The First Gulf States Tour [1986]

On the six-day tour of the Arabian Gulf States, Diana was granted a freedom denied to other women in the desert kingdoms. She was invited to King Fahad's palace, a rare honor for a member of her gender, although she was not allowed to dine with the men. The Sultan of Oman presented Diana with a Queen's ransom in jewels and gave Prince Charles an Aston Martin sports car. But the royal couple outraged the locals when they perfunctorily kissed after a polo match, a sight that was banned from local TV screens lest it inflame Arab passions. Princess Diana tried to conform by wearing concealing clothes but still exposed her neck and left her head uncovered. At evening banquets, she appeared in long-sleeved demure dresses especially made for the Arabian Gulf States tour.




On the evening of 12 March 1989, the Prince and Princess of Wales flew into Kuwait on an aircraft of the Queen's Flight, at the start of their Gulf Tour. Whilst in Kuwait, they stayed in the Al Salam Palace at Shuwaikh City as guests of the Kuwait Government. During their visit, they had an audience with H.R.H The Emir, followed by lunch. They also had an audience with H.R.H The Crown Prince and Prime Minister, who hosted a dinner in their honor. 


The royal couple also attended a reception at the British Embassy and were entertained by two school bands from the Kuwait English School and The New English School. In Kuwait, Diana was treated like a queen and given a chest full of gold jewelry, a silver tea set, and a gold embroidered Bedouin gown. When she tried it on, about 60 photographers surged forward to capture Desert Queen Diana. During the tour, Princess Diana visited The Kuwait Handicapped Society, reflecting her ongoing interest in children and their needs. The 1989 Gulf Tour, however, had a darker significance. The Prince and Princess of Wales remained married in name. At various revealing moments, staff members working for the royal couple observed that they no longer worked as a team, were uncomfortable in each other's company, were distant with each other in public and competed to make a good impression on the press. But they were professional, doing a job as diplomatic ambassadors for Britain.


In Dubai, the camel race gave Princess Diana one of her biggest laughs of the trip. Dusk was falling as the royal couple took their seats at the floodlit camel race-track. About 20 camels were jostling at the start, but once the race began, the jostling got even worse. Despite the frantic efforts of the jockeys, some camels obstinately turned around and headed back against the flow of traffic. "How come they don't fall off?" Diana asked her host. After the race, Princess Diana was shown the jockeys' secret - thick patches of Velcro tape on the seat of their jodhpurs. 


The next day, the royal couple were taken sightseeing in the desert. After an exciting drive in the sand dunes, lunch was served where attendants pitched Bedouin tents in a nearby oasis. Deep pits had been dug in the sand, filled with red-hot charcoal to cook whole dead lambs. Charles and Diana took their seats cross legged on low cushions to eat the tender lamb with their fingers. Diana was a professional princess, knew enough Arab protocol, and effortlessly made a neat job of it while engaging her hosts in light conversation, who were impressed by her table manners and by her outfit; "My harem pants", as she called them.  


The Princess was due to fly back to London the next day, while the Prince continued to Saudi Arabia on a private visit. When news came that her flight was delayed, Dubai's Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed, immediately came to the rescue, ordering his private jumbo jet to be made ready. So, the Princess and her companions flew home from Dubai in what must be the world's ultimate private jet.



  • Portraits Of A Princess: Travels With Diana, By Patrick Jephson. Publication Year: 2004

The Second Gulf States Tour [1989]