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Obituary - Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum

posted on 05/01/2006: 1929 views

Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who passed away early Wednesday while on a visit to Australia, was born in 1943 in the Shindagha neighbourhood, close to the entrance to Dubai Creek (Khor Dubai).

In his youth, he studied mathematics, English and Arabic and religious studies.

On 4th October 1958, his father, Sheikh Rashid assumed power as Ruler of Dubai in an official inauguration ceremony, the first of its kind to have taken place..

As a precursor of the prominent role he was to play in the future, Sheikh Maktoum was entrusted by Sheikh Rashid to deliver a speech on his behalf at the accession ceremony. From then onwards, he was his father's right hand.

Due to the efforts made in the late 1950s and 1960s by both Sheikh Rashid and Sheikh Maktoum, a number of development projects in the growing emirate, such as Dubai International Airport, power generation plants, the first hotel in Dubai and schools and new housing quarters saw the light of day.

In the early 1960s, Sheikh Maktoum completed his studies locally before he was sent by his father for further education in one of the leading universities in Britain. There he mingled with students of various nationalities, many of them were the sons of world leaders and other politicians from around the world. The experience he gained proved to be of great benefit, particularly during the political events that took place in what were then known as the Trucial States in the latter part of the 1960s.

Records from the time show that Sheikh Maktoum used to accompany his father on a regular basis in the early 1960s to the meetings of the Trucial States Council, a body that brought together the Rulers of all of the Emirates.

In 1966, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan took office as Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and the Council then began seriously to discuss the idea of a future formation of a federation. Two years later, on 16 January 1968, Britain declared its intention to close its bases in the Arabian Gulf by the end of 1971 and the Rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai opted to embark on practical measures to push forward the idea of federation. As a first step, six weeks of discussion took place between them to resolve all outstanding issues, prior to setting out the framework for the proposed federal state.

Sheikh Maktoum, then only 25, joined his father in talks with Sheikh Zayed and other senior officials. Over the six week period, he was able to promote a spirit of consensus with the Government of Abu Dhabi on many issues.

His efforts paid off when, on 18th February 1968, he and his father travelled to a desert point in Abu Dhabi emirate near the Dubai border to take part in one of the major events that preceded the declaration of the federation.

On 10th July 1971, both Sheikh Rashid and Sheikh Maktoum hosted in Dubai delegations from the other six Trucial Sheikhdoms to attend a Council meeting. Sheikh Maktoum's skill as a statesman played a major part in the formation, several months later, of the federation.

In a special ceremony held in Dubai on 2nd December 1971, the Rulers of the Emirates signed an accord establishing the State of the United Arab Emirates. Sheikh Zayed was elected as President and Sheikh Rashid as Vice President, while Sheikh Maktoum was appointed as Prime Minister, presiding over the first meeting of the UAE Cabinet on 2nd April 1972.

Sheikh Maktoum remained Prime Minister until 1979 when he stepped down for his father.

In May 1981, Sheikh Rashid fell sick and the onus fell on his sons.

Although he recovered, Sheikh Rashid opted to take rest and hence to allow Sheikh Maktoum to be at the helm of the emirate.

Sheikh Maktoum has accorded considerable attention to all aspects of development, and to education and legislation in particular. He served in many capacities during the 1980s and won a wide reputation as a man deeply devoted to charitable activities. His generous hands have turned him into a legend not only in Dubai and the UAE but also in many parts of the Third World.

In November 1990, following the death of Sheikh Rashid, Sheikh Maktoum became UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai. His return to the premiership was associated with one of the most important development projects in UAE history, the adoption of a national programme for constructing thousands of residential units for low-income citizens in Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ra's al-Khaimah and Fujairah.

He also oversaw several development projects designed to upgrade the standards of living of citizens in all parts of the UAE, including the remotest areas.

Within Dubai, his shrewd leadership led to great achievements as shown in the many infrastructural and utility projects completed during the 1980s and 1990s.

The late Sheikh Maktoum accorded paramount attention to the career development of UAE citizens. "The future of the UAE largely depends on the success of the UAE government in realising the objectives for which the Union was created", he said in a statement in 1972.

Sheikh Maktoum is credited with introducing Arabs to the world of international equestrian competitions. He was the pioneer in introducing Arabs to international horse-racing and to the establishment of stables for the best breeds. He was the most successful horse owner in Europe in 1997.

Much credit is due to the late Sheikh Maktoum for the creation of Godolphin, the equestrian team whose marvellous achievements have introduced revolutionary concepts to the sport. He was also the mastermind of the Dubai World Cup, an equestrian event that has acquired the world's attention with the quality of participating horses and its lucrative prizes.

He also led Godolphin to new challenges when he took them to compete in the US sand racetracks. Through his personal interest in horses, Sheikh Maktoum effectively helped to revive an age-old tradition.

The life of the late Sheikh Maktoum was outstanding in many respects.

From the moment he assumed the premiership of the first federal cabinet up until his untimely death, he worked relentlessly for consolidating the union. Following the death of his father, Sheikh Rashid, he successfully faced the formidable challenges and provided much support to the late Sheikh Zayed in building the Nation. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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