“Qissati” (My Story), written by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, is labelled as an ‘incomplete biography’ that marks Sheikh Mohammed’s 50 years of service to the Emirates.
In different sections of the book, Sheikh Mohammed gives a detailed insight of the period in which the UAE was established.
In the first chapters, Sheikh Mohammed speaks of Dubai's history, saying: "Dubai is not a mere coincidence. It is a long journey. That journey started with Sheikh 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."
He added: "Then came Sheikh Hasher Bin Maktoum, followed by Sheikh Rashid Bin Maktoum, who oversaw Dubai’s stability and security and economic development.
"Then came Sheikh 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 Sheikh 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."
In Chapter 10 Sheikh Mohammed speaks of his grandfather. "Sheikh 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."
After that, Sheikh Mohammed speaks of Dubai during his father's time, saying: "This is my idea of a governor: He is a person who moves, innovates, builds and serves others.
"I learnt from Sheikh Rashid that in Dubai, every dirham has great value. Every dirham should only be spent wisely. Rashid’s leadership philosophy was based on spending wisely. And no waste. The most important secret of Dubai’s success is its set of values established by Shaikh Rashid. Indeed, good governance is good for the country and the people."
Sheikh Mohammed pointed out that he learnt three lessons from Sheikh Rashid. Firstly, "A human being never stops learning", secondly, "An arrogant person is ignorant," and lastly, "A leader needs advice from trusted people around him."
The northern tent
In Sheikh Mohammed's words, he described the first steps toward the Union;
"Every person remembers the moment when his first child was born, when his first love was born, the first day at school, the first day at work. And I remember the moment the UAE was born."
"In 1968, my father summoned me from Britain to prepare to spend a whole day in the desert. He asked me to prepare for a meeting away from the prying eyes of the haters of the Union. The meeting was with Sheikh Zayed, my second father, mentor and leader for four decades."
"The meeting between the two sheikhs was a historic moment. It turned the dream of a union into reality. It was there that the UAE was established."
On February 18, 1968, from the northern tent, the UAE was born.
It was under that tent where both shaikhs agreed to unify under one flag, one medical system, one educational system and one visa system.
Under that tent, something happened that will never, ever happen in any Arab country: The fight over who should be presidency.
Sheikh Zayed wanted Sheikh Rashid to lead. Sheikh Rashid smiled and told him: “You lead.”
A country succeeds when its leaders put the people’s dreams before theirs.
“Mohammed, I want you to be responsible for protecting the union,” my father told me as we were leaving the tent.
Racing against time and advisers
This chapter is about hardships before the Union, in Sheikh Mohammed's words:
For two years, we had a hard time between negotiations, meetings with lots of pressure put on us, amid rumours that our people were not satisfied or happy with us.
Media reports said we will fail, or were not doing enough for the Union.
But we soldiered on, calmly and steadily, despite their mean words, and sometimes under threats of a military intervention.
Many saw a state that was about to be born, backed by oil; others saw a nation that had to be conquered and controlled, for their own interests.
But we saw only one thing: the possibility of going forward, step-by-step, steadily.
I confided to my father that his advisors will be responsible for breaking the idea of the Union.
They were peddling and buying information and rumours.
They were trying to deepen the conflict, not solve it. I used to hate that.
We were racing against time. They were crucial years to build a country, achieve a dream, and build a future for the UAE.
Announcing the union
Yes, we still welcome any Arab country that wants to join, because we believe that the path to unification is a path for the good of everybody, a path of prosperity and strength.
Even if we don’t unify on one land, why not unify in our hearts?
There are special moments in history that will be written down, moments like no other; from one of those moments, the Union was declared.
A coup at the start of the Union
If you want to destroy a country from within, hit its internal political stability. Less than two months after the Union was announced, the first attempt to shake UAE stability took place in Sharjah.
I was in charge of the state’s stand against it and to stop the attempt.
Sheikh Zayed was decisive. He spoke to me about the coup, and told me: “Mohammed, finish the matter quickly.”"
Sheikh Khalid Bin Mohammed Bin Saqr Al Qasimi ruled Sharjah since 1965. He signed the Union’s unofficial Constitution on the 2nd of December in 1971 and Sharjah became part of the UAE.
So there was no way to destroy the stability or to change the rule of Sharjah at any cost. I ordered that electricity be cut off from the palace. I didn’t know who was the person behind the coup. The leader of the coup was Sheikh Saqr Bin Sultan Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, who previously ruled Sharjah.
He had affiliations with Arab nationalists and was actively supporting them. So we were concerned that his coup had deeper roots, other than an internal family dispute. Our biggest fear was that he would have supporters and followers from outside the country.
We had to move fast, before he got any support from any party. I asked for troops from Abu Dhabi because I had no idea of the number of men supporting Shaikh Saqr, and moved troops from Dubai. But I couldn’t wait for them. I took two of my men and went to Sheikh Khalid’s palace.
I arrived and spoke to Sheikh Saqr on the phone as if I had an entire army behind me, waiting to enter the palace.
I didn’t really know whether or not it was an intelligent military move or a tactical blunder.
What I did know, however, was that bravery during this kind of situation shakes your enemy‘s resolve and makes him feel weak.
“If Sheikh Khalid is well,” I told Sheikh Saqr, “a plane will fly you out of the UAE. But if he’s not well, I will surrender you to Sheikh Zayed and he will be the judge.”
He replied: “Khalid was killed.”
Those words moved the blood in my veins and told him: “You have only five minutes to get out.”
He went out with his son Sultan and other men. The new-born country had no place for him after what he did to his cousin.
After the coup, I realised the danger the Union faces and how its stability can be shaken by its own sons from within, whereas before it was from without.
After this episode, I had lasting anxiety. Every time the phone rang, I jumped to answer — standing — preparing for the worst.
During those years, I don't recall answering a phone call once while sitting on a chair.
After ending the coup, I met Sheikh Zayed in his car. He gave me dates and coffee as if to tell me: “You… You Mohammed”.
And that cup of coffee and dates were the best price and certificate I had ever received in my life.
One army for a unified country
"When my men would answer the call to fight, I used to fight beside them. I always made sure to be the first on a battleground and the last to leave.
We dealt with many armed conflicts between tribes, an attempted coup, a Sharjah leader’s killing, hijacking of a flight, regional tensions, never-ending threats."
Unifying the troops
May 6, 1976 was an historic event. I felt I delivered on my promise to Sheikh Zayed and to my father.
I felt the mission was accomplished: a real force of the country was formed.
I felt that on that day, I had delivered and was on par with the trust placed upon me; built a force that will protect our country, laid down the foundations for a strong country — respected and with sovereignty.
No one could hinder it, or stop it.
The death of Zayed
Sheikh Zayed was the first ruler of the UAE, the Founding Father. The first to put its rules and regulations. Sheikh Zayed was the first in everything.
Sheikh Zayed governed Al Ain since 1946; he was 28 years old. The tribes loved him, men supported him and gathered around him.
He dug water wells with the people, with his bare hands. The scarcity of water and money did not stop him. He created the first school, along with the first market, the first hospital and the first roads.
He was always the first.
People loved him because he used to eat with them on the floor, discussed with them, took their advice and worked with them.
From the simplicity of Al Ain, he started his journey, simple and humble.
He succeeded in establishing a strong leadership, spreading his wisdom through more than half a century. If I were to describe him in one word, then it’s wisdom.
Wisdom to use oil money well. Wisdom to manage the Union. Wisdom to solve conflicts between Arabs looking for areas of agreement.
Even in his death, Sheikh Zayed left us with great wisdom.
He who builds a nation does not die.
He who leaves behind great leaders does not die. He who accomplished many good deeds does not die.
He who inspired generations upon generations does not die.