The Countess of Wessex has met Syrian women and child refugees in Lebanon as she carried out the first official royal visit to the Middle Eastern country.

Sophie travelled to an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa Valley, looking out over the small white shelters, where the fabric roofs are held in place with used tyres.

Royal visit to Lebanon
The Countess of Wessex looks out over an informal tented settlement, which houses refugees displaced to Lebanon by the Syrian conflict, in the Bekaa Valley (Victoria Jones/PA)

Her trip, carried out at the request of the Foreign Office, was not announced beforehand for security reasons.

The countess was photographed crouching down to meet one Syrian toddler who is among those displaced to Lebanon by the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

Buckingham Palace said the Queen’s daughter-in-law, who is married to the Earl of Wessex, met with a female-headed Syrian family receiving UK funded assistance via the UN’s World Food Programme.

A palace spokeswoman said: “The countess had the opportunity to hear about their lives in Syria and Lebanon, the challenges they face now and the support available to them, and listened to their hopes for the future.”

Sophie went barefoot as she sat and spoke through an interpreter with 25-year-old mother Asmaa and her two children, six-year-old Sidra and five-year-old Rim.

Sophie in Lebanon
The countess talks to Asmaa and her children, Sidra and Rim (Victoria Jones/PA)

She was also pictured meeting Sidra, with the pair laughing and smiling at one another.

More than 1.5 million Syrians – 70% of whom are women and girls – have sought refuge in Lebanon since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war eight years ago.

Sophie and Sidra
The Countess of Wessex talks to six-year-old Sidra at the camp (Victoria Jones/PA)

The countess was shown around by Abdallah Al Wardat, the World Food Programme’s Lebanon country director, and given a briefing on the site and the circumstances of the refugees.

During her trip, Sophie is hearing how the UK is championing women’s engagement in peace and security issues in the region.

Royal visit to Lebanon
The Countess of Wessex walks through the camp (Victoria Jones/PA)

She is accompanied by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, who is the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief and Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations.

Bekaa Valley
Refugees displaced to Lebanon in the Bekaa Valley (Victoria Jones/PA)

The countess announced her commitment to supporting the UK’s efforts in the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative earlier this year.