WINDSOR CASTLE // It began with a 21-gun salute that greeted Sheikh Khalifa the moment he stepped from his car and was welcomed by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
It ended with an exchange of speeches and toasts over a state lunch at the nearly 1,000-year-old Windsor Castle - home of the British monarch, the largest inhabited castle in the world, and the longest occupied palace in Europe.
In between, the welcoming ceremony for the start of Sheikh Khalifa's two-day state visit to Britain was filled with the kind of pomp and circumstance for which this country is renowned around the world.
The two heads of state were marking what they praised as a close and deep-rooted strategic relationship.
"Cooperation between our nations now ranges from our thriving educational and tourism links, joint defence projects, security and foreign policy issues, to our increasing investment in each other's economies," Queen Elizabeth said in her welcoming speech.
It is a relationship, she said, that "draws strength" not only from the links between the royal families, governments and people, but "a shared sense of ambition".
"I hope, Your Highness, that as a result of this visit, our two nations will build on this historical and successful foundation and continue to work together to create a more productive and secure future," the queen concluded.
Sheikh Khalifa expressed his confidence that the relationship between the two nations would continue to deepen and develop.
"We shall strive to develop further the long-established bilateral relations that exist between the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom in all fields, in order to achieve the interests of our two friendly countries," he said in his speech.
"Indeed, it is my hope that this current visit serves to reinforce our deep-rooted and steadfast friendship that has continued for many, many years."
The two spoke at a formal state lunch for 60 dignitaries and officials, before sitting down to a meal that included quail eggs, lamb from the Windsor estate and creme brulee.
Among the attendant dignitaries were Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Presidential Affairs; Sheikh Hamad bin Zayed, Chief of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court; and Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Development and International Co-operation.
Also attending were David Cameron, British prime minister; Ed Miliband, opposition leader; William Hague, foreign secretary; and Philip Hammond, defence secretary.
Sheikh Khalifa and senior UAE officials will hold formal meetings with Mr Cameron and other senior British ministers today, where the range of the relationship, from trade, to defence, to foreign policy, is to be discussed.
But yesterday was all about ceremony, a well-practised and long-established routine.
On a sunny but chilly day, Sheikh Khalifa and Queen Elizabeth passed crowds of thousands on the streets of Windsor - a small town west of London - at the head of a procession of five horse-drawn carriages accompanied by the mounted British Household Division, before entering the grounds of Windsor Castle.
There they were greeted by a guard of honour formed by the 1st Battalion of the Welsh Guard.
Sheikh Khalifa was escorted by Prince Philip to inspect the guard of honour before joining Queen Elizabeth on a dais as a number of cavalry units marched past, including the Mounted Band of the Life Guards, the Sovereign's Escort of the Household Cavalry and the guard of honour.
Also represented were the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, with the horse-drawn gun carriages holding the First World War I cannon used earlier in the 21-gun salute.
The two sovereigns then retreated before the official lunch began for the exchange of gifts.
Sheikh Khalifa gave the British monarch a five-strand necklace of pearls sourced from the waters of the Arabian Gulf, and a gold and jewelled framed family portrait.
Queen Elizabeth reciprocated with a bronze-painted wooden falcon's head statuette mounted on a marble base, in recognition of Sheikh Khalifa's passion for falconry.
The lunch was held at the lavishly furnished Waterloo Chamber, where staff were busy measuring the exact distance from table to chair, and between chairs, as they set the single long table for lunch.
The chamber is decorated in commemoration of Britain and her European allies' victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.
Portraits of the notable European political figures who joined forces against the French army line the panelled walls and circle the vast room, the ceiling of which is built to resemble a ship's timbers.
The carpet, woven by prisoners for Queen Victoria's golden jubilee but not finished until 1894, weighs two tonnes. It took 50 soldiers to roll it up and move it when it was threatened by the fire at the castle in 1992.
Queen Elizabeth, as hostess, also personally chose table arrangements, from the choice of china to the flower arrangements - fresh white and blue roses in this case - and centrepieces.
The state visit is only the second by a UAE President to the UK, following Sheikh Zayed's visit to Britain in 1989.
But it comes less than three years after Queen Elizabeth travelled to the UAE for her second state visit, in 2010.
Her first was in 1979.
It is an unusually quick exchange of state visits that analysts say speaks to the importance of relations, and a desire on both sides to continue to deepen ties that go back to the 1820s, and long before the founding of the UAE.
The Emirates has become Britain's 13th largest export market, and bilateral trade is on target to reach £12 billion (Dh68.46bn) by 2015, a target set back in 2010 with the establishment of the UK-UAE Taskforce.
UAE investments in Britain reached US$8 billion (Dh29.38bn) last year.
The UAE's' profile in Britain has been lifted by investment in high-profile infrastructure projects such as the Emirates Airline, a cable car that links north and south London over the Thames at Greenwich.
Then there are headline-grabbing ventures into British football, with Sheikh Mansour's ownership of Manchester City and Emirates Airline's sponsorship of Arsenal's stadium in North London.
More than 1 million Britons took holidays in the UAE last year, where more than 100,000 UK nationals live for work or study.