x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

16. An invitation to dinner with Queen Elizabeth in Abu Dhabi, 1979

To mark the nation's 40th anniversary, we feature 40 historic objects.

Visit <a href=40@40 for videos documenting the stories behind many of the historic objects in this series." src="/image/policy:1.393482:1499558131/image/jpeg.jpg?f=16x9&w=1024&$p$f$w=2589da4" srcset=" /image/policy:1.393482:1499558131/image/jpeg.jpg?f=16x9&w=700&$p$f$w=15b47cd 700w, /image/policy:1.393482:1499558131/image/jpeg.jpg?f=16x9&w=940&$p$f$w=14a127f 940w, /image/policy:1.393482:1499558131/image/jpeg.jpg?f=16x9&w=1024&$p$f$w=2589da4 1024w" class="img-responsive full-width"/>
Visit 40@40 for videos documenting the stories behind many of the historic objects in this series.
Britain's formal links with what is now the UAE began with a series of treaties in the 19th century, which established the region as an imperial protectorate, whose foreign affairs were determined from London.
When Queen Elizabeth sailed into Abu Dhabi on board the royal yacht Britannia in February 1979, it was not just the first state visit by a British monarch, but also confirmation that, with the creation of the UAE federation eight years earlier, the relationship between the two countries had changed.
But it was also an indication of the deep friendship between the rulers of Britain and the Emirates. "Most striking was the time she spent with His Highness Sheikh Zayed and with others from the ruling family," says Dominic Jermey, the current British ambassador to the UAE.
"The queen had a private meeting with Sheikha Fatima, which she greatly enjoyed and one of the reasons why she returned in 2010 was to have another private audience with Sheikha Fatima."
Elizabeth spent three days in the country, sailing from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, opening a number of projects, meeting the British and local communities and hosting a reception on Britannia, for which the official invitation is shown here.
The ambassador takes up the story: "There was a dinner first - it was a state banquet - which was Her Majesty's way of returning the hospitality of Sheikh Zayed and the other Rulers.
"This was an enormous affair. It had representatives from all the ruling families, from the military, from across the Government as well many people from the British community.
"After the banquet, Sheikh Zayed retired and there was a reception for an even larger group of people. So this was entertainment on a grand scale."
As ambassador, Jermey's responsibilities include more than 100,000 British citizens now living in the country. "Some of them have been here for 50, 60 years," he says.
"They are as much a part of the history of the UAE as the British community is part of the future of the UAE."