MUSCAT // An exchange of gifts between Queen Elizabeth II and her host, the ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, highlighted the British monarch's four-day visit to the sultanate.
The Queen returned to the UK yesterday but not before the Sultan presented her with a 12-inch vase engraved in 21-carat gold and a gold Faberge egg with a top which, when opened, revealed a tiny toy horse.
In return, the Queen gave the Sultan, an avid fan of old clocks and watches, a first edition copy of The Elements of Clock and Watch-Work, first published in 1766. The book was signed by the author, Alexander Cummings, a Scottish watchmaker and mechanic who is perhaps more widely known as the first man to patent a design of the flush toilet.
The British foreign secretary, William Hague, said the Queen's visit, the first since 1979, was a testament to "strong UK-Omani relations... that go back more than 200 years".
There were hopes among British businessmen here that the Queen's visit would encourage the Sultan to look more favourably on companies in the United Kingdom, which lag behind their counterparts in the United States, South Korea and India in winning contracts for large-scale projects in Oman.
While Marhoon al Saadi, a footman of the Royal Guard of Oman, said his compatriots had nothing but "fond memories" about the Queen's visit, some had mixed feelings.
"Her visit was alright but we had to wait for up to an hour in our cars in a halted traffic every time her motorcade passed in the last four days," said Ameen al Jadidi, an oil rig engineer.
The glamour also failed to rub off on small business people with shops facing the main highways.
"With the constant road closures, we have lost quite a bit of business," said Abdulrahman al Saifi, who owns and runs a stationery shop in Muscat