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A major player in UAE formation

posted on 05/01/2006: 1536 views

Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum was born in 1943, at the large Al Maktoum family home in Dubai's Shindagha area, close to the mouth of Dubai Creek. He was the first son of Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

His early education consisted of private tuition in mathematics, English, Arabic and Islamic studies, to prepare him for the important role that awaited him.

During the early 1960s, Sheikh Maktoum completed his domestic schooling, at which time his father sent him to pursue his education at one of Britain's leading universities.

There, he mixed with boys from different nationalities, many of whom were the children of world leaders and politicians. Undoubtedly, this experience broadened his political vision and proved invaluable in the upheavals that occurred during the second half of the '60s in the Trucial States.

On October 4, 1958 a ceremony to mark the formal accession of Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum as Ruler of Dubai was held. Sheikh Maktoum addressed the people of Dubai on behalf of his father, a clear sign of Sheikh Rashid's faith in his eldest son's potential. From that moment, Sheikh Maktoum became his father's right-hand man.

Throughout the late 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, Sheikh Rashid and Sheikh Maktoum worked round-the-clock to realise the dream of developing the emirate; their projects included Dubai Airport; the installation of electricity; the development of fresh water resources; and the construction of Dubai's first hotel, numerous schools and new, modern residential districts.

In 1966, Sheikh Zayed became the leader of Abu Dhabi; and began to enter into serious negotiations as to the long-term future of the Trucial States.

British records show that, from the early '60s, Sheikh Maktoum regularly accompanied his father to meetings of the Trucial States Council, a body comprising the Rulers of all seven sheikhdoms. On January 16, 1968, Britain announced that it would withdraw completely from the Gulf by 1971; consequently, the governments of Dubai and Abu Dhabi decided on a prompt course of action to press the proposed union forward.

Over the six weeks following Britain's announcement, the two sheikhdoms worked on solving outstanding issues between them to reach the basis of the union.

This was a time in which Sheikh Rashid relied heavily on his eldest son. The 25-year-old Sheikh Maktoum became one of the leading political figures on the Trucial Coast, travelling repeatedly to Abu Dhabi for consultations with Sheikh Zayed and senior officials of his government. The fact that so much was achieved in just six weeks stands as testimony to the abilities of Sheikh Maktoum.

On February 18, 1968, he travelled with his father to a desert site on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai border to witness one of the most remarkable events in the history of the coast, the signing of the union accord between Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid. This accord formed the nucleus of the future federation.

On July 10, 1971, Sheikh Rashid and Sheikh Maktoum received delegations from six other sheikhdoms at the Trucial States Council. The mediation role Sheikh Maktoum played was, without doubt, a significant factor in the development of the federation.

On December 2, 1971 the UAE was formally established. The federation process had seen Sheikh Maktoum emerge as a leader of high standing, and this was reflected by subsequent events.

Sheikh Zayed was elected President of the UAE, with Sheikh Rashid as Vice-President. Sheikh Maktoum was appointed the first Prime Minister of the UAE and given the task of forming the fledgling state's first cabinet.

On April 2, 1972 Sheikh Maktoum chaired the first meeting of the UAE Cabinet. Sheikh Maktoum remained as Prime Minister until 1979, when he stood down in favour of his father. Four years later, Sheikh Maktoum returned to the cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister.

In May 1981, Sheikh Rashid fell ill and the onus fell firmly on his four sons.

Although he recovered, he still needed much rest, leaving the practical management of day-to-day affairs to Sheikh Maktoum, who was ably supported by his brothers, Sheikh Hamdan and Sheikh Mohammad.

The three brothers formed an effective leadership team that has maintained and expanded their father's legacy.

Sheikh Maktoum worked hard to develop Dubai, and paid particular attention to the promotion of law and order and education.

Throughout the 1980s, Sheikh Maktoum assumed greater responsibilities. He also gained a reputation as a philanthropist.

His generosity remained legendary in Dubai and the UAE. He funded a number of humanitarian projects such as a centre for disabled people, orphanages in Third World and developing countries and the construction of schools inside and outside the UAE.

Following the death of Sheikh Rashid in November 1990, Sheikh Maktoum became Ruler of Dubai and Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, positions he has held ever since.

Sheikh Maktoum's return as Prime Minister coincided with one of the most astonishing bursts of national development in the thirty-year history of the UAE.

With an eye on less affluent citizens, Sheikh Maktoum spearheaded a programme to construct thousands of new homes in projects throughout Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. He has also been responsible, along with his brothers, for Dubai's transformation into one of the most impressive cities in the world.

Since 1990, Sheikh Maktoum's leadership of the UAE Government has led to nationwide development projects that have transformed lives even in the most remote areas of the country.

In Dubai his leadership has resulted in major infrastructure projects, including internationally renowned sporting facilities, an impressive road network, modern parks and gardens, and public libraries. Dubai International Airport has also been expanded and improved to reflect the emirate's status as the regional aviation hub.

Sheikh Maktoum must take much of the credit for introducing Arabs to international horse racing, an area in which they now excel as owners and trainers.

Along with his brothers, he ran the highly successful Godolphin stables.

Sheikh Maktoum was the most successful horse owner in Europe in 1997, with group wins in five European countries. He has played a major role in raising the level of international racing.

The story of Sheikh Maktoum's life is a journey of generosity in all areas; political, economic, educational and sporting. From his time as the first-ever Prime Minister of the UAE until his death, Sheikh Maktoum worked selflessly in support of the UAE.

After the death of his father, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, he took up the responsibility of developing the country still further and, in cooperation with the then President Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, he certainly accomplished his task.

His generosity remained legendary in Dubai and the UAE. He funded a number of humanitarian projects such as a centre for disabled people, orphanages in developing countries and the construction of schools inside and outside the UAE. (The Gulf News)


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