Last week, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Her reign – coinciding with the growth of air travel – had her criss-crossing the planet for over half a century, with frequent stops in the Middle East. (Her second-ever state visit was to Libya.)
Her trips were more than pomp and circumstance. A 1979 state tour to six Gulf countries drew international attention with great speculation about how Arabs might treat a female dignitary. The Middle East was still a mystery to most westerners and it was also a time of regional turmoil; Iran's Islamic Revolution had begun a month before, with the shah now replaced by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
More than 60 journalists joined that journey, and their coverage of life in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi, and the United Arab Emirates opened eyes around the world. The Queen already knew the Emirati rulers through a shared passion for horse racing – they were frequent visitors to their British stud farms and stables – and Arab royalty were often educated in British schools. But her travels here, and resultant media attention, broadcast Arab culture and commerce to a wider audience.
Sixty years of official touring provide a pictorial and colorful record of Arab leadership, linked to the legacy of one enduring woman who spans Arab extinct monarchs to Arab 'Spring' leaders. Look at some of the rulers she befriended along the way.