x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Traditional British knees-up ... in Dubai

RAK royals and government ministers were among a vibrant crowd that amassed at the British consulate in Dubai to celebrate William and Kate's nuptials with pomp and ceremony fitting to the grand occasion.

Expatriates gather at the British consulate in Dubai to celebrate the royal wedding.
Expatriates gather at the British consulate in Dubai to celebrate the royal wedding.

DUBAI // It was a perfect setting for a royal wedding - clear skies, coloured bunting fluttering in the breeze, anticipation growing among the hundreds of people who gathered to watch.

But this was not Buckingham Palace or Westminster Abbey - it was the British consulate in Dubai.

The sense of ceremony inside the consulate's grounds was no less vibrant than in London, with about 1,300 guests of various nationalities celebrating the occasion in typically British garden party style.

Notable guests included Sultan al Mansouri, the UAE Minister of Economy, and members of the Ras al Khaimah royal family.

The British ambassador, Dominic Jermey, said the occasion was an extension of Queen Elizabeth's visit to the country five months ago.

"The engagement was announced just before she arrived so this is like one long journey," he said.

With so many Britons and international expatriates in attendance, the event's turnout, he said, marked the long history of relations between the UAE and UK. "It's taking a new turn for the next generation now. Seeing David Cameron and Mohammed bin Zayed together shows there is a new history being made and that's worth celebrating."

Many guests wore symbols from the UK, from handbags to hats emblazoned with St George's Cross and Union flags.

Edward Tuinlan, who has lived in the UAE for 23 years, said the event's popularity signified the longevity of the royal family. "That sense of monarchy is important for British people still."

David Moleshead, a resident of 11 years, said it was a time for expatriates to realise where they come from and feel a sense of pride.

"When the whole world's looking on, you can't help but feel proud," he said. "This is what the Brits do best. Pomp and ceremony."

His wife, Janet, was eagerly awaiting the couple's first public kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace as man and wife, and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. "It's such great escapism from what's going on around the world right now," she said. "As Brits abroad it really brings us together."

Lubna Qassim, an Emirati expert in legal reform, said she has been following the story since the couple's engagement.

"Locals are all following this like it's one of us," she said. "It's an amazing feeling that this has captured the hearts of the whole globe."

On the lawns of the consulate, families enjoyed a traditional-style street party, with face painting and bouncy castles. Picnicking crowds from Dubai's societies including the St George's and St David's society cheered as the newlyweds shared their first kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, and again for their second.

The nearby Raffles Dubai was one of dozens of hotels in the country holding royal wedding parties.

At its Right Royal Brunch, bunting, union flags and helium union flag balloons lined the pathways in the garden area while screens beamed live feeds from British television stations.

Guests lined up to have their photos taken next to life-size cardboard cutouts of William and Kate and enjoyed traditional British summer punch drinks garnished with strawberries and blackcurrants.

Men and women dressed for the occasion, with an impressive array of feathered fascinators.

Philip Orford, 47, from Worcestershire, was in the Emirates for a stay at his property in Dubai Marina.

"We would have had a village party if we were at home but this is the next best thing; everyone has made a real effort," he said. Lynda Moon-Ryan, 43, a human resources manager who lives in Dubai, felt the atmosphere was that good, it was like being at the actual wedding.

"I've been watching all the build-up," she said. "All the union flags and bunting are great. All the hype is here. This morning and today I feel like I'm at an actual wedding."

Men, women and children raised their glasses for a toast and erupted into applause when the couple were pronounced man and wife.

Natalie Round, 29, was at the event with her husband Dave Hodgson and young daughter.

"It was fantastic," the recruitment consultant said. "And moving. I actually felt more part of it here because so many Brits came together. It was great to watch all the chefs and everyone watching the televisions for the ceremony."

The hotel's executive chef, Andrew Whiffen, said his team had been planning for more than two months.

"It's great doing British dishes that my team never get to do, like cheese and pineapple sticks," he said. "My Austrian pastry chef has learnt to make Wimbledon cake. It has just been fun to fly the flag."

mswan@thenational.ae

munderwood@thenational.ae