Queen’s visit ends on a cultural high note

Queen Elizabeth II concluded her state visit to the UAE yesterday with the unveiling of plans for Saadiyat Island's Zayed National Museum and a state banquet in her honour.

November 25, 2010 - Abu Dhabi, UAE -   Hundreds of children wait for the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II at Emirates Palace to unveil a commemorative plaque to celebrate the commencement of construction of the Zayed National Museum on Thursday November 25, 2010.    (Andrew Henderson/The National)

ABU DHABI // Queen Elizabeth II concluded her state visit to the UAE yesterday with the unveiling of plans for Saadiyat Island's Zayed National Museum and a state banquet in her honour.

Watched by more than 2,000 invited guests, she arrived at an Emirates Palace garden party in a car which drove along the palace's beach to a red carpet.

After stepping out of the vehicle with her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, she was greeted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Earlier in the day, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid called the visit a sign of the UAE's "firm desire to build better relations and expand co-operation".

The Queen's second son, the Duke of York, and the British foreign secretary, William Hague, were also there to greet her, as was the British ambassador to the UAE, Dominic Jermey.

Dozens of Khaleeji dancers lined the carpet, chanting Arabic songs as she entered the party to rapturous applause from the guests.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid showed Her Majesty a model of the museum, designed by the British architects Foster and Partners to resemble five falcon feathers, and gave her a brief explanation of the five galleries it will contain. The Queen then pulled back a red curtain to reveal a plaque commemorating the start of construction.

The crowd - guests of the British Embassy and the Tourism Development and Investment Company - cheered and waved their Union Jacks and UAE flags as the Queen walked into the grounds.

They had a brief chance to meet her, too, as the Queen strolled around a semicircular walkway, smiling and collecting flowers from some of the hundreds of children perched on its fence.

After the garden party, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, hosted a state banquet at Al Mushrif Palace in the visitors' honour.

Navy and military were seen practising their marches yesterday morning in preparation.

The British national anthem was played, and the Queen was given a 21-gun salute. The Duke of Edinburgh also viewed a guard of honour.

A partnership celebration hosted by Mr Jermey in the afternoon provided a more intimate setting for the Queen to experience the blending of Emirati and British culture. She heard the recital of two poems in English and Arabic written by two students who won a British Council poetry competition.

A specially commissioned dance by the international artist Patricia Millns was also performed for the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Andrew.

There was also music from the pupils of the British School Al Khubairat, which the Queen visited in 1979 on her previous state visit to the UAE.

For all the pomp, there were also serious political achievements underlining the event. Agreements were made on a number of fronts including education and visas, and pledges for future co-operation were cleared.

The Duke of Edinburgh later joined Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohamed, the Crown Prince of Dubai, to watch a flyby of UAE and UK jets.

They met 80 UAE Forces veterans who had graduated from Britain's Naval, Air Force and Military (Army) Academies, and were accompanied by Prince Andrew, Sheikh Majid bin Mohamed - himself a Sandhurst graduate - and Mr Hague.

The Queen also visited Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Sheikh Zayed's widow.

According to the state news agency WAM, the Queen said she looked with "admiration to what women have achieved in the UAE".

Her Majesty's visit concluded last night as the royal party flew on to Oman.