Dubai: If you want a good read with fascinating insights and rare recollections of the life of the Ruler of Dubai, then “Qissati” is the book for you.
The book, the title of which means "My Story", shows the human side of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
It offers powerful insights into life in the desert, about family and governance before the era of air-conditioning and long-haul flight.
Shaikh Mohammad, a gifted poet, philosopher and a prolific writer, published several books in the past. This new book offers his musings starting from a very young age.
He termed his new book as an “incomplete autobiography”. The result: a free-wheeling recollection, with compelling stories and insights into his life and brand of leadership.
In the introduction, Shaikh Mohammad wrote that the book contains “a little of my wisdom, and lots of my love.”
The publication of “Qissati” (50 stories in 50 years), coincides with celebrations to mark 50 years of his service to the nation. The book goes back many years, and juxtaposes his experiences with lessons for the present and future generations. The book will be available in three weeks.
Gulf News just got a hold of Shaikh Mohammad’s "Qissati" and here’s our attempt to get the key take-aways, from the original Arabic text.
“It is an introduction that has to be done. I love my people and to them I write these lessons from my own life. Perhaps it will be an opener to writing the history of our country, to keep the memory alive. Qissati is the start of my biography.”
They will say, after a long time:
Here they existed, here they worked;
Here they accomplished;
Here they were born, raised, loved and beloved by people;
Here they launched that project and here they celebrated its accomplishment;
Here they started, and here they reached in a couple of years.
Following are excerpts from Chapters 1-10 of “Qissati” (My Story), written by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
'A little of my wisdom, and lots of love'
Chapter 1. From here we started and there we reached
The first lesson I learnt in life is to serve others. This is lesson that my grandfather, Shaikh Saeed Bin Maktoum, taught me. He taught us to serve the people first and foremost.
I love to break new records in front of my people. To reach new heights. I believe that what drives nations towards development is not money and wealth but ambitions…great ambitions.
Chapter 2. My father, visiting the king of kings
“I learnt from my father, Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the value of simplicity, of being down to earth. Of being close to the people…and how to serve them. It was my life’s greatest lesson. I saw how kings fall in the past — in the 40s, 50s and 60s. And I saw them again this decade. The question is: Where is Rashid and Zayed? They are in the hearts of the people. And those kings and presidents, where are they in history?
Chapter 3. Sleeping with scorpions
I say, sometimes, sleeping with scorpions is much easier than living with them.
When I was young, my father used to send me to the desert, to man named Humaid Bin Amhi. Humaid taught me about desert life. I would wake up in the middle of the night several times due to scorpion bites.
I realised later that Humaid put baby scorpions on my bed on purpose. I learnt that bites from baby scorpions helped build immunity for bites from mature scorpions. Not everything that hurts you is evil. Sometimes, it’s for your own good and protection.
Scorpions apparently look for some warmth at night. A couple of years ago, as an adult, I got bitten by a scorpion and I realised that I still have the immunity.
The scorpions of the desert are much easier to deal with than human scorpions. I hate rumour mongers. They ruin your heart. They destroy institutions. They focus only on the negative. They never tell you about the positives…and good side of people.
Chapter 4. What my father taught me
My father, horses and Dubai. These three are my earliest memories that will stay with me forever. Horses combine pride, compassion and power — all at the same time. That was my father. And this is Dubai.
He taught me how to read the desert and animals. I learnt from the desert that arrogance has no place here.
Before the age of 8, my father taught me about desert life — with the horses and camels, wolves and deer, both in the hot and cold months. After 8, he taught me to live in the city — how cruel people can be, how beautiful is the desert.
Chapter 5. Latifa-1
In Arabic, Latifa means the delicate woman. The companion. The rare human being. In life, Latifa is my mother, my heart. The most beautiful, the most delicate, the best companion in my life.
Latifa’s job was the life companion of Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai for more than four decades. Rashid Bin Saeed changed when she passed away. He was never the same after she passed away.
She had great love for her children. But I was the one closest to her heart. I have never seen love like her love, a heart like her heart, and a companionship like hers. She had a very strong personality, lovable. All who knew her loved her.
Chapter 6. Latifa-2
My mother was a beautiful princess. My mother was the most beautiful of all queens. My mother was the tallest of all palms. If she walks, a deer accompanies her with Allah’s blessing.
I remember, when I was about the age of 7, at Humaid’s place. He was teaching me the art of hunting. Then I saw a gazelle, left by its mother shortly after birth. I sat there hugging the calf, hoping that its mother would come back. At sunset, the mother did not come.
I kept holding it, and knew who would compensate for its loss: my own mother. She gave me life. And she would give this calf too. My mother, her smile, was life. It was the most beautiful thing in life.
There are so many beautiful things I remember about her. One day, she was explaining to me my first trip to London, talking to me about a strange country, about an adventure that awaits. She said I was going to fly in the belly of a big bird, to cross oceans.
I was surprised, amused when she told me that I would sleep inside a high-rise building. Quite unlike from the desert, where you can sleep outside, on rooftops. When she told me about the trip to London, I couldn’t sleep all night.
My mother bought me two new kandouras and a nice jacket. I was happy. Now, I have four kandouras. So I suggested to my mother to cut two of them so I can ride horses. She did. She was always happy with my suggestions.
Chapter 7. Latifa-3
My mother, Latifa Bint Hamdan, when I was growing up, I was always keen on making her happy. I was keen on gifting her with what she loves. Her happiness makes me happy. Her smile makes my day. My conversations with my mother were the most entertaining in life.
Then horrible pain. A great void. Feeling like an orphan when you’re old. That’s what I felt when I lost her in May 1983. I lost my sweetheart. I lost my eyesight.
I still remember the last time I saw her before she travelled for medical treatment to London. I kissed her, hugged her. She looked at me and said: ‘Who is like you?’”
She was talking about how good-looking I am. She complimented me with my new watch. So I thought of giving it to her once she’s back.
My mother never made it back. When I was putting her down to her grave, the watch fell beside her. I got tongue tied, from the great importance of that moment. I looked at my mother, and my watch next to her. And a voice within me was saying: "Something from me is with her."
And they closed the grave.
Chapter 8. 185 years looking for Dubai
Dubai is not a mere coincidence. It is a long journey. That journey started with Shaikh Maktoum Bin Butti, who laid the foundations. And then his brother, Saeed Bin Butti, who taught us about pure justice. That’s the first lesson in Dubai’s unwritten Constitution. The second lesson, also taught by Saeed Bin Butti, is that we don’t make enemies — and we don’t give anybody an excuse to be our enemy.
Then came Shaikh Hasher Bin Maktoum, followed by Shaikh Rashid Bin Maktoum, who oversaw Dubai’s stability and security and economic development.
Then came Maktoum Bin Hasher in the late 19th century. He was a visionary. A genius. He laid the foundation for investments and commerce. In 1912, my grandfather Shaikh Saeed Bin Maktoum, when he started his rule, Dubai’s population increased significantly as trade flourished. This is the insight we inherited from my grandfather: always find ways to diversify.
And that’s why when someone asks me: "Why is Dubai always looking for new projects? From Media, to Internet, to ports?" The answer is in Dubai’s unwritten constitution. "Diversification is our foundation."
Chapter 9. A big storm, like Judgement Day
The year was 1961. A powerful storm hit Dubai. I saw a leader in front of me. How he acted in a crisis. How he sent his sons and cousins first, rather than sending other people, outside — to the streets, to the sea in order to help and save people.
“That time, there was a ship, MV Da Ra, anchored off Dubai. For 13 years, this ship was sailing between Mumbai and the Gulf. It moved people and goods. While the storm lashed, a blast hit the ship. It went up in flames. We went to the ship on small boats to help in the rescue effort. That day, we helped around 500 people. The lesson: the true test of a leader’s ability comes in times of crises.
Chapter 10. The kindest man I ever knew
The day my grandfather died. People loved my grandfather, Shaikh Saeed Bin Maktoum. He passed away on September 10, 1958. He was known for his patience. He spent 46 years constantly renewing Dubai, which until now is an unfinished story of renewal.”
During his reign, Dubai went through numerous challenges. Each time, Dubai was like a Phoenician bird, able to regenerate.
In 1939, a huge fire hit Dubai’s Deira district. About 300 houses and shops were gutted. There were casualties. A year after, 1940, another fire erupted, this time in Bur Dubai, with more than 400 houses and shops in flames. At the same time, the pearl trade went down, with the Great Depression.
In 1945, many of Dubai resident contracted measles. Back then, Dubai only had a small infirmary to deal with diseases. With that lesson, Shaikh Saeed ordered the building of a big hospital from his own money. It is now known as Rashid Hospital. Crises test the real mettle of a leader, someone who takes responsibility.
During his funeral, when we were walking behind his body, my father was holding my hand every so tightly. I didn’t know if that was grief, or he just wanted me to remember that moment.
Till today, I still don’t know the answer. But I know that this is the path that we will all take. And what is left when a person leaves is his good deeds…will immortalize his memory among the people.