By Julia Wheeler
BBC Gulf correspondent
Sheikh Mohammed has been Dubai's heir apparent
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE
defence minister, has succeeded his elder brother as Ruler of Dubai,
according to officials in the United Arab Emirates.
Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who had ruled since 1990,
died on Wednesday while visiting the Gold Coast of Australia - one
of the newly-favoured destinations of many wealthy Emiratis.
There was never any real doubt that his brother, the powerful and
well-respected Crown Prince Sheikh
Mohammed would succeed him as ruler of the tiny emirate.
With his older brother's blessing, Sheikh Mohammed has been in de
facto charge of Dubai's direction and fast-paced development for at
least a decade.
Sheikh Maktoum appeared content to allow Dubai's economic and
political decisions to be taken by others.
UAE leadership decisions
The successor to the posts of vice-president and prime minister
of the UAE will be decided at a meeting of the country's Supreme
Council which is a body made up of the rulers of all seven Emirates
in the UAE.
Government officials indicate that the council elects a
vice-president and that President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
of Abu Dhabi nominates a prime minister.
The prime minister must be approved by the council and will then
form a cabinet.
The Supreme Council meeting to make the decisions may happen as
early as Thursday. When the former president, Sheikh Zayed bin
Sultan al-Nahyan, died just over a year ago, the decisions were
taken straight after his funeral.
The posts of both vice-president and prime minister have always
been held by Dubai and there has been a long term understanding that
this will continue to be the case, although officials say the
constitution does not specify the fact.
Crown Prince question
Sheikh Mohammed is one of the most formidable and impressive
sheikhs within the UAE - something which has sparked envy as well as
admiration by some in other Emirates.
They have seen the success his policies have brought
economically, with Dubai diversifying away from its reliance on
limited oil supplies.
Sheikh Maktoum died aged 62 while visiting
Under the guidance of Sheikh Mohammed, the tiny emirate has built
on its position as a trading hub and developed new sectors such as
tourism, construction and finance.
The seven emirates which make up the UAE tend to run their own
business and political affairs and this is unlikely to change if
Sheikh Mohammed fills his brother's posts at a federal level.
However, he is not a man generally satisfied with the status quo
and will undoubtedly have plans if he does take a more central role
in the UAE's government.
It is not clear who would become UAE minister of defence or if
the portfolio would stay with Sheikh Mohammed.
His sons, who are in their late teens or early twenties are still
relatively inexperienced in the ways of government, although he
appears to have been grooming them for public roles.
Within the Gulf, Sheikh Mohammed is seen as someone who knows
what he wants and who gets things done. Again this has manifested
itself both in feelings of esteem and, at times, in veiled
Internationally, Sheikh Mohammed is perceived as someone with
whom the West can do business. He is seen as trustworthy and a
serious player in the region.
Perhaps the most interesting question is who will become Crown
Prince of Dubai - Sheikh Mohammed's older brother, the deputy ruler
of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance and Industry, Sheikh Hamdan, or
one of Sheikh Mohammed's sons?
Although the transition is expected to be smooth, the
implications for Dubai and the UAE are perhaps more significant than
they at first appear.