x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

News coverage of Queen's visit goes beyond glamour

Besides the usual preoccupation with attire and the upcoming royal wedding, newspaper reports underline the trip's significance for Britain.

LONDON // The Queen's new clothes and an informal invitation for Prince William and Kate Middleton to honeymoon in Abu Dhabi dominated British newspaper coverage yesterday of the royals' arrival in the UAE.

"Queen goes for gold" headlined The Sun, the nation's biggest selling newspaper, beneath a picture of Queen Elizabeth II who reportedly "shimmered" as she visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Robert Hardman, the royal correspondent of the Daily Mail, described the queen as being "shoeless and wearing a beekeeper-style shawl and hat" for the visit.

"Not only was the Queen the first visiting head of state to visit the mosque but it is seen as hugely symbolic here that the Supreme Governor of the Church of England should visit a place that, despite its young age, is a national shrine," he added.

While most of the British papers carried pictures of the Queen at the mosque, The Times reported that a member of "the Emirati royal family asked if Prince William might like to honeymoon there" after his wedding to Miss Middleton in April.

Richard Spencer, the Middle East correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, pointed out that the significance of the trip was emphasised by the fact that, unusually, William Hague, the British foreign secretary, was accompanying the royals during their five days in the UAE and Oman.

"The visit has taken on an unusually political flavour both with the change of government in Britain and increasing tensions with Iran a short distance away on the other side of the Gulf," he wrote.

"Officials in both Abu Dhabi and London make no bones about stressing the significance of the defence relationship as the West and its regional allies gear up for a possible confrontation with Iran. That may mean yet further withdrawal of traditional British support for Israel."

The Queen's meeting with Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid yesterday, the Telegraph added, "will be read locally as a vote of confidence after all the financial troubles and criticism the emirate has endured since the financial crisis broke".

American newspapers did not ignore the trip, either, with The Washington Post describing the royal visit as "underscoring the region's strategic significance".

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal commented: "The British charm offensive comes as the UAE - already the UK's largest Arab export market - grows in importance for Britain as a trade and investment partner."

According to the UK's Daily Express: "The Queen and Prince Philip went to Abu Dhabi on a mission to help the government meet a target of increasing annual trade between the two nations from £7.5 billion to £12 billion."

The Financial Times added that British businesses were hoping that trade between the UK and Gulf would receive "a significant boost" from the royal visit.

It added: "Ministers in the Conservative-led coalition have made it clear that they regard exports to the region as having been neglected under the previous Labour government."

Only the Guardian appeared to have ignored the royal visit. Its only news from Abu Dhabi yesterday was that Pakistan and South Africa had drawn the second Test.