Written by Joe Sutton, CNN
For what is thought to be the first time ever, the successor to the British monarch will be invited to visit an authoritarian government in a Third World country.
In June, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s longtime leader and former army chief, welcomed Prince Charles to Egypt for a three-day visit that was seen as an important symbol of the new relationship between the US and Egypt.
The arrival of the heir to the throne was nonetheless noted as a signal of revolution in Western reaction to Sisi’s rule, which has seen human rights groups reporting on abuses and isolation from the West.
During a speech at Cairo University, Prince Charles touched on hopes for peace in the Middle East, but also spoke about the impact of climate change.
“Without doing something, (scientists) tell us, it is difficult to convince others to do it,” he said, referring to the government’s support for cutting carbon emissions.
This is not the first time the British royals have been invited to visit an authoritarian regime. In 2012, then-first lady Michelle Obama welcomed the king of Bahrain to the White House. That country, which was occupied by the US Navy for six months in 2011, has been widely criticized for its role in recent months in protests by the nation’s population.
While visiting the United Arab Emirates earlier this year, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, came face-to-face with the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The visit was more informal, but officials welcomed the prince with ceremonial pomp — and a flying sleigh designed by a craft guild.
Egypt’s current leadership has faced intense criticism in some Western capitals as critics question Sisi’s efforts to end the unrest in the wake of President Mohamed Morsi’s 2013 ouster, some of which was instrumental in his election.
Critics of Sisi point to the high number of human rights violations, and his apparent reluctance to engage in efforts to address those concerns, including his crackdown on civil society and the opposition.
But as the UK prepares to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria, a birth that foresaw the return of England to colonial rule, many believe that Sisi is signaling the end of his country’s tumultuous political era.
Prince Charles’ visit is expected to help present an image of Egypt as a new starting point, and a new era for Sisi’s regime.