David Pryce took this photo of Queen Elizabeth II in Abu Dhabi during her first state visit to the UAE in 1979 Image Credit: David Pryce

Dubai: It was February 1979 and Queen Elizabeth II made her first state visit to the UAE, a young nation that was barely eight years old back then.

David Pryce

For David Pryce, who arrived in the UAE two years before the Queen’s visit, it was an opportunity for him to see the British monarch up close – and with pure luck and utter perseverance, he not only had a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth, he was also able to take a very memorable picture of the visiting queen.

This is his personal account, as exclusively told to Gulf News:

“By the time Her Majesty the Queen made her state visit in 1979, I had already been in the UAE for two years. At that time, I was living in the desert in the Western Region where I was tasked with planting 80,000 trees to form a green belt around the soon to be built town of Ghayathi. To collect supplies for the camp and staff, I made weekly trips to Abu Dhabi along the ‘highway’ which consisted of a narrow strip of tarmac just wide enough for two-way traffic.

When I learned of the Queen’s visit, I made plans to be in Abu Dhabi in the hope of seeing her reasonably close. The route of the procession was published in the press in advance, and I picked an area where I thought there would be minimal people to obstruct any possible view.

‘Making shortcuts’

I was driving an old green Range Rover and I purchased a couple of small British ‘Union’ flags and attached them to the wing mirrors of the car. There were no pavements in Abu Dhabi in 1979 and curb stones were only used at the many roundabouts so driving from point to point was relatively easy and shortcuts were numerous.

I picked a quiet area and waited to see if I would be able to see the Queen and sure enough, she drove right past me waving. To me, it really felt like she was waving directly at me and it was a huge thrill to be able to see her so close.

My plan now was to leapfrog ahead of the convoy and try to ‘spot’ her again. So, I jumped in my green Range Rover and dashed across to the next parallel road and raced forward. Luckily for me I did indeed manage to get ahead of the Queen’s car and was able to park on the sand next to the road and snap another picture.

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‘Biggest moment’

“The three-day state visit was a period of pride for me and gratitude for the tremendously warm greetings she received from the UAE. Still, my biggest moment was seeing her drive past, window down and smiling at me no more than 8 feet away.”