from afar.

There were few more fitting venues from where people could watch the funeral service of a monarch who led her nation like few others than the Queen Elizabeth 2 former ocean liner. This was once the pride of the British shipping company the Cunard Line and is now a floating hotel in Dubai's Port Rashid. It was retired from active service in 2008 and opened to visitors in its current home four years ago.

Britons mixed with other people of other nationalities from all walks of life to bid farewell to the queen.

It was standing room only at The Golden Lion pub as the funeral service got under way.

“I can’t think of another venue outside of the UK that was more appropriate to remember the queen than this,” said Ferghal Purcell, general manager of the QE2.

“It has been so hard to judge what the interest would be but, as it has progressed, we knew we would need to plan for this.

“Every television that can get a signal is on showing the funeral, in the Golden Lion, the Queen’s Grill and the Lido."

Ferghal Purcell, general manager of the QE2, said the retired ocean liner was a fitting venue for people to pay their respects to Britain's longest-serving monarch. Antonie Robertson / The National

More than 3,000 people signed a book of condolence at the QE2. Meanwhile, hundreds of flowers, teddies and messages of remembrance were left close to a bust of the queen first unveiled in 1969, the year the grand old lady of the seas made her first trans-Atlantic voyage.

Venue honours Queen Elizabeth II

"Every seat is booked, and we have a special afternoon tea," said Mr Purcell, from Ireland.

"Families and friends wanted to come together to pay their respects in a special venue, as this is.

“There is a lot of emotional pride in what the queen stood for and achieved in her lifetime.

"When the funeral began, the bar went silent ― it was a special moment.

"The QE2 is part of the queen’s legacy and it has been a wonderful opportunity to show that."

British ambassador to the UAE Patrick Moody spoke at a service to remember the queen at St Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

The church also opened a book of condolence.

The commemoration requiem was attended by members of the British embassy, Emiratis and UAE residents such as Lucy Davis, from London.

'A moment in history'

Ms Davis, an interior designer who has been in the UAE for 13 years, travelled from Abu Dhabi with her six-year-old daughter to watch the funeral service at the Queen’s Grill on the QE2 on Monday.

“It was quite a long way to come, but with everything that had happened over the past few days, I felt very far from home,” she said.

“I wanted to mark the occasion with something that my oldest daughter would remember, rather than just watch the service at home on the sofa.

“It has been a special day, a real moment in history that will not happen again.

"The QE2 is a fantastic ship, and a part of [the queen's] legacy, so it seemed fitting we should be here today.

“It is such a multicultural community in the UAE, but the outpouring of grief has been universal.

“We are all touched by this loss, It is like the world has lost its granny.”

Many visitors dressed in black, or wore full mourning attire to watch the service on the many screens dotted around the several decks of the QE2.

There was a sombre and respectful atmosphere, but also one of celebration of the queen’s life amid the pomp and ceremony that unfolded throughout the afternoon.

Briton Kieron Clinton, 50, moved to Dubai only five months ago and wanted to pay his respects to the queen on board the QE2 with his wife Nancy and her mother.

“It was a bit of a last-minute decision and we thought we would have to book,” said Mr Clinton, who works in real estate.

“The Golden Lion was packed, so we could not get in there, but we managed to get a table in the Lido restaurant, which was great.

“I’m not sure I would have had the time to queue to see the queen lying in state If I was back in London, so this has been the next best thing."

Mr Clinton said the queen's death felt like "the end of an era", as the monarch had been "the one constant in my life".

“No other country does pageantry quite like the British and it fills you with pride," he said.

“When we talk in the future about where we all were for the queen’s funeral, I will be proud to say I was on board the QE2 in Dubai.”

Updated: September 19, 2022, 12:23 PM