Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

The UAE has become diplomacy’s home away from home

In just a few decades the nation has come to be the meeting place of world leaders

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Ras Al Khaimah. AFP
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Ras Al Khaimah. AFP

It is 38 years since British prime minister Margaret Thatcher made her first visit to the UAE, then a young nation celebrating its tenth anniversary.

The details of the historic 1981 visit can be found among the quarter of a million documents in the Arabian Gulf Digital Archive, now online.

They offer a fascinating snapshot of a young nation at the start of its journey from sleepy backwater to bustling cosmopolitan hub, a meeting place for world leaders, scientists and captains of industry.

In 1981, Mrs Thatcher’s golf-loving husband Denis had to make do with a nine-hole sand course.

It is something of an understatement to note that since then the UAE has successfully transformed itself into a destination to which the whole world is drawn. The only golfer playing on sand here today is the one who has strayed into a bunker on one of the world-class courses.

Today, with the best hotels, business facilities and leisure opportunities, the UAE is a key destination, not just for tourists but for the organisers of every kind of business and political conference, from this year’s World Government Summit, a forum attended by global leaders and dedicated to shaping the future of governments, to the UN’s Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting, at which world governments convened to discuss the defining issue of our time.

In the coming winter months, as in every year, the UAE will play host to thousands of delegates attending a cavalcade of top-level conferences. None will be here just for the golf.

The UAE’s attraction is not just about the first-class facilities, the reliable weather or even the unrivalled network of international air connections.

The country has deliberately and successfully established itself as a champion of tomorrow, a beacon of modern, open thinking and home to a can-do spirit of innovation to which the likeminded of the world are naturally drawn.

For the thousands who flock here each year to map out the future, to say nothing of the 25 million expected to flood in for Expo 2020, the UAE is among the best environment in which to envisage tomorrow’s world.

Updated: August 15, 2019 07:18 PM

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