ABU DHABI // As more than 2,000 invited guests gathered on the grounds of the Emirates Palace for yesterday morning's unveiling of the Zayed National Museum, the atmosphere was full of excitement, anticipation and a little nostalgia.
Marwan al Kaabi, a 29-year-old Emirati, said he had listened to his grandfather tell stories about visits by British royalty to what is now the UAE since he was a child.
"The British were here before the oil," he said. "My grandfather remembers them, and my parents told me about the last time the Queen visited. It is great to see her here today because it strengthens the already longstanding relationship between the two countries. It is good to see it come full circle."
Shirley Davies, a 69-year-old Briton who is here on holiday visiting her daughter, said the last time she saw the Queen was in 1956 in Nigeria.
"I was a teenager then, and this is the first time I have seen her since. I think she is wonderful and it means a lot to us in the UK to have her as the head of state."
With her was Dilys John, 76, from Swansea in Wales. She said the Queen deserved a lot of respect for working so hard.
"She is 84 and she has come all the way out here - she looks fantastic for her age and she never has a day off. She is really marvellous."
Fatima al Diwani, 23, said she was there because it was a moment in history. "There is a kind of romanticism surrounding the British royal family," said the Emirati marketing professional.
"We send our royal family to study in Sandhurst and we have a good personal and business relationship with the UK. It is important for us Emiratis to be here today."
Ian Shears, 49, the regional teaching centre manager for the British Council in Dubai, said it was significant that the crowd included expatriates and Emiratis from all backgrounds. "It's not often we get the chance to bring everyone together to celebrate and work on the union that the UK and the UAE share," he said. "At the British Council, our work is to encourage co-operation and to emphasise the links between the two states. This will highlight this effort and drive it forward."
His colleague, Jason Porter, from Nottingham, said although people tended to trivialise the British royals, everyone had a soft spot for the Queen.
"It is great to see her here today and it makes you feel nostalgic."
Miranda Ward, 50, a British expatriate who has been in the UAE for two years, said she was getting choked up at the thought of seeing her head of state. "We are all so far from home and having the chance to see the Queen makes me proud and patriotic," she said.