Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Charles learning to speak Arabic

The Prince of Wales with Sheikha Mozah, leader of the Qatar Foundation, during a meeting at the foundation's HQ in Doha

The Prince of Wales has revealed he is having Arabic lessons.

Charles told guests at a reception in Qatar that the language "goes in one ear and out the other", but an aide disclosed that he has been having private tuition for more than six months.

The Prince's new skill could help his desire to encourage dialogue between different religions, as he would be able to read the Koran in its original form.

Charles was in Doha at the Qatar-UK Alumni Network, for Qataris who have attended British universities, when he told a group of guests: "You all speak such good English."

Dr Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada, chairman of the association and Qatar's energy minister, asked the Prince if he spoke any Arabic. He replied: "I tried to learn it once but I gave up. It goes in one ear and out the other." Dr Al-Sada told him: "It's never too late to learn." An aide confirmed afterwards that Charles has been taking lessons. He also speaks French, some German, and has had tuition in Welsh.

The Duchess of Cornwall visited a groundbreaking new initiative where Bedouin women are becoming sales agents for a mobile phone company. The women, who come from very traditional backgrounds, are barred from talking to men who are not their immediate family and never have the chance to socialise with other women. But now their new jobs with Vodafone, based at the Doha Science and Technology Park, means they have been able to buy bigger homes for their families.

Camilla sat down with a group of the women, almost entirely covered from head to foot in black abayas and veils, to talk about the way in which their lives have changed. They told her that through selling phones and tariffs they have been able to increase their household income. The Duchess said: "Well, I think you are all really brilliant. I don't know how you manage it, especially with all those husbands and children. I can see how your confidence has rocketed."

One of the women, Safia, told Camilla she is 42 with nine children and six grandchildren and feared she was too old to work. "I was so pleased when they agreed to train me. My husband was not happy at first but he has warmed up now, especially as we now live in a big house," she said. "The family gather at our house on Thursdays and Fridays and I sell to them then. All of the men are actually proud now."

At the same technology park, Charles was given the chance to step into the shoes of a Doha taxi driver, as he had a go on a driving simulator. Visiting the Williams F1 Technology Centre, the Prince tried his hand at the simulator which features the seat and dashboard of a Range Rover and projects a 3D recreation of the Qatari capital. Despite it being a road safety simulator, Charles was not keen to buckle up and asked: "Do I have to put my seat belt on?". He laughed as he tentatively made his way through the busy rush-hour traffic and, as he stepped out, said: "I think I might need a sea sickness tablet."

The company's chief executive, Alex Burns, also presented him with a tiny blue and white pair of Formula 1 racing overalls for his future grandchild. "Here is something we have had embroidered for your future grandchild, sir, very many congratulations," he said. He explained that F1 drivers normally have their names embroidered on the belt, so in this case they had used the letters HRH. Charles said: "How lovely, thank you very, very much. That is very kind of you." The centre was established in 2009 to develop and commercialise technologies with their origins in F1.

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