Britain's Prince Andrew reflected on his royal relationship with Sheikh Zayed at a celebration of the UAE Founding Father's life in London — saying he inspired his 'love" of the region.
The Duke of York, speaking at an event marking the centenary of the late UAE ruler's birth hosted by the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, reminisced about his personal encounters with Sheikh Zayed, including passing on a gift to The Queen.
He recalled being gifted some 10 cases of halwa — an Arabian sweet — on a visit to the Emirates decades ago, only to be unsure what to do with such a vast quantity of the confectionery.
On his return to London, he gave the gift to his mother, Queen Elizabeth.
“I walked into mother’s sitting room. I have bought you a present, I said.”
Speaking of Sheikh Zayed’s last years, he remembered him as a “truly interesting and engaging person right to the end”.
“He was a very influential figure in my understanding and my love of the region”.
Sir Harold Walker, a former British Ambassador to the UAE, also shared his memories, recalling Sheikh Zayed’s “slow speaking, gravelly voice”.
“He had an air of authority, you knew he was a man of authority,” said Mr Walker.
“His Islam led him to believe that all men were worthy of respect.”
Adding an Emirati voice to the warm recollections, Rashid bin Shabib, editor of Brownbook, a guide to urban life in the Middle East, stressed it was important to recognise Sheikh Zayed’s legacy in moving the UAE forward.
Cautioning against nostalgia, he instead argued for the need to continue to build a “more pragmatic, more modern” UAE.
Also in attendance was UAE Deputy Ambassador the UK, Ms Rawdha Al Otaiba.
Since Sheikh Zayed’s death, Prince Andrew has gone on to build a close personal relationship with the president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed through a number of visits to Abu Dhabi, and the UAE over the years.
Only last year he paid to a visit to the capital's latest cultural attraction, Louvre Abu Dhabi, shortly after its opening.
In 2017, he launched Pitch@PalaceUAE, the emirate’s own chapter of a worldwide effort to encourage entrepreneurship and promote social and economic development.
The relationship between the UAE and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies which hosted the event at London’s Royal Society, runs deep.
The centre, which is regarded as one of the leading institutions of Islamic Studies in the world, last year inaugurated the Sheikh Zayed mosque, only the fourth in the city of Oxford, which the UAE supported to the tune of Dh120 million.