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Harry and Meghan: Duke sips kava drink as royals land in Fiji

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AFP

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Prince Harry sips some kava – a drink originating from the Pacific Islands

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have arrived in Fiji, where Prince Harry has tried kava – a traditional non-alcoholic social drink.

He tried the beverage at a ceremony which featured chants and dancing.

Crowds cheered as Prince Harry sipped the kava, which is used to treat anxiety and stress in some countries but cannot be imported to the EU.

Harry and Meghan were then met by huge crowds of people at the Grand Pacific Hotel, where they waved from a balcony.

The pair’s 16-day tour which will also take them to New Zealand, Tonga and return to Australia.

The duke and duchess, who are expecting their first baby, visited Albert Park in Fiji’s capital Suva – the same place visited by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh 65 years ago.

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Getty Images/Reuters

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Harry and Meghan stood on the same hotel balcony overlooking the park as the Queen and Prince Philip in 1953

Speaking to the crowds, Prince Harry said: “Bula venaka! The duchess and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible during the next two days and celebrating the links and close friendship between Fiji and the United Kingdom.”

The couple will attend a reception and dinner hosted by Fiji’s president later on Tuesday.

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Reuters

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The duke and duchess announced the pregnancy at the start of their tour

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Getty Images

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The royal couple present a gift to Fiji’s president Jioji Konrote

What is kava?

Australia’s Alcohol and Drug Foundation calls kava a depressant drug that slows down the messages between the brain and the body.

It is made from the root or the stump of the kava shrub.

Pharmacology professor David Colquhoun, from University College London, said kava can be “dangerous”, adding: “It’s pretty foolish to drink it.”

He pointed to a warning from the US Food and Drug Administration in 2002 which highlighted the risk of liver damage from kava.


Analysis

By BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond

It was an astonishing welcome and even hardened royal watchers were open-mouthed.

In the centre of Suva, as the clock facing Albert Park struck six, the duke and duchess arrived.

Around 15,000 Fijians had gathered at the Park. Thousands more had lined the route from the airport.

Cheers swept the park as Harry and Meghan stepped from their car. And then for around an hour, a welcoming ceremony under the darkening skies.

There was dancing, and singing, men in grass skirts, and spears. There were prayers. And there was kava, a drink cultivated from the plant of the same name that is drunk throughout Polynesia. The duke drank some, to more applause from the crowd.

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Reuters

Rain swept the park. The couple have brought miserable English weather with them to many stops on their tour. Nobody cares.

Harry spoke, lurching briefly into Fijian at times, to more applause.

And then the couple made their way to the Grand Pacific Hotel, where in front of another huge crowd, they appeared on the balcony and waved.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had done the same, more than six decades ago. And once again the cheers erupted around Albert Park.

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