Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. January 4, 2021 marks 15 years since he became the Ruler of Dubai. Image Credit: WAM/Gulf News Archives

Visionary leader. Philanthropist. Poet. Champion horseman. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is all of this and more.

On January 4, 2021, Sheikh Mohammed reached a new milestone. It is his 15th Accession Day, the day he became Ruler of Dubai in 2006. A day later, Sheikh Mohammed was elected Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE by the Supreme Council members.

With Sheikh Mohammed steering the Cabinet, the federal government embarked on an array of programmes and initiatives that helped the UAE find a place among the world’s leading nations in governance and quality of life.

Over the years, this relentless pursuit of innovative ideas with a humane approach has made him one of the most popular world leaders from the region. He uses the latest technology to feel the pulse of the people and frequently reaches out to the public through social media, where he has millions of followers

Early days — education and life

Born in 1949 as the third of four sons of Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, late Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed spent his early childhood in the Al Maktoum family house at Al Shindagha. After formal education at Al Ahmadiya School in Deira, Sheikh Mohammed later studied at Al Shaab School and Dubai Secondary School.

Sheikh Mohammed attended the Bell School of Languages at Cambridge University and later graduated from the Mons Officer Cadet School at Aldershot (Now, part of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst) in the United Kingdom.

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On his return from England in 1968, Sheikh Mohammed was appointed Head of Dubai Police and Public Security — his first public position.

Sheikh Mohammed was also a witness to the UAE’s formation, having accompanied his father to meetings with other Rulers. As the world’s youngest defence minister (he was handed the portfolio in the first UAE cabinet following the federation’s formation in 1971), Sheikh Mohammed ordered the UAE troops to Lebanon to join the Arab Deterrent Force on a peacekeeping mission in 1976. The UAE troops also played a significant role in restoring peace and providing humanitarian aids around the world, including in Bosnia, Somalia, and Kosovo.

As the head of Dubai Civil Aviation, Sheikh Mohammed in 1985 directed the launch of Emirates, which became one of the best airlines in the world.

Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
On November 1, 1968, Sheikh Mohammed was appointed Head of Dubai Police and Public Security. Image Credit: WAM

The Crown Prince who changed Dubai 

Sheikh Mohammed, who was appointed Crown Prince of Dubai in 1995, transformed the emirate into one of the most sought-after destinations globally. He also launched the eGovernment drive to move towards a digital infrastructure and economy. The annual Dubai Shopping Festival, which attracts tourists and shoppers from all over the world, too was his brainchild.

Sheikh Mohammed in 1998 oversaw the opening of Shaikh Rashid Terminal, part of a multi-billion-dirham airport expansion plan. The year also marked the beginning of one of Dubai’s iconic projects — the “seven-star” Burj Al Arab island hotel that became a symbol of Dubai’s hospitality and tourism.

Excerpts from 'Qissati'

Dubai Internet City was launched in 1999 to offer businesses a competitive advantage. The project later spawned into several similar “free zone” initiatives, such as Dubai Media City and Dubai International Financial Centre.

More ambitious projects were to follow. Sheikh Mohammed in 2001 revealed the project that caught the world’s attention — the Palm Island, now known as Palm Jumeirah, or The Palm. The giant man-made island in the palm tree’s shape is home to some of the world’s most luxurious beach resorts and villas.

MBR 15 years
Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai Ruler and his accomplishments

Following the death of his elder brother Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who was the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed became the new Ruler of Dubai on January 4, 2006. A day later, he was elected Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE. About a month later, on February 11, 2006, he and his Cabinet were sworn in.

Sheikh Mohammed in 2009 announced the first federal strategy, the UAE Vision 2021, to make the UAE one of the best countries in the world.

The seeds for eGovernment that he had first sown in 1995 bloomed into a vast digital sphere which saw 2,500 government services migrate online.

Dubai Metro, a major project planned in 2005 when Sheikh Mohammed was Crown Prince of Dubai, took to the tracks in 2009. The world’s longest driverless train has since carried more than a billion riders and reduced traffic congestion. It is also an environmental-friendly public transport system.

In 2010, Sheikh Mohammed inaugurated the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest structure at 828 metres. The shiny sky-piercing landmark has become synonymous with Dubai’s and the UAE’s ambition and one of the world’s most famous towers.

Dubai cares
Sheikh Mohammed launches “Dubai Cares,” a campaign which funds education for poor children worldwide, in Dubai on September 19, 2007.

Philanthropy: Helping the world

Sheikh Mohammed continues to support numerous philanthropic initiatives, helping people in distress. He has established several organisations and directed government and NGO efforts to deliver humanitarian aid.

His foundations conduct philanthropic activities through Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian & Charity Est, Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, and several other organisations. The International Humanitarian City, established in 2003, is a major global logistics hub for emergency and humanitarian aid and relief.

Noor Dubai, UAE Water Aid (Suqia), and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Sports and Fitness Programme are health care initiatives. At the same time, education has been given a fillip through Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation, Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government and Dubai Cares, among others.

The poet and his verse

Sheikh Mohammed is regarded as one of the leading exponents of Nabati poetry, demonstrating the oral poetic flair of bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula. He started composing Nabati poetry as a schoolboy. Sheikh Mohammed has several works in classical Arabic and Nabati colloquial poetry, including 40 Poems from the Desert and Poems from the Desert.

An accomplished author, Sheikh Mohammed’s My Vision, My Story, and Spirit of the Union have been translated into English and other languages.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum at the Ascot Racecourse in Britain on June 19, 2019. Image Credit: WAM

Visionary for the future of horse racing

Leslie Wilson Jr, Racing & Special Features Writer

Sheikh Mohammed’s extraordinary love of horses has been a pivotal part of his life.

From an early age he was fascinated by their agility, power and speed and it was inevitable that these magnificent beasts would consume his passion and interest. His skills as a horseman are well documented right from the early days when he participated in bareback horse races with friends on the sands of Jumeirah Beach.

But it was during his studies in Cambridge in the UK that the seeds to what has now become a racing empire was sown when Sheikh Mohammed witnessed his first race meeting at Newmarket, where he watched Royal Palace win the 2,000 Guineas in 1967. This would trigger his own involvement with the sport as an owner and the very next year he enjoyed his first ever success when the filly Hatta won a race at Brighton in the UK.

The rest is history.

Sheikh Mohammed invested heavily in the sport and developed a major bloodstock operation under the name Darley and by 1992 had created the Godolphin stable, one of the world’s successful racing operations with close to 300 victories at the highest level achieved in 14 countries worldwide.

He created the world’s richest race at the time, the Dubai World Cup in 1996, which put the city and the UAE firmly at the epicentre of global horse racing.

Today, Team Godolphin, which has headquarters in Dubai and Newmarket in the UK, spans across four continents, from Dubai to Europe, Australia, Japan and America. Sheikh Mohammed is regarded as one of the most influential men in the sport and his stables and stud farms in the UK and Ireland alone provides employment to over 10,000 staff.

MBR Endurance Race
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum wins the FEI World Endurance Championships in Euston Hall, Suffolk, UK, on August 26, 2012. He won the individual gold and also led the UAE to the team gold. Image Credit: WAM/Gulf News Archives

A champion and an enduring inspiration

Leslie Wilson Jr, Racing & Special Features Writer

Sheikh Mohammed has left an indelible mark on the world of endurance riding, having won many titles, including the European gold medal.

During his riding career he has competed, and succeeded, at the highest level at all the major endurance festivals around the world.

He once described his passion for competing in these challenging races which sometimes are held over a rough course of 160 kilometres, because he likes to go out and ‘have fun’.

“I only ever compete because I enjoy taking part in endurance. I do not go out to get a result; I go out to have fun. I do not try to change position but ride my own ride,” Sheikh Mohammed said after his most famous victory in the Longines FEI World Endurance Championship at Britain’s Euston Park in 2012.

Riding Madji du Pont, Sheikh Mohammed, whose son Sheikh Ahmed won the world individual title in 2002, picked up the individual gold to be crowned world champion.

In doing so he also help the UAE riders to the coveted Team gold.

Sheikh Mohammed demonstrated his tremendous understanding of the horse when he won Europe's Endurance Race at Verona, Italy, eclipsing some of the world’s best endurance riders.

Sheikh Mohammed’s son, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, is also a world champion.

President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said after Sheikh Mohammed won the world title: “The victory represents an honourable, qualitative addition to the UAE’s proven record of sports achievements at international level.”

Sheikh Mohammed dedicated his title to the UAE President, UAE people and the Arab world.

Diary of achievements

Compiled by Gulf News Archives

4/1/2006: Sheikh Mohammed was appointed as Ruler of Dubai following the death of his brother Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

5/1/2006: Elected Vice-President by the Supreme Council. The council also approved the proposal of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to appoint Sheikh Mohammed as Prime Minister.

9/2/2006: Formed the new UAE Cabinet ushering in eight new faces, but major portfolios remained unchanged including the Defence, Interior, Finance and Energy ministries.

19/2/2006: Announces launch of Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE), a global aerospace manufacturing and services corporation with Dh55 billion investments.

14/3/2006: Issue Law No. 7 that legalises freehold ownership of land and property for UAE and GCC citizens, while allowing the same rights to non-GCC expatriates to pre-designated areas.

23/04/2006: Releases the first copy of his book, My Vision — Challenges in the Race of Excellence.

3/10/2006: Issues Law No. 20 for 2006 , which established the Mohammed Bin Rashid Housing Establishment with a paid up capital of Dh12 billion.

18/12/2006: Lauds the first-ever Federal National Council (FNC) elections and praises the participation of women.

3/2/2007: Announced the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015, the nine-year economic plan that will fuel an 11 per cent annual growth in GDP to Dh396.36 billion by 2015.

19/2/2007: Officially launched the services of du, a new telecommunications operator that ended etisalat's 30-year monopoly.

19/9/2007: Launches "Dubai Cares," a campaign which aims to fund education of poor children worldwide.

05/11/2007: Sheikh Mohammed sets up the Dubai City Aviation, comprising the Dubai Airports, Dubai World Central, and Dubai Air Traffic Navigation.

05/11/2007: Sheikh Mohammed has established the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, replacing the Department of Civil Aviation.

14/01/2008: Receives US President George W. Bush in Dubai.

24/01/2008: Patients of Palestine, an aid campaign aiming at providing medicine and medical equipment for Palestinians in the Gaza strip is launched by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment.

10/3/2008: Orders the setting up of The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) Museum. This aims to set up global destination that reflects the status of Prophet Mohammed and his great character.

26/3/2008: Launches the "Khor Dubai" Cultural Project, which aims to transform the banks of Dubai creek into the cultural hub of the city.

03/9/2008: Launches Noor Dubai initiative, with a vision of a world from blindness.

20/3/2009: Launches the official website of the Prime Minister of the UAE

08/5/2009: Formally opens Dubai Mall.

09/09/2009: Launches Dubai Metro.

04/01/2010: Inaugurates the world tallest building, Burj Khalifa.

01/07/2010: Officially opens the Dubai World Central — Al Maktoum airport

10/11/2010: Inaugurates the one million tree-planting campaign

09/09/2011: Inaugurates the Dubai Metro's Green line.

04/12/2011: Launches his new book titled 40 Poems from the Desert.

09/01/2012: Launches a Dh12-billion solar project — the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.

10/04/2012: Launches a Dh1 billion e-learning initiative — the Mohammd Bin Rashid Smart Learning Initiative that will bring together pupils, teachers, parents and administrators on an interactive e-platform

24/09/2012: Launches the Mohammed Bin Rashid Initiative for Smart Learning for higher education

24/11/2012: Announces the "Dubai 3.0" development plan — the Mohammed Bin Rashid City will be a new city with Dubai, that will focused on the emirate's key sectors including retail, tourism, entrepreneurship and exhibitions

11/07/2013: Launches the 'Dress One Million Needy Children' campaign

27/10/2013: Inaugurates the Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central.

27/11/2013: Dubai wins bid to host Expo 2020.

24/06/2014: Launches the UAE Water Aid, a campaign aims to provide drinking water for five million people around the world.

14/07/2014: Announces launch of a $1 million global award and the establishment of the UAE Water Research Agency to find sustainable solutions to water scarcity across the world.

16/11/2014: Announces plan to send space probe to Mars in 2021, marking the first entry into space exploration by an Islamic country and making the UAE the first Arab country and one of only nine countries with space programmes to explore Mars.

11/07/2015: Issues law for establishing Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, which will work to support country’s efforts in the field of space exploration.

16/09/2015: Launches Arab Reading Challenge, a competition with $3 million in prizes to get 1 million Arab children to read 50 million books.

04/10/2015: Inagurates Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives in humanitarian work, philanthropy and community.

24/11/2015: Launches Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Fund to Finance Innovation, worth Dh2 billion.

01/02/2016: Launches the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Library in Dubai.

07/02/2016: Inaugurates Museum of the Future, one of the key highlights of the World Government Summit.

08/11/2016: Inaugurates Dubai Water Canal.

14/02/2017: Dubai 10X initiative launches. Dubai government entities were told to submit plans to place the city as the world’s future capital in the next 10 years under the new initiative.

23/06/2017: Launches the Humanitarian Accelerators, a first of its kind initiative in the Arab world, which aims to attract skilled professionals to the humanitarian sector.

18/09/2017: Unveils a new e-Learning project to provide free online educational material for more than 50 million students in the Arab world.

26/09/2017: Launches Mars Scientific City. The city that will be built on an area of 1.9 million square feet is expected to strengthen UAE’s space research.

01/03/2018: Launches One million books initiative to support school libraries as part of Month of Reading.

16/10/2018: Launches the Madrasa a new UAE e-learning platform offering 5,000 educational videos.

29/10/2018: KhalifaSat launches into orbit, the first Arab satellite that is 100% Emirati-made.

11/03/2019: Approves the National Space Strategy 2030, aims to achieve the UAE's vision in the field of space exploration, technologies, and applications.

20/07/2020: Launches of the Hope Probe mission to Mars from Japan.

28/09/2020: Launches a digital platform to gather ideas from citizens and expatriates on shaping the nation's next five decades as part of the 'Designing the Next 50' project.