He hails from a family that brought together the worlds of British and UAE literature. Now, as ambassador, Mansoor Abulhoul has the opportunity to open a new era in ties between the two nations.
"Engaging with the UK public I see as a key theme for me," he told The National. "I see the human element as the big thing – we've got so much there."
One eye-catching promise already put on the table is that the ambassador, an avid cyclist, will tour the entire length of Great Britain. “I see sports as a great medium in terms of how nations can interact,” he said. “One thing I’ve pledged is cycling from the north of Scotland to Land's End over the course of my ambassadorship.
“Some of the embassy team have jumped at the opportunity to join me and I welcome that and I’ve a lot of friends, British people, I used to cycle with in the UAE saying to me that 'I'll join you for a leg'.”
Ideally starting at the remote John O’Groats peninsula in Scotland, Mr Abulhoul plans to also visit the capital of the British oil industry in Aberdeen, taking a detour to Gordonstoun, the public school once attended by Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.
“I’ll use these opportunities to meet the wider British public, hear what’s on their minds and learn more,” he said. “I think it's very important that I represent the UAE not just in London but across the country.”
Mr Abulhoul recognises there will be some steep slopes to ascend in his new posting as well. The task of traversing the suddenly uncertain terrain of British politics, where the prime minister is stepping down and a new Conservative Party leader will face the challenge of running a minority government, should be facilitated by his studies in politics and Arabic at Leeds University.
“It’s a fascinating time in British politics,” he says diplomatically. “Whoever is next prime minister, we’ll be there to open dialogue with them.”
Mr Abulhoul affirms that Britain remains focused on its international long-term commitments and that both his own country and his hosts are fully committed to a deep security partnership. “It’s about the stability of the region, it’s about our security – our leadership has worked on this with leadership of the UK and will continue to do so," he said.
One of the highlights of the coming year will be witnessing three UAE cadets graduating from Sandhurst, the prestigious Royal Military Academy.
Having worked in the prominent family retail business Magrudy’s, Mr Abulhoul wants to bring to bear some the interpersonal skills common in customer-facing businesses. Allied to his mother’s family roots in Cambridge, he has a unique perspective to build bridges. “My focus will be telling the UAE story here,” he says. “I see it as uniting the two parts of my life.
Using the wider platform of cultural links and other established ties is a firm priority. The ambassador praised the embrace offered by his predecessor, Sulaiman Almazroui, to the Special Olympics movement as well as long-standing UAE projects, including the upcoming opening of the Zayed Centre at Great Ormond St Hospital next month.
The Year of Tolerance provides a powerful narrative for the UAE, he believes, as does the Dubai Expo, which is all about “connecting minds, creating the future”.
As the event draws closer, excitement is growing. “Dubai has a lot of experience of big events and they’ve always delivered,” he observes. “There’s an entire city being built for this event. It’s the first time it’s been hosted in our region and it’s going to be about developing the human mind in global co-operation, a real issue of the day.”
An audience with Queen Elizabeth II is much anticipated and soon after his arrival, the ambassador was able to return to the Royal Ascot race meeting, a high point of the British summer.
“I see it as such a point of shared values between the UK and the UAE,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed Royal Ascot and its similarities with Dubai World Cup as a highlight of the calendar.”