LONDON — Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, began on Sunday what is being called a “historic” five-day tour of the Middle East in which he will juggle diplomatic and royal duties in the eye of a tense political climate.
Kensington Palace said the trip was “the first official tour on behalf of the government by a member of the royal family.”
William landed in Jordan on Sunday and will also visit Israel and the Palestinian territories — places that Britain controlled for decades after World War I. The trip comes as Israel celebrates the 70th anniversary of its founding, and amid a rise in tensions between Palestinians and Israelis.
Here’s a primer:
The Duke of Cambridge is visiting at the request of the British government. It’s his first official trip to the region. Four years in the planning, the trip originally was to be made by Prince Harry, but his wedding to Meghan Markle created a scheduling problem, according to the British news media.
According to the royal statement, “The nonpolitical nature of His Royal Highness’s role — in common with all royal visits overseas — allows a spotlight to be brought to bear on the people of the region: their cultures, their young people, their aspirations, and their experiences.”
In all three places, he’s expected to hobnob with young entrepreneurs, inspect the tech and media sectors, visit famous sites and meet with senior political and religious leaders, as well as with leaders in business, civil society, the arts, media and other industries.
Jordan: William left Britain and landed in Amman, Jordan, at Marka Airport. He was greeted by Crown Prince Al-Hussein Bin Abdullah II, the son of Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
In Jordan, the aim is to “build on the strong links that exist not only between the two countries, but also between their respective royal families,” Kensington Palace said.
To wit, he will visit Fablab, an initiative of the Crown Prince Foundation that tries to equip young entrepreneurs with the technology they need to start their projects. In the evening, he was to deliver a speech at a “Queen’s Birthday Party” (his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II turned 92 in April) at the residence of the British ambassador.
He was to end the day with a private dinner with the crown prince at his residence, Beit al Urden, where was expected to stay overnight.
Several stops are planned for Monday, including the archaeological site at Jerash, the ruined Roman city where his wife posed for a photo with her father and young sister when the family lived in Jordan. He is also to attend a function for the UNICEF-supported Makani charity, which works with young people from deprived backgrounds, including refugees.
William is also to travel to a new base for the Quick Reaction Force, formed with British military support, and visit the Dar Na’mah Center, a project of the Princess Taghrid Institute.
“His Royal Highness will meet with women who have built the center, try some of their traditional food, and watch them make crafts,” Kensington Palace said.
He is scheduled to leave Jordan that night.
Israel: He will then head to Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, and stay at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
Tuesday morning, he will visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. William is to tour the museum and meet with a survivor of the Holocaust and the Kindertransport, a British program that rescued nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Nazi-occupied territories before World War II began.
He is then to walk to the Yad Vashem Hall of Remembrance and lay a wreath in memory of those who died, leaving “a personal message in the visitor’s book.”
After that is a visit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, who was indicted last week on charges that she improperly spent nearly $100,000 of state money, using much of it to hire chefs to cater private meals.
He’s also scheduled to meet with President Reuven Rivlin; head to Jaffa to meet young people involved in the work of organizations focused on coexistence between young people of different religions and ethnicities; attend a soccer event; and travel to Tel Aviv.
The Palestinian Territories: This visit will begin on Wednesday in Ramallah, where William is to meet with the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas.
Through the rest of the afternoon in the West Bank, the prince is set to join events addressing the problems faced by refugees and celebrating Palestinian culture, music and food. He should have a chance to meet several young Palestinians.
That evening, he is to attend a reception at the residence of the Consul General in Jerusalem.
Thursday will begin with a short briefing on the history and geography of the Old City at the Mount of Olives. He will then head to the Church of St. Mary Magdalene to pay his respects at the tomb of Princess Alice, his great-grandmother and the mother of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Philip visited the grave of Princess Alice in 1994, when she was honored for saving Greek Jews, the BBC says. The Prince of Wales has also visited the grave, the palace said.
Prince Charles attended the state funerals of former Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, former Israeli prime ministers, but that was considered a private visit.
Prince William’s trip will end on Thursday.