Happy birthday, Sheikh Mohammed: A look back at the remarkable leader's life

Dubai Ruler turns 73 on Friday



By Team KT

Published: Fri 15 Jul 2022, 12:57 PM

Last updated: Fri 15 Jul 2022, 10:15 PM

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai celebrates his 73rd birthday on Friday, July 15.

The visionary leader of Dubai was born in 1949 at the Maktoum family home in Shindagha, on the banks of the Dubai creek. The third son of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Sheikh Mohammed grew up in a large courtyard house with his brothers, now a historical monument.

Early years

Sheikh Mohammed was close to his grandfather Sheikh Saeed bin Hasher Al Maktoum and was often seen sitting beside him. From age four, Sheikh Mohammed was privately tutored in Arabic and Islamic Studies. In 1955, he began his formal education at Al Ahmadiya School, a small primary school in Deira.

At age 10, he moved to Al Shaab School, and two years later, he went to Dubai Secondary School. At the end of 1964-65, he passed exams in the main streams of the school's curriculum.

Following his father's death in 1958, Sheikh Rashid was crowned Ruler of Dubai. From October 1958, Sheikh Rashid began severe preparations for his sons' future in government.

In August 1966, Sheikh Mohammed flew to the UK to enrol in the Bell School of Languages in Cambridge. Due to its international reputation, the Bell School of Languages attracted a wide range of nationalities and cultures. Sheikh Mohammed used the opportunity to learn about many of his classmates and their countries. Sheikh Mohammed threw himself into the vibrant Cambridge student literature scene and fully integrated into the student life.

Afterwards, Sheikh Mohammed attended Mons Officer Cadet School - Aldershot, which is now part of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. In 1968, Sheikh Mohammed became the world's youngest defence minister and was appointed the Dubai Police and Public Security force head. On December 2, 1971, months after Sheikh Mohammed turned 21, an interim constitution was signed that regulated the establishment of the UAE.

Foundations for greatness

The UAE forces undertook their first international task in 1976 when Sheikh Mohammed ordered troops to Lebanon to join the Arab Deterrent Force for a peacekeeping mission. In August 1977, Sheikh Rashid announced a formation of a committee, headed by Sheikh Mohammed, to manage Dubai Airport, consequently developing Dubai as an international aviation hub and touristic attraction.

In this aspect, Sheikh Mohammed adopted the open skies policy and established the fundamentals of the tourism industry that boomed during the 90s. During that period, Sheikh Mohammed handled Dubai's oil file. This was one of the most serious tasks in the Dubai Government as oil export was the most significant economic pillar.

In 1985, Sheikh Mohammed took charge of Jebel Ali Free Zone. Sheikh Mohammed's majlis gained the same energy and pulse that characterised Sheikh Rashid's majlis. During crises such as the Invasion of Lebanon, the Iraqi-Iranian War and the Palestinian Intifada, Sheikh Mohammed continued helping Dubai Government in its march forward.

In October 1990, Sheikh Rashid passed away. For Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers, there was hardly time to draw a breath before they were consumed by the urgent need to shape the UAE's response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The UAE's armed forces were at the forefront of coalition efforts to liberate Kuwait. Within days of the war's end, Sheikh Mohammed had ordered the dispatch of 250 tons of aid supplies while the army rushed medical teams to Kuwait City to revive the devastated health service.

Sheikh Mohammed becomes Crown Prince of Dubai

In January 1995, Sheikh Maktoum, the then Ruler of Dubai, signed a decree appointing Sheikh Mohammed as Crown Prince of Dubai. This appointment had dramatic effects, as Sheikh Mohammed launched many initiatives and projects to prosper the future of Dubai. In 1995, Sheikh Mohammed revealed infrastructure projects for the new digital economy and launched the e-Government initiative.

'Destination Dubai' was the tourism brief so long championed by him. Late in 1995, Sheikh Mohammed announced the creation of the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF). On April 1, 1998, Sheikh Rashid Terminal was opened, representing the completion of the first phase of Dubai's Government's $540 million airport expansion plan.

Elsewhere in Dubai, an artificial island was being created, some 100 metres offshore. This was to be the base for one of Sheikh Mohammed's boldest projects, a hotel named Burj Al Arab. On May 11, 1999, Sheikh Mohammed announced an initiative to make the Dubai Government an online government within 18 months, which would make Dubai the distinction of becoming the world's first fully online government.

In October 1999, Sheikh Mohammed announced the Dubai Internet City initiative, with a deadline of just 365 days. The industry was set to encompass the infrastructure, environment and attitude to enable new economic enterprises to operate out of Dubai with a significant competitive advantage.

Sheikh Mohammed and his family contributed to other free zone projects such as Dubai Media City and Dubai International Financial Centre. Early in 2001, Sheikh Mohammed announced the most extraordinary 'Destination Dubai' project; The Palm Island, a giant resort spread over two palm tree-shaped artificial islands.

In May 2001, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates Group Chairman, confirmed that, on instructions from Sheikh Mohammed, Emirates planned to buy up to 60 new wide-body aircraft worth $10 billion.

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Sheikh Mohammed becomes the Ruler of Dubai and Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE

On January 4, 2006, Sheikh Mohammed became the Ruler of Dubai following the death of his elder brother Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the then Ruler of Dubai.

On January 5, the members of the UAE Supreme Council elected Sheikh Mohammed as the Vice-President of the UAE.

On February 11, 2006, the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, former president, nominated Sheikh Mohammed to become the Prime Minister of the UAE; the Council approved this nomination.

- reporters@khaleejtimes.com


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