Charles carries on and doesn't lose his head

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The Independent Online

There could have been far worse places for Prince Charles to be yesterday. As the rest of the world played a feverish game of Chinese whispers with his private life, he was in Oman ­ a land where royal media coverage is conducted with rather more respect. Even the Sultan's divorce is a no-go area for the indigenous press, and mentioning any potential embarrassments involving the royal visitor was quite out of the question.

The Prince returns home today, but yesterday, as the British media pack watched eagerly for any gaffes, outbursts, statements or unintended ironies, he seemed relaxed as he visited the Early Intervention Centre for children with disabilities and learning difficulties.

On his arrival at the centre, he was presented with two large red flowers by pupils. He turned to five-year-old Safawan Alhabsi, held one of the long-stemmed flowers up to the boy's face like a microphone and asked: "Would you like to say a few words," as he looked at the cameras.

He sat on a child-sized chair as he helped Isara Al Gbri colour in a picture of a fish by adding green pastel and an orange eye. The four-year-old girl, who is deaf, took the art lesson one step further by drawing a long green line on the Prince's fawn coloured suit. Charles laughed as the youngster then attempted to grab his blue polka-dot handkerchief from his top pocket. He encouraged her to continue, saying: "Go on ­ have a go."

In another room, he joined in with a sponge painting lesson. Taking a green sponge, Charles dabbed it into bright blue paint and began his own carefully executed creation on a white paper plate, making a ring of blue squares. "You've got a real mess there," he told some of the children as they covered themselves in paint.

Later journalists followed the Prince to Oman's largest mosque where he met worshippers. A spokesman for Charles said he was in a "buoyant mood" and concentrating on the tour. Few of his critics may want to believe it, but his relaxed appearance suggested that he was.

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