For many, the day began well before sunrise. In the early hours, convoys of buses from Dubai and the Northern Emirates were already on the long road to Abu Dhabi for Mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium.
It was barely past breakfast when Pope Francis carried out his first engagement, a short five minute drive from Mushrif Palace, where he has stayed for his three days in the UAE, to St Joseph’s Cathedral, the seat of catholic worship in Southern Arabia.
It was a private visit, but dozens of excited children had gathered outside the cathedral in the hope of even a glimpse of the pontiff and were rewarded with a wave.
Inside, the Pope greeted the congregation as a choir sung. There were blessings for men, women and children, some calling out expressions of love and kissing the Pope’s hand.