Arabian horses, aerial displays and a welcome worth of royalty greets President Xi on three day state visit
Special show of affection reserved for new era of Chinese relations
The UAE displayed the pomp, ceremony and pageantry worthy of commemorating one of the most important state visits in a generation.
Cavalry processions, prized Arabian horses, banquets, musical concerts, aerobatic displays and even a new hot air balloon alliance thrown into the mix – this was a state visit unlike any other.
Welcoming a global superpower to the UAE, it was fitting the nation should pull out all the stops to greet President Xi Jinping and his sizeable delegation.
And it was more than just a red carpet.
A horse led cavalry accompanied China's limousine cavalcade as it arrived at the majestic Presidential Palace, as UAE leaders met to discuss future ties.
Immaculately dressed horsemen carrying the Five Star red flag rode in on their perfectly preened steeds, creating a striking image that will live long in the memory.
During formalities, the Order of Zayed was bestowed upon the Chinese President, in recognition and appreciation of his efforts to develop and strengthen overall friendship and cooperation.
It is the highest civilian honour awarded to kings and presidents.
Later, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, hosted a banquet in honour of his Chinese counterpart at Qasr Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Mohammed expressed his pride in the friendship ties which are based on trust, understanding and mutual care with the Chinese President.
During his visit, President Xi was gifted a five-year-old purebred Arabian horse, in honour of his state visit to the UAE.
The rabdan horse, Gay Gallardo Gay, won several regional and international championships in 2016, including the European Cup and the Paris World Cup.
Once described as immoral by Mao Zedong, Chinese attitudes towards horse racing appear to be softening with an experiment mooted to develop the southern island of Hainan into an equine sports hotbed.
Trade and tourism have been buzzwords of the week with co-operation and strategic alliance the foundation of discussions.
The scale of welcome offered to China has been seldom seen before, delivering with it an unmistakable message – this is an enduring friendship built to last.
On the side-lines of the signing of diplomatic agreements, the UAE Hot Air Balloon and the Chinese Panda Hot Air Balloon teams agreed a new partnership to invigorate cross-cultural exchange.
A new Chinese radio station has also launched to make expatriates living here feel more at home.
Meanwhile, Peng Liyuan, the First Lady of China, was offered a glimpse of traditional Emirati heritage and hospitality.
Mrs Peng brought a touch of glamour to the occasion, attracting comparisons with Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana for her sartorial elegance, during a musical orchestra at Emirates Palace dedicated to her visit.
A fusion of Chinese, European and Arab musical cultures intertwined to deliver a performance fitting of royalty and heads of state.
As the show began, three Emirati young musicians took to the stage carrying their instruments alongside their Chinese counterparts.
In tribute to the First Lady, endearingly referred to as The Peony Fairy and a keen folk singer herself, the musicians started playing a piece of Chinese music called A Small Murmuring River composed by Yigong Yin.
It was followed by Abu Dhabi, a piece composed by local artist Fayz Al Sayeed and a performance by Emirati pianist Fatima Al Hashemi of Camille Sain Saens’ ‘The Swan’.
The 32-year-old classical pianist, who is also the head of music at the Ministry of Culture, said it was the first time Emirati artists had played alongside Chinese musicians.
“The Swan is neither from our culture, nor theirs, so it brought us together,” she said.
“We only had two days to train together, and it ran very smoothly because the Chinese musicians are very professional.”
The evening was all the more captivating with a big moon and stars theme appearing on screen, and steam rising from the stage.
Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Mother of the Nation, hosted a banquet in honour of Mrs Peng at the Al Bahr Palace. Mrs Peng praised her host's efforts to empower women.
“Sheikha Fatima is a pioneer of women's empowerment and supports Emirati women to achieve their ambitions,” she said.
Mrs Peng was also given a private tour of Louvre Abu Dhabi with Noura Al Kaabi, Minister for Culture and Knowledge Development.
During the visit, road signs projecting messages in Mandarin included a sign on the E11 Abu Dhabi to Dubai reading: 'The UAE welcomes Xi Jinping, President of the Republic of China'.
At the conclusion of the three-day visit, President Xi was accompanied by a military guard of honour as he departed the UAE from the Presidential Airport.
The Chinese president now moves on to Africa, as Beijing moves to further cement its role as one of the continent’s closest allies. His tour takes him to Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa and then Mauritius.