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Duke of York attends event at The Club

Marie-Louise Olson

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ABU DHABI // Prince Andrew, the British Duke of York, attended an event at The Club in Abu Dhabi last night to mark the UAE's 40th Anniversary.

The affair was also a prelude to honour The Club's 50th anniversary next year.

Prince Andrew arrived in a sleek black car and was greeted by a group of children who had turned out in excitement to wave the British and UAE flags.

The event, which was held in the The Club's new gardens, also was attended by the British Ambassador to the UAE, Dominic Jermey, and about 500 members, who showed up to meet the prince in person.

Prince Andrew was in high spirits as he walked around to chat with guests, making jokes and asking questions.

"So where are you all from and how long have you been here?" he asked.

Vivienne Sullivan, a British expatriate and a member of The Club for 14 years, was impressed.

"He was so easy to talk to and very friendly," Ms Sullivan said.

Prince Andrew was shown around the gardens to view a collection of historical photographs of the establishment dating back to its opening in 1962.

"The Club is nearly as old as I am, which is deeply concerning actually. I actually predate it by a couple of years," he said.

Prince Andrew, a regular visitor to the UAE, said he was "really, really pleased" to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the UAE.

"The relationship that the UK has had with the then Trucial States and now the United Arab Emirates, and in particular Abu Dhabi, over the past 40 years is very strong," he said.

"This is a milestone. When you think back to the 1960s - where it was and where it is today and its globally significant position, and look at the change that has happened only in the last few years to the skyline around here, it makes us think how important our relationship is."

Immediately before the Duke of York unveiled a painting by the Abu Dhabi artist Julia Ibbini, he said: "Members of the royal family cannot go anywhere in the world, as far as I can work out, without being required to remove some item of … cover, should I say.

"So, without further ado, I'm going to whip this off."

The colourful painting represents the changes that have taken place in the country for the past 40 years and is expected to hang in The Club to commemorate the relationship between the UAE and the UK.

Prince Andrew was also invited to have a preview of the blueprint of the Al Nadi Tower, which will be built next year to mark The Club's anniversary.

The 12-metre tall structure was designed by the Swiss architect Andre C Meyerhans, who also designed the Garhoud Bridge in Dubai, and is expected to be erected at The Club's breakwater directly across from Sowwah Island, which is soon to be built.

During Prince Andrew's two-day visit to the capital he also inaugurated the Brighton College Abu Dhabi, a new campus of the UK institution, and an exhibition displaying portraits of Emirati Olympians.

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