A special royal assignment

DUBAI - Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were very happy with the warm Arab welcome and the hospitality they received on their three-day official visit to the UAE in February 1979, royal photographer and artist Ramesh Shukla remembered.

By (Staff Reporter)

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Published: Sun 28 Nov 2010, 12:30 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:11 PM

“They smiled all the time and waved at the thousands of people who gathered at the venues of the events,” Ramesh recalled while talking to Khaleej Times at his Four Seasons Ramesh Gallery on Zabeel Road.

Dressed in a well-fitting dark grey suit, the 72 year-old photographer sat in a quiet corner of the gallery decorated with the history of the UAE in pictures.

On the two walls of the corner were photographs of the country and its people as they were in 1965, the year when Ramesh arrived in the UAE. His wife, sitting in a room behind the corner, handed him a cardboard box full of photographs.

The photographs of the visit of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh to the UAE were the subject of the interview.

Ramesh had the opportunity to cover two events of the Queen in Dubai on February 25 and 26.

The first was the inauguration of the new Dh60 million Dubai Municipality building on Creek Road.

The Queen was presented an 18-carat gold key to Dubai on the occasion. The key, weighing about half a kilogramme, was presented by Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, then Finance Minister and President of the Dubai Municipal Council.

“Shaikh Hamdan and Kemal Hamza, Director of the municipality, had told me to come to the Municipality in the morning to photograph the glittering inaugural ceremony,” Ramesh said.

“I was the only photographer allowed to go close to the Queen who smiled at me while I was taking the pictures,” he said. “At times, she would specially stop for me to be able to take her pictures. Before leaving the municipality, she gave me the thumbs up. The Queen must have been impressed by my work,” the snapper said with a big smile.

“The crowd burst into cheers as the royal visitors arrived at the municipality. The Queen unveiled the plaque outside the building, signed the visitors’ book as the first visiting head of state, toured the building and attended a reception,” he said.

The second event photographed by Ramesh was the Queen’s meeting with leading businessmen hosted by the UAE Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry at the Hilton hotel at the Trade Centre complex.

On her arrival, she was welcomed by senior businessmen like Juma Al Majid, Majid Al Futtaim, and Saif Al Ghurair. She later went into a meeting with the business community at the hotel.

“I had taken my wife along with me to the hotel. She had the honour of talking to the Queen for a couple of minutes,” Ramesh said.

On the Queen’s assignment, Ramesh used a Rolleicord 120 negative camera gifted to him by his father on his 15th birthday in India.“My father had asked me about the gift I wanted for my birthday. I had told him that I wanted a camera,” he said,

“Today, I have 22 cameras, but the Rolleicord is my star camera,” he said while taking out the camera from a glass cabinet.

“The camera does not work anymore, but I have kept it safely. Many people wanted it for their collection, but I have politely said, ‘no’”, he said.

Ramesh came to Dubai 45 years ago on a ship with 50 Indian rupees and a bicycle. Since then, he has taken hundreds of thousands of photographs of the UAE, its land, its leaders, it people, and visiting VVIPs.

“I have photographed several heads of state, but photographing the Queen was a special assignment,” Ramesh said.


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