Sheikh Khalid wedding

The marriage of Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed bin Zayed at the Emirates Palace hotel draws dignitaries from across the world.

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ABU DHABI // Royalty, heads of state and former presidents converged on Abu Dhabi yesterday for the wedding of the son of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. The groom, Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed bin Zayed, spent several hours greeting about 2,000 guests at the private banquet held at the Emirates Palace hotel. The bride, who was not present, is the daughter of Sheikh Surour bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, the Chamberlain of the Presidential Court. Her name was not released.

Sheikhs from across the country attended the banquet, headed by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, as well as the father of the groom. Also present were Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Ruler of Fujairah, and Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Ruler of Ajman. Among the foreign guests were the Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was the only woman present, the former French president Jacques Chirac and the crown prince of Bahrain Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

Philippine officials said Mrs Arroyo felt honoured to be invited to the banquet. "The occasion signified the openness of the UAE Government and the gesture made to a lady president," said Libran Cabactulan, the Philippine ambassador. The guests and wedding party were dressed in ceremonial dishdashas of white and gold. The menu was a traditional Emirati banquet, which was one of several events planned to celebrate the marriage. Mrs Arroyo and Mr Chirac separately met Sheikh Khalifa and other senior royals yesterday, the state news agency WAM reported. They each discussed relations between their countries and the UAE.

Philippine officials said Sheikh Khalifa and Mrs Arroyo discussed the possibility of boosting the UAE investment in the Philippines. "President Arroyo said that despite the global economic crisis, the Philippines is doing fairly well because of its sound macro-economic policies," Mr Cabactulan said after the meeting. "She praised the UAE, particularly the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which she said had a solid financial base."

Mrs Arroyo expressed hope that the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority would consider investing in the Philippines. "In January this year, during the president's visit to Dubai, she met officials from ADIA, and she was hoping to have follow-up meetings with them," Mr Cabactulan said. "Sheikh Khalifa said he would look into this." "President Arroyo thanked the UAE for graciously hosting the overseas Filipino workers," the ambassador added.

She also said she hoped there would be more job opportunities for Filipinos in the UAE and also made a reference to the complexities arising from labour and visa issues. Some 320,000 Filipinos work in the UAE, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.