ABU DHABI //When Kate Middleton pulled up in front of Westminster Abbey in a Rolls-Royce yesterday, Catherine Walker and five of her friends all cooed in unison.
Ms Walker, a Briton who has lived in Abu Dhabi for four years, hosted her own royal wedding tea party at her flat in the Tourist Club area. Only two of her guests were British, but Ms Walker said the magic and romance of the special day were universally understood.
"I just love all the pomp and circumstance - the horses, the guards, seeing the queen. It's so traditionally British," said Ms Walker, 39, who wore a red and white headpiece for the occasion.
"Up until the moment when Kate came out of the car, we were all sitting very still, very silent. And then when we saw the dress, we all went, 'Ooh' at the same time."
At the leisure facility The Club, aka the British Club, nearly 300 people watched the nuptials in rooms decked out in red, white and blue bunting, balloons and British flags. Children with Union flags painted on their faces played, while women in their most festive headwear wiped away tears during the ceremony.
"This is our future king and queen, but they've done such a good job making that link from tradition, which is often seen as old, to modern and young," said Karen Harvey, who has lived in the capital for four years. "They're representing a nation at such a young age, and I'm so proud of them."
Ms Harvey was joined by two friends in matching black wide-brimmed hats. The trio spent the run-up to the ceremony admiring the guests' attire, reminiscing about the last royal wedding and sharing stories of life back home.
"When we were getting ready this morning, it almost felt like we were actually going," said Sue Stevens, who moved to Abu Dhabi four years ago. "This level of excitement, it's just like we're there."
Linda Andrews, an American who recently moved to Al Ain, enjoyed tea service with three friends in a roped-off section of the dome at the Emirates Palace during the ceremony.
"We wanted the second best seat in the world," said Dr Andrews, the head of faculty at the Abu Dhabi Education Council. "It adds to the whole elegance of the affair."
Dr Andrews said the dress, the music and the celebrity guests took a back seat to one telling moment.
"I was interested in seeing how William would react to her when she met him at the altar," she said. "They say that is the most magical moment, when the groom looks at his bride on his wedding day. And he looked so happy. It really was sweet."