There is a busy autumn ahead for the British royal family with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's Canada tour, Prince Harry's trip to the Caribbean and now the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall's official visit to the Middle East.
Prince Charles, 67, will embark on a tour to Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates in November 2016 with his wife of 11 years, Camilla – exactly 30 years after he visited the region with his late ex-wife, Diana, Princess of Wales. However, Charles and Camilla last visited the Middle East in 2013 when they spent time in Oman.
Clarence House said in a statement: "On behalf of the British Government, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will undertake official visits to the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Sultanate of Oman and the United Arab Emirates in November 2016. The tour will help to strengthen the United Kingdom's warm bilateral relations with key partners in the region."
Bahrain's government is dominated by members of its royal family. Ever since pro-democracy protesters were violently suppressed in the Arab Spring of 2011, Western campaign groups have accused the country of human rights abuses, some blaming the current crown prince for the crackdown on protests. Thus, a royal visit from Charles and Camilla could potentially spark controversy but IBTimes UK runs through the close friendships between British and Bahrain monarchy over generations.
The royal couple's visit comes at an interesting time as the British government's relationship with Bahrain was recently criticised in a report made by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in April. British MPs had claimed that there was "plainly a perception" that the issues of human rights had been downgraded in the government's relationships with countries in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain.
Despite what seems to be a strained relationship between Britain and Bahrain on paper, the royals from both nations have maintained a strong bond over generations.
During The Queen's 90th birthday celebrations in May, the King of Bahrain – Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa – was seated in prime position in the front row of the royal box in Windsor Castle. But the relationship can be traced back decades as the Queen was once pictured sipping tea with the current king's late father, Emir of Bahrain, Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, on a jalsa (low sofa) during a royal visit to the Middle East in 1979. Later in 1989, the current king – the then crown prince – joined Prince Charles and his father Prince Philip in a horse and cart at Royal Ascot.
Princess Diana, along with Charles, paid a visit to the country for a week-long visit that took in Oman, Qatar and Saudia Arabia in November 1986. Charles' upcoming tour echoes the last one he made with his former wife exactly three decades ago.
Prince Charles has since paid three visits to Bahrain; the last one was in 2007. His younger brother Prince Andrew has also been hosted by Bahraini royals – including a visit in 2014. As a welcoming gift, he was presented with a decorative metal box from the current Crown Prince of Bahrain, Sheik Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. He also received a floral display during the same trip.
Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa has built a steady and good relationship with the British monarchy as he continues his father's work. The relationship has prompted criticism at times – especially after the Crown Prince withdrew his acceptance of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding in 2011. This was no doubt due, in part, to human rights activists threatening to disrupt his stay in London with some going as far as to say he was the chief architect of the crackdown of the Arab Spring uprising.
But over the years, and in general, the two royal families have maintained a healthy and close bond. IBTimes UK will announce more details of Charles and Camilla's Middle East tour shortly.