HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. He was born in the Al Maktoum family home in Shindagha, near Dubai's famous creek. He is the third of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum's four sons. Sheikh Maktoum, Sheikh Hamdan and Sheikh Ahmed are his brothers. Sheikh Mohammed enjoyed a happy and carefree early childhood; from an early age he was taught about hunting, especially the noble Arabian sport of falconry. Sheikh Mohammed has always found the intensity of the sport and the opportunity to return to his Arab roots and distance himself from the modern world a most attractive combination.
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In addition to hunting, the Maktoum brothers were taught the rudiments of horsemanship by their father. Sheikh Mohammed took to the saddle immediately. He and his close friends soon rode nearly every day. From the age of four, Sheikh Mohammed was privately tutored in Arabic and Islamic Studies, beginning his formal education at Al Ahmadiya School, a small primary school in Deira. It taught Arabic grammar, English, mathematics, geography and history. Thanks to his earlier tutoring, Sheikh Mohammed excelled. At the age of 10, he moved to Al Shaab School and two years later he went to Dubai Secondary School.
On September 9, 1958, Sheikh Mohammed's grandfather, Sheikh Saeed, passed away and his father became Ruler. From October 1958, Sheikh Rashid began serious preparations for his sons' future in government. During the 1950s Sheikh Rashid had drawn the most talented individuals in the community into his immediate circle. There were bankers, builders, merchants and intellectuals. Sheikh Mohammed grew up as part of this unique group. He grew into a valuable participant, despite his relative youth.
Thanks to an almost photographic memory, Sheikh Mohammed progressed quickly through Dubai Secondary School. At the end of the 1964/1965 academic year he easily passed exams in the main strands of the school's curriculum. With this in mind, Sheikh Rashid started looking at military training options for his third son. But first, the young prince needed a complete grounding in the English language. In August 1966, Sheikh Mohammed flew to London. He was accompanied by his cousin, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum. They enrolled in the Bell School of Languages, in Cambridge, one of Europe's best-regarded language schools.
Sheikh Mohammed threw himself into the vibrant Cambridge student literature scene and integrated himself fully into the student life. Besides poetry, sports held great interest for him, particularly rowing. On Saturday May 5, 1967, he and Sheikh Hamdan attended their first horse race, and saw Royal Palace win the 2000 Guineas under Gary Moore.
On February 18, 1968, Abu Dhabi Ruler Sheikh Zayed and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Rashid met at a desert campsite to discuss the formation of a federation between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Sheikh Mohammed had flown back from England to accompany his father. He still recalls the few words that launched the beginning of the United Arab Emirates. "So, Rashid, what do you think? Shall we create a union?" asked Sheikh Zayed. Without hesitation, the Dubai Ruler held out his hand and replied: "Give me your hand, Zayed. Let us shake upon an agreement. You will be President. Their treaty, the so-called Union Accord, was the beginning of a search for a wider federation that would continue for several years and consume Sheikh Mohammed, his father and brothers.
Over subsequent months, Sheikh Mohammed would be exposed to the toughest training that the British military could throw at an officer cadet. It was an environment in which he thrived. During the latter stages of the six-month course, he was promoted to Senior Under Officer of Kohema and was later awarded the Sword of Honour for achieving the highest mark of any Foreign and Commonwealth officer cadet in his intake.
On November 1, 1968, Sheikh Rashid appointed his third son as Head of Dubai Police and Public Security, Sheikh Mohammed's first public position. On December 2, 1971, the Rulers of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman and Fujairah and the Crown Prince of Umm Al Qaiwain, representing his father, met at Sheikh Rashid's Jumeirah Beach Palace in Dubai. There, they signed the provisional constitution that created the United Arab Emirates. In the days after December 2, Sheikh Maktoum, the new Prime Minister, appointed his brother Sheikh Mohammed as Minister of Defence and awarded him the rank of General.
Sheikh Mohammed was the youngest Minister of Defence in the world at that time. In less than 12 months, this demanding role would lead him to deal with the events of an Arab-Israeli war, an attempted coup in one neighbouring state and an aircraft hijacking at Dubai International Airport, all while he was attempting to construct a national Union Defence Force. The UDF made its first operational foray abroad in 1976, when Sheikh Mohammed committed troops to Lebanon as part of the Arab Deterrent Force, attempting to keep the peace in this troubled country.
Sheikh Rashid relied heavily upon his sons as he sought to transform Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed took on much responsibility. Projects such as Dubai Dry Docks, the biggest such facility in the Middle East, were put under his charge. One significant appointment came in 1977. On August 25, Sheikh Rashid announced the formation of a committee under Sheikh Mohammed that would take over the administration of Dubai International Airport. Developing Dubai as an aviation and tourist hub would become one of Sheikh Mohammed's most visible achievements. He adopted an open skies policy, and worked to lay the foundations for a tourism industry that would burst into life in the 1990s. During this period he was also given responsibility for Dubai's oil; this was one of the most vital tasks within the Dubai Government, such was the importance of oil exports to the economy at that time.
Sheikh Mohammed's Majlis began to take on the energy that had been attached to the Majlis of Sheikh Rashid at its height, when it had been described as "an Arabian Camelot".
In May 1981, Sheikh Rashid was struck down by illness. Like his brothers, Sheikh Mohammed took on new responsibility as his father continued his extended recuperation. The extraordinary achievement, from a Dubai standpoint, was the way in which the Al Maktoum brothers had gelled, working together for the good of the emirate and the UAE. Their unity of purpose is not a false front.
A breathtaking initiative was Sheikh Mohammed's decision to create a new airline. One morning, in January 1985, Maurice Flanagan, general manager of the Dubai National Tourism Authority, received a summons to Sheikh Mohammed's Za'abeel Palace."I want to start an airline, as soon as possible. How much will it cost? How long will it take?" Sheikh Mohammed asked. Flanagan knew that his inquisitor was not a man to wait around for an answer and replied: "Ten million dollars." Sheikh Mohammed set up a small team to develop the concept, working in secret. On October 25 the same year, Emirates flew for the first time, sporting livery chosen personally by Sheikh Mohammed.
Also in 1985, Sheikh Mohammed took charge of Jebel Ali Free Zone; a port-based industrial area centred around Jebel Ali port. This was another project that illustrated the 'overwhelming confidence' referred to by Clinton Jones.
Sultan bin Sulayem, chairman of Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA), says: "One of the main points that Sheikh Mohammed stressed was the need to keep things simple. He worked to ensure that JAFZA was served by the best in infrastructure, that would empower us to offer the best services possible."
On October 7,1990, tragedy befell the Maktoum family, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates when Sheikh Rashid passed away following a long illness. For Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers there was hardly time to draw breath and remember the achievements of one of the Middle East's greatest leaders, before they were consumed by the urgent need to shape the UAE's response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
On January 4, 1995, Dubai and the UAE awoke to groundbreaking news splashed in banner headlines in Arabic and English newspapers. The previous day the Dubai Ruler, Sheikh Maktoum, had signed two decrees that would have a dramatic effect on the future of the emirate. One appointed Sheikh Mohammed as Crown Prince of Dubai. The second recognized Sheikh Hamdan as Deputy Ruler of the emirate.
"Destination Dubai" was the tourism brief so long championed by Sheikh Mohammed. Late in 1995, he announced the creation of the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), one of his first initiatives on assuming the mantle of Crown Prince. DSF is an annual festival aimed at bringing together all aspects of the emirate's economy as part of a promotion that would extend around the world. The centrepiece of the Dubai Shopping Festival had to be memorable, and Sheikh Mohammed had a plan for this too. Never one to take small steps when giant strides would do, he announced that the following March, at the height of the new Dubai Shopping Festival, the inaugural Dubai World Cup would be staged. It was to be the world's richest horse race, boasting a purse of $4 million, $2.4 of which would go to the winner.
"Destination Dubai" was evolving rapidly. On April 1, 1998, the Sheikh Rashid Terminal was opened, representing the completion of the first phase of the Government of Dubai's $540 million expansion plan for the airport.
Elsewhere in Dubai, an artificial island was appearing some 100 meters offshore. This was to be the base for one of Sheikh Mohammed's boldest projects, a hotel that, when it was finished, would be only 60 meters shorter than the Empire State Building in New York, Burj Al Arab, the Tower of the Arabs. Early in 2001, Sheikh Mohammed announced by far the most extraordinary "Destination Dubai" project, Palm Island. A giant resort spread over two palm tree-shaped islands, each of which will be divided into 17 huge fronds and a trunk, and surrounded by a crescent shaped barrier reef.
Sheikh Mohammed was also pressing on with his Emirates airline project. In May 2001, Emirates Chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, confirmed that, on instructions from Sheikh Mohammed, Emirates planned to buy up to 60 new wide-body aircraft worth $10 billion. Emirates already had an order book that included seven Airbus A380s, making it the first airline to sign a firm deal for the controversial giant 555-seat aircraft, which were scheduled to enter service in 2006.
Perhaps the boldest new front in Dubai's plans was "e-Dubai". In 1995, this vision was still largely unknown outside the higher echelons of the Al Maktoum family and a handful of those close to Sheikh Mohammed. On October 29, 1999, Sheikh Mohammed called a press conference where he announced:"One year from today, we will inaugurate, on this site, a new initiative, not only for Dubai but for the rest of the world. We call it Dubai Internet City." He went on to spell out his vision. Internet City would encompass the infrastructure, environment and attitude to enable new economic enterprises to operate out of Dubai with significant competitive advantage. Sheikh Mohammed had set a deadline of just 365 days. By any standards, this was a bold move, undertaken in the hope of establishing the emirate's name within the world's fastest growing industry. By September 2000, more than a hundred IT companies had been granted licenses to operate in Dubai Internet City, including industry giants Microsoft, Oracle and Compaq. Another 350 firms were awaiting approval. The total investment planned by those already holding licenses was estimated at around $700 million.
On the humanitarian front, Sheikh Mohammed was highly active through the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation. On October 3, 2011, the foundation opened an appeal to establish refugee camps both inside Afghanistan and over the border in Pakistan. Sheikh Mohammed donated $5 million from personal funds to the appeal and later gave more. He also donated $5 million to the World Trade Center Victims Appeal. On October 27, Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin team were in New York for the Breeders' Cup. Organizers had dedicated the Breeders' Cup to the families of New York firefighters, police officers, emergency services personnel and other victims in the surrounding communities who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks. A goal of $1 million had been established. The meeting was a tremendous success for Godolphin, who amassed around $2.5 million in prize money, all of which was donated to the appeal. This presented a highly public display of friendship between two cultures and societies that were perhaps at a crossroads in their relationship. Sheikh Mohammed's gestures towards Afghans and Americans alike, and his conciliatory words, showed exemplary statesmanship.
Another crisis emerged with the horrific attacks on Palestine by the Israelis in 2002. Like his fellow leaders in the region, Sheikh Mohammed sought to press for peace, and aid the Palestinians. Sheikh Mohammed accompanied Sheikh Maktoum to Beirut for the Arab Summit. Both spoke in favour of a peace plan tabled by Saudi Arabia and have since pressed, through diplomatic channels, for the United States to force its ally, Israel, to back away from a military option and take a conciliatory stance.
From the foundations that Sheikh Mohammed and his family have laid at home - including such projects as Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and Dubai International Financial Centre - to the principles of modern development laid down in the federation of the United Arab Emirates, the road to progress has remained clear. Through leadership, vision and innovation, Sheikh Mohammed hopes to guide the people of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and, indeed, the Middle East, toward a brighter future.
On January 4th, 2006, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum became the Ruler of Dubai following the death of Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum. On January 5th, the members of the Supreme Council elected Sheikh Mohammed the Vice President of the UAE. On February 11th, 2006, UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan nominated Sheikh Mohammed as Prime Minister of the UAE; the Council approved this nomination.
Sheikh Mohammed embodies energetic and successful leadership. He is a man who has made promises and kept them; he has insisted on excellence and achieved nothing less; he has defined the role of leadership and fulfilled it. Thanks to his vision, Sheikh Mohammed has competently authored the Dubai success story in record time and put the United Arab Emirates on a unique course, which nations around the world compete to replicate. Since becoming the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, ground-breaking initiatives have been rolled out at an astonishing rate.
The year 2007 witnessed unique achievements for Sheikh Mohammed both locally and regionally. On February 3rd, he announced the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015, which aims to bolster Dubai's leading position in the region and boost its role as an international economic and financial hub. The strategy will be used as a road map for development in the coming years. On April 17th, 2007, Sheikh Mohammed unveiled the UAE Government Strategy Plan with the aim of achieving sustainable development throughout the country, investing federal resources more efficiently and ensuring due diligence, accountability and transparency across federal bodies.
Regionally, his most outstanding achievement was the launch of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, on May 19th, 2007, with an endowment of $10 billion. The foundation's aim is to promote human development by investing in education and the development of knowledge in the region by cultivating future leaders in both the private and public sectors, promoting scientific research, spreading knowledge, encouraging business leadership, empowering youth, renewing the concept of culture, preserving heritage and promoting platforms of understanding among various cultures.
Sheikh Mohammed launched Dubai Cares on September 20th, 2007. The campaign, which raised an unprecedented Dh 3.4 billion in its first two months, has become one of the biggest international humanitarian movements to focus on fighting poverty, spreading knowledge and providing education for children in the world's poorest countries.
On September 3rd, 2008, Sheikh Mohammed unveiled the Noor Dubai initiative aiming to deliver preventative eye care to over one million people in developing countries. This move is part of a drive towards a world free from curable forms of blindness.
In an effort to encourage innovation, Sheikh Mohammed has announced a wide array of awards both in Dubai and the UAE, including the Arab Journalism Awards, the Dubai Government Excellence Programme, the Dubai Holy Qur'an Awards and the Young Business Leaders Awards. These awards have promoted a competitive climate for both the public and private sectors to strive for excellence.
The past few years have witnessed significant progress in economic and social development: e-government was introduced; Dubai Metro was inaugurated and a significant number of investment companies were established. These companies have formed global partnerships in the fields of industry, commerce, tourism and ports and real estate management.
A host of other cultural projects were also launched, including the Muhammad the Messenger Museum, the Universal Museums project and the Mohammed bin Rashid Gardens.
Sheikh Mohammed set out his comprehensive world view in his book 'My Vision', where he describes his philosophy and his political and economic vision. He also offers a detailed account of how Dubai and the UAE have been guided to their present-day status as international centers, renowned for their high quality commercial and financial services, luxury tourism and their drive towards sustainable human and structural development.
Through generosity and dedication, Sheikh Mohammed has achieved notable success while shouldering the great responsibility of leading Dubai and the Federal Government.