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Ruler who has a clear vision for the emirate

posted on 05/01/2006: 2011 views

Many people say His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, inherited his father Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum's vision of dreaming large and achieving big.

Sheikh Mohammad was born in 1949. He is one amongst Sheikh Rashid's four sons. Early on, Sheikh Rashid began serious preparations for his sons' future in government. From 1958 onwards, Sheikh Rashid exposed his sons to the most talented individuals in the community. This included bankers, builders, merchants and intellectuals.

In 1988, Sheikh Mohammad took over the administration of Dubai International Airport (DIA), heading a committee to attract passenger and cargo transport to the emirate, similar to the approach that was adopted for the seaports. Dubai under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammad adopted an open-skies policy as a means to fast track development, aiming to make the emirate the region's aviation and tourism hub.

On October 7, 1990 the UAE was hit with tragic news when Sheikh Rashid passed away following a long illness. This came at a tense time as the UAE was urgently shaping its response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Tourism plans

In the 1990s Sheikh Mohammad was given responsibility for Dubai's oil sector. Realising the risks of relying too heavily on a single source of income, Dubai Rulers encouraged the diversification of their economy by investing in infrastructure and providing options for outside investors.

In January 1995, Sheikh Mohammad was appointed Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defence, while his elder brother, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, became the Deputy Ruler of Dubai and the UAE Minister of Finance and Industry..

Later that year, Sheikh Mohammad announced the creation of the Dubai Shopping Festival under the tourism banner 'Destination Dubai'.

This annual event is intended to bring together all aspects of the emirate's economy and make it a part of a promotion that would reach all corners of the world. This was one of Sheikh Mohammad's first initiatives after becoming Crown Prince and has grown to be one of the biggest tourism events in Dubai's annual calendar. The festival incorporates a variety of tourism activities with entertainment events and funfairs, as well as sales at various shopping venues.

Richest race

It was the success of this festival that led to a second major festival: Dubai Summer Surprises, which takes place between June and September.

Dedicated to promoting Dubai around the world and attracting the best of everything, in 1996 Sheikh Mohammad announced the inaugural Dubai World Cup, the world's richest horse race, promising US$2.4 million (Dh8.8 million) to the winner. Since its inauguration, this event has become an international event in its own right and a global highlight. The first World Cup was won by an American horse, Cigar, and the race continues to attract entries from around the globe.

Like his brothers, the late Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Sheikh Hamdan, Sheikh Mohammad is a keen horse breeder, with mainly American and French bloodlines.

Sheikh Mohammad has stud farms in France, England and the US. He is the largest breeder of ail (pure-bred) Arab racehorses and one of the largest breeders of thoroughbreds with over 3,000 horses training around the world.

Sheikh Mohammad moved most of his breeding and training activities to Dubai, naming his stable Godolphin after one of the three founding stallions of the modern thoroughbred.

The success of Godolphin assisted in raising Dubai's international profile. This event attracted horse owners to race beyond their continents.

Sheikh Mohammad is an avid sportsman, huntsman, falconer and championship rider. He is also one of the leading Endurance competitors in the world. Endurance riding involves racing at controlled speeds over great distances races can often last several hours and stretch over 100km.

The sport is popular across the globe but it has an especially keen following in the United Arab Emirates, which has a very well supported Endurance season.


The UAE is one of the leading nations in Endurance. A team led by Sheikh Mohammad won a double at the European Open Championship in Compiegne, France in 2005 and is hopeful of further success at the Asian Games in Qatar later this year.

Sheikh Mohammad is known around the world for being deeply involved in aiding good causes through his own organisation, The Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation.

His latest high profile campaign began in October 3, 2005 when the foundation launched an appeal to establish several refugee camps inside Afghanistan and over the border in neighbouring Pakistan.

Sheikh Mohammad kicked off the appeal by generously donating US$5 million from his own personal funds this was one of two donations that was made to the appeal by Dubai's Crown Prince.

Proving that his charitable intentions reach across the globe, Sheikh Mohammad also gave US$5 million (Dh18.4 million) from his own personal funds to the World Trade Center Victims Appeal.

Helping the victims of the September 11 tragedy is something that is very dear to Sheikh Mohammad.

So much so that when the world famous Breeders' Cup decided to dedicate the whole of one of the horse racing calendar's most prestigious race meet to helping the families of New York firefighters, police officers, emergency services personnel and other victims who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks in New York, Sheikh Mohammad was determined to do his bit.

The organisers of the October 27 meet had set an ambitious target of raising a minimum of US$1 million (Dh3.68 million) from the event.

But when fortune smiled on the Godolphin stable and after a highly successful evening they amassed around US$2.5 million (Dh9.2 million) in prize money Sheikh Mohammad decided that the prestige gained was more important than the money.


He then donated the full US$2.5 million in winnings to the appeal.

In March 2000, Sheikh Mohammad told London's Sunday Telegraph newspaper: "I have a vision. I look to the future, 20, 30 years. I learnt that from my father, Sheikh Rashid. He is the true father of modern Dubai. I follow his example. He would rise early and go alone to watch what was happening on each of his projects. I do the same. I watch. I read faces. I take decisions and I move fast. Full throttle."

Within the same month, Sheikh Mohammad launched the Information Technology Education Project for secondary schools, emphasising the importance of education as well as IT skills in this day and age.

Shortly after, he announced 'e-Dubai', an initiative set to encompass infrastructure, environment, and attitude to enable new economy enterprises to operate out of Dubai.

In January 2001, a similar initiative followed: Dubai Media City (DMC) which together with Dubai Knowledge Village makes up the Dubai Technology, E-commerce and Media Free Zone- all central to Dubai's future vision.

Early in 2001, Sheikh Mohammad announced one of the world's most ambitious projects: The Palms. Worth US$3 billion (Dh11) billion, this resort project will add a total of 120km of waterfront to Dubai's coastline.

He now takes on a new mantle and another journey begins for the leader who dreams big and achieves even bigger. (The Gulf News)


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