Pope Francis is welcomed by Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan upon his arrival in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Pope Francis arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday for the first-ever visit by a pontiff to the Arabian Peninsula.

He landed in Abu Dhabi, the capital, for the 48-hour visit, which will include meeting with top Muslim clerics and holding an open-air mass for about 135,000 Catholics.

Francis was greeted by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s prestigious seat of learning.

The pontiff will take part in an interreligious conference on Monday with Sheikh Ahmed.

Hours before he flies back to Rome on Tuesday, he will hold a mass in a stadium in Abu Dhabi, which is expected to be the largest gathering ever in the Gulf state, according to local media.

His visit comes with the oil-rich kingdom engaged in a protracted military campaign in Yemen and embroiled in a feud with nearby Qatar.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse

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