His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum; early Life
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the United Arab Emirates? Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. He was born on July 15, 1949, in the Al Maktoum home in Shindagha, near Dubai's famous creek. He is the third of four sons for His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum', Their Highnesses Sheikh Maktoum, Sheikh Hamdan and Sheikh Ahmed.
Sheikh Mohammed lived a happy childhood. His parents (Sheikh Rashid and Sheikha Latifa) and his grandfather (His Highness Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, the late Ruler of Dubai) showered him with love, and he enjoyed bonded family. Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers found their natural playmates among their cousins and the children of Dubai's major trading families, the sheikhdom's equivalent of an aristocracy. Sheikh Mohammed was an athletic and energetic child; an enthusiastic participant in traditional children's games such as Luhol and Huwaim, better known as tag and hopscotch. Even as a toddler he liked nothing better than to kick a ball around the sandy courtyard of the house.
Family friend, Hamad bin Sougat, remembers Sheikh Mohammed as an active youngster. "He was forever on the move, playing games and exploring. He was inquisitive and wanted to know what was going on around him".
Sheikh Saeed held his daily Majlis on wooden benches by the entrance to their Shindagha home. Despite the fact that these gathering were casual rather than formal, they formed an early learning environment for Sheikh Mohammed who was very close to his grandfather, Sheikh Saeed, and often seen sitting next to him Saeed.
Sheikh Mohammed learned hunting in his early childhood, especially falconry, the noble Arabian sport. He has always felt himself attracted to the intensity of this sport to return to his noble Arabian roots and as a spiritual gateway from the increasingly modernizing world.
In addition to hunting, the Maktoum brothers were taught the rudiments of horsemanship by their father. Knighthood soon captured Sheikh Mohammed, and he was taken to the saddle immediately; often he and his intimate peers rode nearly every day on Jumeirah beach.
From the age of four, Sheikh Mohammed was tutored in Arabic and Islamic Studies and soon admitted to Al Ahmadiya School, a small primary school in Deira, where he studied classic Arabic, English, mathematics, geography and history. Sheikh Mohammed excelled and at the age of 10 he was transferred to Al Shaab School; two years later he went to Dubai Secondary School.
On September 9, 1958 Sheikh Saeed passed away and his son, Sheikh Rashid, was crowned Ruler of Dubai. From October 1958, Sheikh Rashid began the serious preparations for his son to join the public service.
During the 1950s Sheikh Rashid attracted the most talented individuals in the community to his inner circle. This circle included bankers, builders, merchants and intellectuals from different parts of the world; Sheikh Mohammed grew up among these elites.
Due to his photographic memory, Sheikh Mohammed progressed quickly through Dubai Secondary School. At the end of the 1964/1965 academic year, he easily passed his high-school exams.
Sheikh Rashid believed that, as Dubai developed, a man with Sheikh Mohammed?s characters would be best suited to managing the increasing external and internal security demands. With this in mind, Sheikh Rashid started looking at military training options for his third son. But first, the young sheikh needed a complete grounding in the English language.
In August 1966, Sheikh Mohammed flew to London accompanied by his cousin, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum. They enrolled in Bell Language School in Cambridge, one of Europe's best-regarded language schools.
Because of its international reputation, Bell Language School attracted a wide range of nationalities. In Sheikh Mohammed's classes there were students from China and Japan, a large number of Spanish students and a smattering of others from North and South America, Australia and Africa. This community formed an intriguing melting pot of nationalities and cultures, and Sheikh Mohammed used the opportunity to learn about many of his classmates and their countries.
Sheikh Mohammed zestfully merged 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.
There were also opportunities for an Arab sheikh to pursue more traditional Arab pastimes, albeit in a Western setting. Sheikh Rashid had many friends in Britain, and his son found himself with plenty of invitations to large estates for hunting and shooting trips.
To further prepare for his future role in Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed attended Mons Officer Cadet School - Aldershot, about forty miles from London in the south of England. The school is now part of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
Over subsequent months, Sheikh Mohammed would be exposed to the harsh military 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 Honor for achieving the highest mark of any Foreign and Commonwealth officer cadet in his intake.
As Sheikh Mohammed entered his twenties, he had a good understanding of all the areas that would be of importance in his adult life: literature, sport, the military, and politics. When he returned to Dubai, Sheikh Rashid appointed his third son as Head of Dubai Police and Public Security, Sheikh Mohammed's first public position. The Ruler also made Sheikh Mohammed his Minister of Defense; Sheikh Mohammed had become the world?s youngest defense minister.
On October 18, 1968, in desert camp, Ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Rashid met to discuss forming a federation between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Sheikh Mohammed accompanied his father shortly after returned of England; he still remembers the very few words that initiated the establishment of the United Arab Emirates. Sheikh Mohammed recall these words:
"What do you think Rashid? Should we establish the union?" Asked Sheikh Zayed; with no hesitation, the Ruler of Dubai said: "Give me your hand Zayed, lets vow on that and you shall be the president".
This agreement between the two leaders, or what is called the Union Accord, was the ignition for a search of a bigger union that kept Sheikh Mohammed, his father and brothers busy for several years to come.
On the 2nd of December 1971, the rulers of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah and the Crown Prince of Umm Al Quwain, as representative of his father, met at Sheikh Rashid Palace in Jumeirah, Dubai where they signed the Interim Constitution that regulated the establishment of the United Arab Emirates.
Despite the fact that Sheikh Mohammed was the youngest defense minister in the world, and in less than twelve months only, he shrewdly and wisely tackled the serious responsibility assigned to him during the Arab-Israeli war, coup attempt in a neighboring country and an airplane hijack in Dubai Airport; all these major events took place while he was trying to form a national federal defense force. The UAE Forces undertook its first international task on 1976 when Sheikh Mohammed ordered troops to Lebanon to join the Arab Deterrent Force for a peace-keeping mission in that troubled country.
On August 25, 1977, Sheikh Rashid announced formation of a committee, headed by Sheikh Mohammed, to manage Dubai Airport; consequently, developing Dubai as an international aviation hub and touristic attraction became Sheikh Mohammed?s most outstanding achievement. In this aspect, Sheikh Mohammed adopted the "open skies" policy and established fundamentals of the touristic industry that shall vibrantly boom during the 90?s.
Moreover, during that period, Sheikh Mohammed under-carried Dubai?s oil file, and this was one of the most serious tasks in Dubai Government as oil export was the most significant economic pillar.
Sheikh Mohammed?s majalis gained the same energy and pulse that characterized Sheikh Rashid?s majalis at its peak when it was described as the "Arabian Camelot".
Mohammed Al Naboodah, one of the most distinguished Arab businessmen, said about Sheikh Mohammed majlis: "it is an environment that prompts innovation and freedom of speech; Sheikh Mohammed does not force any restrictions on thoughts and speech. This open free space produced genuine and open discussions and triggered people to think beyond limits, and that churn out their very best".
During crises such as the Invasion of Lebanon, the Iraqi-Irani War, and the Palestinian Intifada on December 9, 1987 Sheikh Mohammed continued helping Dubai Government in its march forward. Financial Analyst Clinton Jones said: "There was a self-belief within the Dubai and Federal Government. The Al Maktoum brothers in particular were not content to tread water and wait until stability returned. Indeed, there was a trend regionally to increase holdings in Europe and North America. Dubai bucked this trend. To boost the local economy there was greater spending on infrastructure projects. In doing so, Dubai showed its overwhelming confidence in itself and the future. This helped to calm the Dubai economy and laid the foundations for the bright future we see today.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid- early 1990s
On October 7,1990, tragedy befell the Maktoum family, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates when Sheikh Rashid passed away following a long illness resulting from a stroke. 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.
Within days of the end of the war, Sheikh Mohammed had ordered the dispatch of 250 tones of aid supplies, while the army rushed medical teams to Kuwait City to revive the devastated health service. On March 4 1991, he issued a statement marking the Emirates' first involvement in an active war zone:
"The UAE's Armed Forces were at the forefront of coalition efforts to liberate Kuwait. We have been made extremely proud by their bravery and commitment to the cause of justice. I believe we could have not asked our men to show greater professionalism. My counterparts from a number of countries have contacted me to remark upon the role played by the UAE Armed Forces".
He added: "The United Arab Emirates will continue to stand for peace ... steadfast in her support for her friends, Emirates remain a cosmopolitan meeting place, where differing cultures and religions reside in peace. It is this model of tolerance that we hope to export to the rest of the world ..."
During the Serbian aggression in Bosnia, which dragged on throughout much of the early 1990s, Sheikh Mohammed pressed for an international force to be dispatched to Bosnia, and made clear the UAE's willingness to participate in such operation. When the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina was eventually created, it fell under NATO's mandate and the UAE did not participate directly.
Under orders from His Highness President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, however, Sheikh Mohammed directed the Ministry of to provide numerous airlifts of wounded Bosnian Muslims to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where they received medical treatment and their families were provided with accommodation and financial support.
Like many UAE leaders, Sheikh Mohammed also donated personal funds in order to help the people of the region during the conflict and to help rebuild Bosnia when peace was restored.
After the frustration of being forced to watch the situation in Bosnia from the sidelines, Sheikh Mohammed was able to play a more decisive role in another crisis during the early 1990s. A famine in Somalia had been compounded by internal strife. A multinational operation, Restore Hope, was to be policed by the United Nations Operations in Somalia, widely known as UNOSOM II. The UAE Government was one of the first governments to commit resources to UNOSOM II.
The UAE Armed Forces were also deployed in Kosovo in 1999, in an attempt to end Serbian genocide there. In addition, Sheikh Mohammed ordered the military to construct 1,000 houses for homeless Kosovars. The focus of this project was the town of Vucitm, where the UAE Force is based. It also runs a 60-bed hospital there, which treats more than 350 people each day.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid; the Crown Prince
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 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.
Sheikh Mohammed later commented: "I do not know if I am a good leader, but I am a leader. And I have a vision. I look to the future, 20, 30 years. I learned that from my father, Sheikh Rashid. He was the true father of 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."
It was this "full throttle" approach that Dubai Ruler Sheikh Maktoum hoped to harness on behalf of his emirate. Sheikh Maktoum, Sheikh Hamdan and Sheikh Mohammed continued their father's work and based their vision on the basic framework laid down by Sheikh Rashid.
"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 centerpiece 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, Sheikh Mohammed 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 main 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 Dubai?s Government $540 million airport expansion plan.
Elsewhere in Dubai, an artificial island was being created 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 man-made islands, each of which would 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, which had been launched in 1985. In May 2001, Emirates Group Chairman, His Highness 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 giant 555-seat aircraft, which was scheduled to enter service in 2006.
Also in 1985, Sheikh Mohammed took charge of Jebel Ali Free Zone; a port-based industrial area centered 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), said: "One of the most important points that Sheikh Mohammed stressed on is to simplify things, he was keen to assure that Jebel Ali Free Zone must get topnotch infrastructure to offer best services possible".
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. Sheikh Mohammed said that "at a relatively early stage, [Dubai had] drawn up the necessary plans to ensure that the requirements for positive interaction with the new economy are in place. We [aimed] to move in several directions at once, namely promoting awareness of the information culture, improving education and rethinking its curricula and education tools, initiating infrastructure projects for the new digital economy and launching the e-government initiative...".
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; he said: "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 hoping to establishing the emirate's name within the world's fastest growing industry, technology.
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 registered companies was estimated at around $700 million.
Sheikh Mohammed was well aware that the business sector was not the only one that had to be updated, if Dubai was to remain at the forefront of international development. On May 11, 1999, he announced his latest initiative to a gathering of senior officials at the Dubai Quality Awards. "Within 18 months of tonight," he said, "the Dubai Government as a whole will be on-line, a factor that will increase efficiency and make the process of government faster and smoother. Among other things, I want to see visa applications and other transactions carried out on-line and government departments communicating with each other electronically." His deadline was met and Dubai had the distinction of becoming the world's first fully online government.
The attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, began one of the most difficult periods in the history of the modern world.
Sheikh Mohammed issued a statement on September 27, setting out his position and reflecting that of much of the Muslim world:
"With reference to the present US campaign against terrorism, there is no doubt that a huge crime has been committed against the United States. We condemned that crime and its perpetrators. We conveyed to the American administration our sympathies for the victims of the attacks and our support for the efforts aimed at combating terrorism within an international framework... The entire world is unanimous in fighting terrorism. We in the Arab and Islamic world are a part of this world, and we have a real interest in eradicating this hateful phenomenon...
If something emerged in our contemporary history that is contradictory to our religion's tolerance, cooperation and kindness, then the evil has been committed by the perpetrators and not the religion. We should never brand Islam and Muslims with such terrorist acts... Islam is a religion that called for justice, tolerance and world peace. In the West and in the US there are fair people who know true Muslims and the teachings of Islam, which call for peaceful coexistence between all religions and sects."
On the humanitarian front, Sheikh Mohammed was highly active through the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation. On October 3, 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.
On October 27, Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin team was 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 cause.
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 favor 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 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.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid the Ruler of Dubai
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 during a visit to Australia, and on January 5th, the members of the UAE Supreme Council elected Sheikh Mohammed the UAE Vice President.
On February 11th, 2006 UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan nominated Sheikh Mohammed UAE Prime Minister; the Supreme Council approved this nomination.
Sheikh Mohammed and the members of his Cabinet took their oaths in front of Sheikh Khalifa at Al Bateen Palace in Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Mohammed embodies energetic and successful leadership. He is a man of his word; 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, revolutionary initiatives have been rolled out.
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 over 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. He made the announcement at the prestigious regional gathering of the World Economic Forum in Jordan.
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 ? nearly US$1 billion -- in its first two months, has become one of the biggest international humanitarian movements focusing 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 more than one million people in developing countries. This initiative is part of a drive toward 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; the Dubai Metro ? a light rail system that transports tens of thousands of commuters daily -- was inaugurated and a significant number of investment companies were established; these companies have formed global partnerships in the fields of industry, commerce, tourism, ports management and real estate investments.
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. The Arabic version of the book continues to be a best-seller throughout the Middle East and elsewhere.
He 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 human development and sustainable structure.
Through generosity and dedication, Sheikh Mohammed has achieved notable success while shouldering the great responsibility of leading Dubai and the Federal Government.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid; the poet
Nabati is the name given to a colloquial form of Arabic that emerged with the spread of Islam. As non-Arabic natives accepted Islam into their lives, they began to speak some Arabic, but it was slightly different from classical Arabic and became known as Nabati. It is also known as "Bint al rimal" (lit. Daughter of the Sands). Nabati poetry has been a feature of life in the Arabian Peninsula since the 16th century. It is now prevalent in the Gulf and represents a distinct literary voice for the people of that region.
Nabati poetry shows the natural creativity of the Gulf's inhabitants and represents their roots in this land. Its form and content, literary significance, social function and historical value make it one of the Arabian Peninsula's great literary treasures.
Sheikh Mohammed began composing Nabati poetry while he was still at school. He says the greatest influences on his development as a poet have been his father, the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, and the former UAE President, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. In his youth, when travelling with Sheikh Rashid, Sheikh Mohammed would often take poetry anthologies (he cites Al Mutanabbi, Al Buhtori and Abu Tammam as his favorite classical poets) with him to read on the journey, something which has enriched his extensive poetic repertoire.
When Sheikh Mohammed's poems were first published in the newspapers, they appeared under pseudonyms -- including Nedawi and Saleet -- as he wanted to be sure that people genuinely admired his poetry, and that the newspapers were not just publishing his poetry because the author was a member of the ruling family. He received early encouragement from the renowned poetess Fatat Al Arab, when she composed a reply to one of his earliest poems -- a rare honor for an unknown poet. Nowadays, he is widely acknowledged as one of the finest exponents of Nabati verse and his work is published under his own name. An English-language collection of his poems, "Poems from the Desert," has been on best-seller lists for more than two years.
Poetry has allowed Sheikh Mohammed to express the creative, sensitive side of his nature, which he has little chance to display in the political arena. He wrote about a wide range of topics, from romance - in poems such as "Symbol of love" and the deprived lover in "Promise", to current affairs, often producing a poem about a significant event just hours after it occurs; for example his poem "To the Soul of the Child Martyr, Mohammed Al Durra", the Palestinian boy who was killed near the Netzarim junction in Gaza City on the 30th of September 2000 and was captured in a film by media crew and shown throughout the world. Sheikh Mohammed?s poems contain many maxims that give the reader an insight into his philosophy, for example:
"How precious the days when nights oppose them
If eternal, I believe them unbearable...
And even springtime, if prolonged
Would not witness, oh friend, people's yearning"
"Triumphs whoever stands firm
And for his right fights"
Myself, for Al Aqsa, I sacrifice
Sheikh Mohammed poetry tends to confront themes that are more to do with general events than personal matters. As he said, "The subjects closest to my heart are those that are closest to people." Thus, he has written several poems about Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, praising their wise leadership of the UAE.
There are several recurring symbolic themes in Sheikh Mohammed's poetry. As expected from an Emirati poet, desert is close to his heart. He has said that the desert taught him "patience and perseverance" and these two attributes are prominent themes in his poems, as one can see in "I am patient?". The sea, too, is frequently used as a symbol in his poetry, for example:
"Your waves roil and I drowned in the depths
Of seas, waves of which crash, and deep"
See the effect you have
The wildlife of the region is also an important part of Sheikh Mohammed's poetic vocabulary. Gazelles are widely used in Arabic literature to symbolize beauty:
"Her figure from the gazelle
Staring, afraid of hunters"
The path of lovers
Lanner falcons are also a symbol of beauty in his poetry too, ("eyes like the eyes of the kohled lanner falcon" ? ") but can also to describe courage and authority:
"Oh lanner, ever assailing
Your prey, if strikes, always slain"
The Riyadh Sea
In an effort to increase awareness of his nation's cultural heritage, Sheikh Mohammed has participated several poetic "contests" with other high-profile poets from the region, including Sheikh Zayed and Prince Khalid Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia. These contests, poets must respond to each other's verses and the respond can be written or oral. Sheikh Mohammed commented on these contests: "People highly appreciate this art; it arouses the spirit of competition between poets. I support and encourage this art because it brings about connections between poets."
Sheikh Mohammed has also encouraged others to compose Nabati verse through the riddles encrypted in his poems. He composes a poem comprising many questions, unlike the traditional one-line riddle of Western cultures, and call people to answer. However, they must send their solutions in the form of a Nabati poem that matches the style of Sheikh Mohammed's original. A substantial reward is offered to anyone who manages this feat, and there has been a great response to these riddles from all over the Arab world. There were over 12,000 replies received for the fifth riddle alone.
Sheikh Mohammed has already created an impressive body of work and continues to compose whenever he has the time, ensuring that he will be remembered not only as a visionary leader and accomplished equestrian, but also for his cultural legacy.
Mohammed bin Rashid the Equestrian
"A love for horses runs in my blood. Don't forget that horses have been bred for centuries by Arab tribes, they were used for hunting and war and a symbol of our history. Horse riding is more than merely sitting on a horse's back. It is nobility and chivalry." -- Mohammed bin Rashid
Horses have played an important role in the history of the Arab world, particularly in combat, where their speed, agility and stamina were often the decisive factor. Although the camel was a more integral part of Bedouin life, the horse was traditionally more highly prized, being a symbol of wealth and nobility.
As a member of a Gulf recognized families, it was only natural that Sheikh Mohammed should be introduced to horses at an early age and that he would come to honor and respect them in accordance with their cultural status.
Sheikh Mohammed learned horse ride in his early childhood; Sheikh Rashid taught his children well. Sheikh Mohammed was a promising athlete, an accomplished player of tennis and football, but equestrianism was, and remains, his true sporting passion.
Sheikh Mohammed first visited a racecourse in 1967, in England. He and his brother, Sheikh Hamdan, watched Royal Palace win the 2000 Guineas. Some 10 years later, in Brighton, Hatta gave Sheikh Mohammed the first of many victories as an owner.
Despite great success, it was not until Sheikh Mohammed established Godolphin, in 1994 that the racing world really began to acknowledge his passion for -- and understanding of -- horses. It soon became clear that it was not just money that had brought him success. Once he had taken the groundbreaking step of bringing his horses to Dubai for winter training, it quickly became apparent that this was a man who knew a great deal about horses and how to get the best out of them. Godolphin allowed him to ensure that his ideas were fully implemented, something which had not been possible previously.
The success and development of Godolphin coincided with, and undoubtedly assisted, the rise in Dubai's international profile. At the time it was established, owners tended to race their horses only on their own continent. Sheikh Mohammed wanted to race his horses all over the world and to encourage others to do the same. The world's richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup, was established with this aim in mind. The American horse Cigar won the first World Cup, and the race continues to attract entries from around the globe.
Sheikh Mohammed has earned international recognition as a horse owner, as evidenced by the Special Eclipse Award he received in 2001. What is not so widely known is that he is also an exceptionally gifted rider. However, his chosen field -- endurance racing -- has yet to gain the international popularity of traditional horse racing.
Endurance racing is the equestrian equivalent of a marathon. Most endurance races are well over 120 kilometers long and take several hours to complete. The riders need to establish a strong bond with their horses and be able to read their condition quickly and accurately, as there are stringent veterinary checks at regular points in the race and if the horse shows signs of deterioration, the rider is asked to retire from the race.
Arabian horses have proved exceptionally well suited to these kinds of races, because of their legendary stamina. Riders from the UAE have also excelled in this sport, with Sheikh Mohammed as captain of the national team. Although they only began participating seriously in the mid-1990s, UAE riders are considered to be among the world's best. Indeed, Sheikh Mohammed's sons, Sheikh Rashid and Sheikh Hamdan, topped the world rankings in 1999 and 2000 respectively, and Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed won the World Endurance Championship in 2002, becoming the youngest rider ever to do so, and the first Asian world champion.
The year 2003 saw Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed start competing in senior races on a more regular basis, and he was part of the UAE team for the European Championship.
His two sons are quick to credit their father's role in their success. He is widely acknowledged to be a master tactician, recognizing exactly the time to demand maximum effort from the horses, and when to hold them back. He led the UAE to victory in the 1999 European Championship in Spain/Portugal and was captain when they retained the title in Italy in 2001.
In the 2003 European Championship in Ireland, he was captain once again, and won the race. He is also a leading figure in the campaign to have endurance racing included in the Olympics.
Sheikh Mohammed's major endurance racing victories include:
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has made the following achievements in major international endurance races
10 January 1993
Sheikh Mohammed, mounting "Ibyan Al Ashqar", came second, winning the Golden Sword Award, in the First 40km Camels against Horses Races held in Sieh Al Salam.
17 March 1994
Sheikh Mohammed won the Second 28km Camels against Horses Race; the race started off from Jebel Ali to Sieh Sdeera in Ghantout.
24 February 1995
Desert Challenge Race
Sheikh Mohammed achieved a historic win in the 35km Desert Challenge Race, which was held in Sieh Shuaib in Jebel Ali.
Emirates International Endurance Championship
Sheikh Mohammed snatched victory in the First International Endurance Championship in Jordan. Outstanding Arab riders took part in the race.
21 September 1996
World Endurance Championship
Sheikh Mohammed led the UAE Team to the 160km World Endurance Championship, held for the first time, in Arkansas, USA
25 February 1998
UAE International Endurance Championship
Sheikh Mohammed won the UAE International Endurance Championship from Ghantout to Sieh Al Salam over 160km.
28 October 1998
9th Desert Endurance Giants Race
Sheikh Mohammed took part in the 9th Desert Endurance Giants Race, run over 120km.
11 November 1998
10th Desert Endurance Giants Race
Sheikh Mohammed took part in the 10th Desert Endurance Giants Race, which was organised by UAE Equestrian Federation, and was run over 120km in Sieh Al Salam
5 May 1999
Tadmur Endurance Ride
Sheikh Mohammed led UAE team in the Tadmur Endurance Ride. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed landed first in the race. Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed came second and the third place went to Maktoum bin Mohammed
Open European Endurance Championship
Sheikh Mohammed won the team gold medal in the European Endurance Championship, held in Spain and Portugal( Elvas/Badahoz)
19 May 2000
Al Ahram Al Araby Endurance Ride
Sheikh Mohammed won the race, which was held at Saqara Pyramids in Al Jeeza, over 100km. Two thousand riders took part in the race
19 May 2000
Bahrain International Endurance Championship
Sheikh Mohammed won the first International Endurance Championship, held in Bahrain, in the presence of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain
18 January 2001
Emirates Giants Endurance Ride
21 April 2001
Al Ahram Al Araby Endurance Ride
30 July 2001
Villacastin Endurance Ride
17 August 2002
Spanish Endurance Marathon
Ahmed bin Mohammed won the World Endurance Championship thanks to the directions of his father Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
24 August 2002
Norwegian Open Championship
25 January 2003
Dubai Endurance City Masters Ride
13 February 2003
First Giants Endurance Ride
Sheikh Mohammed won the race, run over 130km at Dubai International Endurance City
15 February 2003
Sheikh Zayed Challenge, Round II
Sheikh Mohammed came first in the Sheikh Zayed Challenge, Round II held over 130km at Dubai International Endurance City
24 August 2003
19 September 2003
European Open Endurance Championship
Sheikh Mohammed was crowned the winner of the individual championship, winning the gold medal on the mount of "Provokatif"
26 January 2005
FEI Endurance World Championship
Sheikh Mohammed landed second, leading "Nashmi" to the runner-up place
Sheikh Mohammed led the UAE team to victory, winning the team gold. The team include Sheikhs Hamdan, Ahmed and Majid bin Mohammed
Asian Games Championship, Doha
The UAE team won, for the first time in the history of the games, the gold and bronze medals in the individual and team competition. Gratitude is due to Sheikh Mohammed for the victory.
31 May 2008
Syrian International Endurance Race
Sheikh Mohammed shared the title of the Championship which was run over 120km
28 June 2008
FEI CEI Endurance Championship Race
Sheikh Mohammed led the UAE team to victory in the first FEI CEI Endurance Championship Race, held over 120km in Austin Park, England
22 August 2008
Endurance Championship Race
Sheikh Mohammed and his sons Sheikhs Hamdan and Majid led the UAE equestrian team to victory in the 160km Endurance Race at Austin Park. Riders from several countries also took part in the race.
14 November 2008
Al Hussein International Endurance Ride
Sheikh Mohammed led the UAE endurance team to victory when he won the 120-kilometre Al Hussein International Endurance Ride, which took place at Wadi Rum in Jordan. The five- stage race featured 75 Arab and international competitors
3 August 2009
Stars Endurance race
Sheikh Mohammed led the UAE team to victory in the 120km Stars Endurance race, held at Euston Park in the UK. He won the event with his unparalleled perseverance and practice
9 January 2010
Second Round of the Giants Endurance Challenge Ride
Sheikh Mohammed shared top place in the second round of the Giants Endurance Challenge with Bahrain's Royal Endurance Team captain Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa. The race was held at the International Endurance Village in Bahrain over 120km
13 July 2010
Euston Park Endurance Championship
Sheikh Mohammed won the event , which was run over 166km at Euston Park, with his unparalleled perseverance and practice
26 July 2010
Stars Challenge Race
Sheikh Mohammed won the 160km Stars Challenge Race, held at Austin Park, with the participation of 75 contenders.