The Queen has said goodbye to Oman and immediately received an invitation to return from the country’s Sultan.
The two heads of state are old friends and as they parted company at the end of the British monarch’s two-day state visit, the Middle East ruler asked her to “come and visit us”.
They have known each other for many years and despite the fact the sovereign last visited Oman in 1979 it is thought they have kept in touch during his frequent private visits to the UK.
The Arab ruler staged an equestrian extravaganza in the Queen’s honour o that featured displays of horsemanship, riding stunts, races and even two goats who bowed for the Queen.
And she was presented with two fabulous gifts before a state banquet held in her honour on Friday – a 21-carat gold engraved vase and a Faberge-style egg containing a musical carousel. The monarch also joined the Sultan at an exhibition of paintings from the Tate on loan to Oman which included works by Constable, Turner and Gainsborough.
The Oman trip was the second leg of the Queen’s five-day visit to the Gulf with the Duke of Edinburgh. The first stop was Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, where she unveiled plans by the architects Foster and Partners for the state’s first national museum.
At Muscat International airport’s royal terminal the two heads of state parted like friends making the kind of small talk heard whenever people say goodbye.
They walked along a red carpet flanked by Oman’s Royal Guard chatting and at the foot of steps leading up to the chartered British Airways jet the Sultan turned to the Queen and said: “come and visit us,” while the Queen smiled warmly and said: “I’ve had a lovely time.”
The Arab ruler then told the Sovereign, who wore a floral patterned pink and green pastel dress, “safe journey back,” before she walked up the steps with Philip then paused at the top to turn and wave at the Sultan. They were followed by the Foreign Secretary William Hague and his wife Ffion who had joined the Queen for her Gulf visit.
The Sultan waited patiently in the bright sunshine for a few minutes for a stewardess to close the aircraft door flanked by his Royal Guard. As the plane, flying the Royal Standard from a window in the cockpit, slowly taxied away it was watched by the ruler and Omani officials before the banner was lowered and it finally took off heading for London.