As the world bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth II on Monday and the streets of London are packed with mourners watching the hearse carrying the monarch’s coffin for the last ceremonial journey, hundreds of British expats in the UAE grieve the loss of their beloved Queen.
“Don’t cry Mommy,” said little Lana as she hugged her mother, Joanna Akram, at the Queen’s Grill in QE2. The mother and daughter were two of the over 300 guests on the cruise liner who had assembled to watch the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II live.
Queen Elizabeth II died on at the age of 96 on September 8 at her beloved Scottish estate in Balmoral. After a 10-day public mourning, her funeral was held on Monday, September 19, at the Westminster Abbey, where she got married and was crowned.
“I couldn’t be home in London so the QE2 was the next best thing we could do,” said Joanna Akram, who had come to the ship with her friends and their children. “It is a very emotional day for us. We wanted to bring our children so that we could create memories for them of the Queen we grew up with. I used to pass the Buckingham Palace everyday on my way to school and work throughout my life. So, essentially the Queen felt like a family member we hadn’t met.”
Christened and held close to the heart by her, the QE2 was one of the closest link the UAE had to Queen Eizabeth II. The liner has placed a bust of the Queen in the lobby where people from all around the country have laid flowers and paid their respect. Ever since her death, over 3000 people have visited the ship, according to General Manager Ferghal Purcell.
“The calls just kept coming,” he said. “We got a sense that people wanted to watch the funeral from here. So, we set up all our restaurants including the Queen’s Grill, as it felt appropriate.“