x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Time Frame: Sheikh Rashid at 10 Downing Street

Dubai's first Ruler after it became part of the Emirates, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, paid a visit to Britain in 1972 to meet the then prime minister Edward Heath.

Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, right, and his son, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on a visit to the British prime minister's headquarters in 1972.
Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, right, and his son, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on a visit to the British prime minister's headquarters in 1972.

When Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum paid an official visit to London in August 1972, he was no longer just the Ruler of Dubai but also Vice President of the UAE.

This official photograph, taken at 10 Downing Street, shows Sheikh Rashid and his younger son, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, together with Edward Heath, then prime minister of Great Britain.

Here is a group of men who once shared a common path, but now see their nations heading in new directions. The old hegemony is gone. The previous December, the seven Trucial States dissolved their treaty ties with Britain, creating a new nation that had already joined the Arab League, taken its seat at the United Nations and begun to develop an independent relationship with other countries.

Britain has effectively ended the Age of Empire and is looking for partners closer to home.

The following year, the Heath government will take the UK into the Common Market, the community of nations now known as the European Union. And so the events of 1972 will have different significance to these leaders. The day before this gathering, Sheikh Rashid will have learnt of Libya's plan, later abandoned, to create one nation with Egypt.

The British leader is facing growing industrial unrest at home, while Northern Ireland is descending deeper into a spiral of violence between the Protestant community and the Roman Catholic minority.

Yet as the image clearly shows, the old friendship is not forgotten. Sheikh Mohammed, now Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, is still a frequent visitor to the UK, while British leaders also enjoy a warm welcome here.

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae.