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Ruler Who Has Clear Vision for Dubai


By Manal Alafrangi
Gulfnews
January 5, 2006


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

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

In 1988, Shaikh 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 Shaikh 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 Shaikh 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 Shaikh 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, Shaikh Mohammad was appointed
Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of
Defence, while his elder brother, Shaikh Hamdan
Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, became the Deputy Ruler
of Dubai and the UAE Minister of Finance and
Industry..

Later that year, Shaikh 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 Shaikh
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
Shaikh Mohammad announced the inaugural Dubai
World Cup, the world's richest horse race,
promising $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 Shaikh Maktoum Bin
Rashid Al Maktoum and Shaikh Hamdan, Shaikh
Mohammad is a keen horse breeder, with mainly
American and French bloodlines.

Shaikh 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.

Shaikh 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.

Shaikh 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.

Humanitarian

The UAE is one of the leading nations in Endurance.

A team led by Shaikh 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.
Shaikh 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.

Shaikh Mohammad kicked off the appeal by
generously donating $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, Shaikh Mohammad also gave $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 Shaikh
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, Shaikh Mohammad was determined to
do his bit.

The organisers of the October 27 meet had set an
ambitious target of raising a minimum of $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 $2.5 million (Dh9.2 million) in
prize money Shaikh Mohammad decided that the
prestige gained was more important than the
money.

Vision

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

In March 2000, Shaikh 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, Shaikh 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, Shaikh 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, Shaikh Mohammad announced one of
the world's most ambitious projects: The Palms.
Worth $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.

 

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