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.
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.
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.
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.