Dubai: The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (Emirates LitFest) on Thursday evening witnessed a daughter of the late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum sharing an emotional story of writing a book on her late father, making the audience tear up and also laugh at times.
Author Sheikha Latifa bint Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum discussed her book ‘Through My Eyes: The Life of Sheikh Hamdan as Told by His Daughter” in which she pays tribute to her late father Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who was the Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance and Industry when he passed away in March 2021.
The book unveils the life of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid from a unique perspective with personal accounts and unseen photographs of the royal family. The packed hall had audience from various walks of life, officials and royal family members including the author’s sister Sheikha Hissa bint Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and cousin Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, chairperson of Dubai Culture and member of Dubai Council.
In a freewheeling conversation with Julia Wheeler, Sheikha Latifa bint Hamdan, founder of Latifa Bint Hamdan Club for Skills and Chairwoman of Zabeel Ladies Club, revealed that she wrote the literary tribute to let people know about the fatherly side of her father.
“The only reason I wrote it was my life with him has ended, but my love for him is infinite,” said Sheikha Latifa who wore a brooch bearing the image of her late father pinned to her robe in his favourite blue colour.
She said her mother, Sheikha Roudha bint Ahmad bin Juma Al Maktoum, gave her the courage to write the book when she felt she could not talk much about her father during a couple of interviews after his passing. She also helped finalise the adorable cover photo of Sheikh Hamdan sharing a special moment with a young Sheikha Latifa.
Sheikh Hamdan was not just the formidable man he was in public. He was a joyous, kind, warm and thoughtful man, she recollected. While a ‘business mind’ is the leadership quality that she thinks she has inherited from Sheikh Hamdan, his modesty and the way he worked silently are the values that Sheikha Latifa said she would hold on to while she carries on his legacy along with her five siblings.
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The Silent Hail
Shaikha Latifa thanked whoever nicknamed Sheikh Hamdan as the ‘Silent Hail.’ “Whoever gave him this name, thank you so much because honestly that’s the perfect nickname for him. You know, he’s a caring person. He’s a nurturing person, and he helped people with calmness, with tranquillity. He never spoke about anything he did. Even my mother said, excellent (name).”
She said it was after his passing that several people shared how their lives had been touched by him and the family got to know about his nickname. His way of helping others had a sense of wisdom and he put primary focus on championing the cause of education, she recalled.
Sheikha Latifa opened up about the special bond with her father. She said she was proud and happy that he named her after his mother Sheikha Latifa bint Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
He also used to call her nicknames such as Ummi and Fifa. “He used to say in a happy tone, ‘Marhaba Ummi,’ welcoming me and I would reply to him with the same energy.”
At home, he loved using the endearing salutations like “my dear, my love,” she said.
Sheikh Hamdan used to care about the health and well-being of everyone around him. Though he had a busy life, he “tried to compensate in many ways” and found time to connect with family.
“If he’s travelling, he has to call me every day. He has to talk to us every day. If he comes back from a country, he would fill the trunk with toys. And not just for us, our foster siblings too. So he would just line them up and he’s like, take whatever you like. If I had the slightest cold, he would constantly call me. During COVID-19, he was just giving away vitamins to everyone.”
She recalled Sheikh Hamdan taking the family to the UK and showing them the place where he had lived as an expat during his higher education days and the horse races.
“My mother had told me to tone down my habit of taking a lot of pictures. But once we reached there, my father told me, Latifa, take a picture of everything, like everything … even the racetrack. He went around and left and he was like’ you didn’t report this?’ and then he drove me back,” she said, letting a ripple of laughter among the audience.
He also shared an anecdote with them from his university days. “When my grandfather asked him how it was in Cambridge and he said it was a little hard over there. Then, my grandfather told him, complete it, and I would build you whatever house you like,” she narrated, making the audience laugh again.
Though the process of writing down her father’s story had a therapeutic effect on her, Sheikha Latifa, who studied psychology, revealed that in fact she had held back a chapter from publishing as it was an emotionally overwhelming one.
“It was the farewell chapter.” She said she was in tears when she typed around 17 pages. But suddenly she stopped writing and decided not to finish it and not to publish it. “I didn’t want to put it out there. I wanted this to be a happy book.”
She also became emotional when she spoke about her father’s relationship with his brother His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who described Sheikh Hamdan as his pillar of support.
“After my father passed, every time I look at my uncle, I just feel a part of him just went,” she said, bursting into tears, unable to continue talking for a while.
The session ended with Sheikha Latifa answering questions and receiving comments from the audience including a schoolboy named after her father. She also signed copies of the book for a long line of fans.