Some people were born into this world with a running start, only to fall on their faces halfway across the hypothetical track because they weren’t paying attention to the hurdles. This analogy is very clever because I am very clever, but it does not apply to Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Born in 1949 as a descendant of the House of Al-Falasi, Sheik Mohammed got a lot of power simply handed down to him due to his royal surname. Said power included a crown which turned him into the Prince of Dubai in 1995 and a crown which turned him into the Ruler of Dubai in 2006. He was also announced as the United Arab Emirates Vice President and Prime Minister shortly following all of that. But what wasn’t handed down to him, however, was a heart made out of gold, proving him to be a compassionate leader who was also surrounded by piles of actual gold too.
It was with this unique combination of admirable morals, consideration for all people, and a $4.5 billion net worth, that Sheik Mohammed set out to make the world a better place by helping people, whilst making his life a better place by spending so much money that he makes Jay-Z look like MC Hammer. Here are 20 examples of the man’s impressive missions, business endeavours, and fascinating personality traits.
20 The Leader Pushes For Gender Equality
In the last few years, balancing all of the ever elusive gender equality issues has been a high priority for Sheik Mohammed, stating that Emirates would become one of the world’s top countries for this equilibrium by 2021.
To achieve this goal, those in charge knew that sitting around and talking about change wouldn't change anything, and so they took the initiative of tightening the pay gap and launching the UAE’s Gender Balance Guide, which gives detailed instructions to teach staff in workplaces how to maintain a “gender-sensitive approach” in all areas of their professional lives.
The UAE already leads the gender fight in the Middle East by a long way, with women having the right to vote, female ministers in the government, and even a full all-female police force reportedly on its way.
19 The Leader Built The Tallest Building In The World
Not satisfied with being the best at everything, Sheik Mohammed decided to build the tallest structure in the world because, you know, he could.
The Burj Khalifa is a 2,722 ft tall skyscraper with 24,348 windows and 163 floors, winning architecture award after architecture award ever since.
Sheik Mohammed likes to build things, you see, as he is also responsible for the Burj Al Arab. This pretty little number is currently the third tallest hotel in the world, standing alone on an artificial island, looking all smug and fancy. What’s next for Sheik Mohammed's architectural conquests is unsure, but seeing as he was also behind the development of a Dubai Legoland as well as the first Bollywood theme park in the whole world, it’s safe to say that he literally just does whatever he wants whilst rolling around in a fort made of cash. And that’s fine by me because I’d be dead within a week if I had a bank account that size.
18 The Leader Is Committed To Space Travel
In 2017, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum decided it was time to start training up some United Arab Emirates astronauts, and he put out a call for young people who were interested in the program via social media.
The only prerequisite? That you had to live in the Emirates, obviously. According to the website set up for the project, the successful applicants will be announced at the end of 2018, after they pass some medical tests and two rounds of interviewing.
Sheik Mohammed seems confident with the whole idea, stating: “The people of the UAE will break new barriers; nothing can stand in the way of those who believe nothing is impossible. Our ambitious goals are fuelled by dedicated people, who support us until, without hesitation or skepticism, we succeed.” When he uses words that sound like that, I don’t doubt him.
17 The Leader Is Friends With Some Very Important People
When Sheik Mohammed attended the 2017 Royal Windsor Endurance Race in the UK, he got a chance to catch up with his royal-pal, Queen Elizabeth II, the world’s longest reigning monarch. The two were snapped sharing a laugh, reportedly discussing “historic ties, friendship, and co-operation between the UAE and the United Kingdom” which fills me with a warmth of companionship to the likes I have never experienced before, as well as a combined wealth I will never know the feeling of, ever. All jokes aside, when United Arab Emirates rider Saeed Al Khayari claimed the first place in the competition, there is a chance that the Queen was less than happy with the nation after all, potentially losing a massive bet she placed on a local jockey. But for the record, I am making that up.
16 These Friends Include The Late Princess Diana
Continuing on with the United Kingdom royalty topic of discussion, rare footage recently surfaced which showed that the Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum attended a Buckingham Palace dinner in 1989. Included in these clips were moments where we could witness the Dubai ruler smiling in deep conversation with the late princess, as they gazed lovingly into one another’s prosperous eyes.
Eavesdroppers reported that Diana was very impressed with Mohammed’s focus on his country’s social welfare and education, and I would like to jump in and confirm that I am wholeheartedly impressed with this too.
The friendship between these famous people did not end here either, as the Portraits of a Princess: Travels with Diana biography claims that Sheik Mohammed once lent Diana his private jet when her flight was delayed, getting her home on time. Bless!
15 The Leader Saved Dubai From Economic Meltdown
After oil was discovered in 1966, Dubai became a hotspot, with its population growing by over 300% between 1968 and 1975. This continued to pump enough money into Dubai to keep it thriving until the Gulf War of 1990.
It was then that many traders withdrew their investments, and Dubai’s financial pipeline was under threat. Send in Sheik Mohammed, who redirected the city’s focus and cashflow straight into businesses and tourism, by founding Dubai Ports World (one of the biggest marine terminal operators on the planet), and announcing Dubai Internet City (a unique economic zone with special tax benefits for companies). Because of this monetary sharpness, Dubai’s growth kept on moving up, becoming the 7th most visited city in the world as of 2013, and expecting to reach 20 million yearly tourists spending a night there by 2020.
14 The Leader Launched One Of The Biggest Airlines In The World
During the 1980s, there was an ever-increasing tension developing between Gulf Air and Dubai, due to the latter’s “open sky” policy. Slowly but surely, Gulf Air began to cut off their flights to Dubai, which is where our man Sheik Mohammed put on his cape and fixed the problem with his bare hands.
It was in 1985 when the ruler hatched the plan for Emirates airlines using a launch budget of around $10 million, as he was in charge of the Dubai Civil Aviation at that time.
Being the family man Mohammed is, he put his younger uncle (Ahmed bin Saeed) in charge, and then sat back and watched what happened. And what happened, was this: the largest airline the Middle East has ever seen, 3,600 flights per week from Dubai, more than 140 cities in 81 countries across six continents visited, and the world's fourth-biggest airline in terms of revenue and passengers carried. Just another day in the life of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum then.
13 The Leader Writes Renowned Poetry
Somehow, in Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s busy schedule of assisting people into better lives whilst taking care of important political manners, he still manages to dedicate time to the art of written poetry.
Ever since he was a young man, he loved getting lost in the flow of classical Arabic and Nabati phrasing but he did not want his talent to be recognized simply because he was the son of the then Dubai ruler.
So instead, he used pseudonyms such as Saleet and Nedawi in order to perfect his craft, and only once his work was appreciated on its own merit, did he reveal himself as the brain behind these verses, publishing under his own name in later years. A highlight of this creative path for the royal was when the acclaimed Ousha the Poet replied to one of his earliest works, encouraging him to continue the pursuit of this dream. And so, of course, he did. What doesn’t he do?
12 The Leader Owns A Truly Massive Yacht
No matter what characteristics you want from your ruler, something has to be said for a commendable taste in luxurious purchases. And what better way to boost your styles than buying a yacht? Naturally, there are those who label the acquisition as “extravagant”, and to them, I ask: would you not do the same thing if you were as successful as Sheik Mohammed? I bet you would.
That said, this is no ordinary yacht, and “extravagant” is a fairly appropriate description. For example, it is 531 ft long and can hold over 115 guests on it, which makes it the third largest yacht in the world.
Only third? Embarrassing! It cost a total of US$400 million to make, and after being named Platinum, Panhandle, and Golden Star, Sheik Mohammed finally realized what the perfect title for such a beauty was. He named her Dubai.
11 The Leader Advocates For Social Media
With 2.9 million followers on Instagram and a further 8.7 million followers on Twitter, Sheik Mohammed loves to keep in contact with his supporters via these technological platforms.
Updated regularly, his posts grant people the chance to watch his travels and stay connected to his developing policies without having to leave the comfort of their own homes. His embracement of these digital plains are also a great indication that he is in touch with the modern world, not afraid of progression and ready to utilize these available options to educate and inform the people of his countries, as well as showing the world that he is actually doing some work and isn’t just lazing around like I would be doing. He is also more than happy to take a selfie with you if you see him!
10 The Leader Is A Family Man
Sheik Mohammed loves marriage so much that he’s done it six times, followed by twenty-three children wearing his name at this point. Of course, for most of us, these numbers seem far too excessive, and you know why? Because we couldn’t handle it. But Sheik Mohammed is no ordinary man, and according to his current wife HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein (daughter of King Hussein of Jordan and half-sister of King Abdullah II of Jordan), he is a very hands-on father, encouraging all of his children to play outside and get dirty, not only for entertainment reasons, but also for reasons of health, as it boosts their immune system. And with an estimated collective family wealth reportedly exceeding the US$4 billion mark, it’s not like these children won’t have absolutely everything they need for prosperous life themselves.
9 The Leader Lends A Helping Hand Whenever He Can
One of the best examples of Sheik Mohammed's endless desire to help his fellow man came in 2017, when he saved three friends who were stranded in the desert. During a 50km cycle in the dark, one the girls from an all-female trio crashed her bike into the sand, and her chain fell off, becoming so tangled that the ladies had no idea how to fix it. The situation looked dire, until from the heavens, a set of headlights drove by and the girls flagged them down, begging for help. As you would have guessed, by some miracle, this was Sheik Mohammed and his heroic entourage, and within moments, they had the travelers hydrated and the bike fixed. The ruler happily posed for a photo before sending the giddy girls on their way, proving that his generosity is not limited to grandiose press conferences and publicity. On that note, I'm off to Dubai, see you guys later.
8 The Leader Notices And Rewards The Good In Others
Always ready to come to the people’s aid, his Highness Sheik Mohammad also recognizes when other people have gone above their line of duty. And what better way to encourage this philanthropic behavior by publicly rewarding it?
In 2017, 46 of the UAE’s top humanitarians were honored in this way, including the 82-year-old Fatima Ali Ebrahim. Fatima is famed for being the United Arab Emirates’ oldest volunteer, as she has been delivering meals to workers during Ramadan for many, many decades.
Inspirational! Fatima's achievements along with all the others rewarded at the ceremony will be noted in a book set to be published at a later date, which will hopefully become a bestseller, leading to even more money for Sheik Mohammad, leading to even more medals, leading to even more recognition for kind folk, an endless cycle of spreading goodness, only getting bigger every day, just like my adoration for this royal man.
7 The Leader Pushes For The Further Development Of Education
When the Arab Thought Foundation released their report that Arab children only spent around six minutes per year reading books on average (whereas western societies are closer to 12,000), you know what the sheik said? He said, “nuh-uh, not on my watch”. And so in 2007, he rolled up his sleeves and put together the Arab reading challenge. This project is the largest of its kind in the Arab world, and with the clever use of incentives, Arab children are now reading much more than ever.
Sheik Mohammed still wanted to push it to the next level though, and later launched the Dubai Cares campaign, a concept designed to raise enough money to educate one million children from countries that are much poorer than his.
The public generously donated a collective AED 1.65 billion, and then not to be outdone, Sheik Mohammed matched that amount, bringing the total raised to AED 3.5 billion.
6 The Leader Once Saved A Methodist Chapel In England
When residents of Godolphin Cross (a village in Cornwall, England) learned they were about to lose their Methodist Chapel and schoolroom, they desperately reached out to the royal sheik for help. Mohammad heard the plea, and reached back, donating a sizeable sum of cash which halted the initial sale plan from going through and kept the venue in the hands of the locals. But why contact Sheik Mohammad of all people? Simple! Because Cornwall is the birthplace of Earl of Godolphin, who bred the legendary horse Godolphin Arabian, of which Sheik Mohammed’s own horses descend from. Richard McKie (the Godolphin Cross Community Association chairman) went on record praising the sheik, stating “It’s a fairytale really. It’s not often a sheik steps in to help a Cornish village”. Yeah, not often, or more like, not ever I’m sure.
5 The Leader Surprise Visits Children At Schools
In 2017, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was just around the neighborhood and decided to drop in at some local schools around Dubai. And as this was the first day back in the classroom for students that year, you can only imagine how their already straining brains went into meltdown mode as the ruler peered over their shoulders, ensuring they weren’t messing around. This is not the first time that Dubai’s leader checked up on the learners of his country, as in 2016, he also dropped in on his then-9-year-old daughter’s class, probably just to remind everyone who his kid was, and if they messed with her, they’d be in big trouble from literally the highest level in the land. Even the teachers got the message that day. I wish I’d had my own Sheik Mohammed in school. I would have exploited it for all it was worth.
4 The Leader Is Passionate About Thoroughbred Horse Racing And Breeding
The concept of horseracing has started to become a controversial one, as the more compassionate of people are questioning whether riding these poor creatures into the ground is a fair idea. But with this in mind, if you ever were going to live as a domesticated horse, I’m sure being looked after by a man as rich and as important as Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is probably a pretty luxurious existence. I reckon those horses have a better life than me, if I think about it. And as the owner of Darley Stud (the largest breeding operation on the planet, with farms in the US, England, and Australia), it’s safe to assume that the guy knows what he is doing. He even once won the FEI World Endurance Championship as a horse rider! Although maybe the other riders let him win, I would have.
3 The Leader Is Dedicated To Helping The Blind
In 1999, the World Health Organization and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness collaborated to create VISION 2020: The Right to Sight. This campaign is an intended move towards the elimination of all global cases of preventable blindness, stating that they want “a world in which nobody is needlessly visually impaired, where those with unavoidable vision loss can achieve their full potential.”
What a beautiful cause, and when Sheik Mohammed heard about it, he was all in. To do his part, he put together Noor Dubai, a drive designed to provide healthcare services to those in need. The sheik’s initial goal was to get this treatment to one million people, but by 2011 it had completely exceeded this figure, with 5.4 million getting the help they rightfully deserve. Time will tell if avoidable blindness will be eliminated by 2020, but with enough people like Sheik Mohammed out there, it won’t be a problem whatsoever.
2 The Leader Is Very Quotable
Sheik Mohammed is a man of wisdom and has made some very encouraging, compassionate, and inspirational statements during his reign. Here are five of my favorites:
“The word 'impossible' is not in the leaders’ dictionaries. No matter how big the challenges, strong faith, determination, and resolve will overcome them.”
“I used to sleep in the desert once every week, now it is every two weeks, most of the time alone. It’s beautiful. What I enjoy is taking my food and cooking for myself.”
“He who enjoys his work adds five days to his week.”
“Time is limited and the dream is boundless; therefore I am always in a hurry.”
“The first responsibility of a leader is to make his people happy and then to provide them with the required security, stability, comfort, progress, and development.”
1 The Leader Is Very Charitable
In 2015, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people fled Myanmar, trying to escape the violent persecution of their native land, and seeking safety in Bangladesh. This caused the fastest growing refugee crisis in history, with various nations trying to do their part to solve the issue.
Of course, under Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s orders, the UAE got involved, sending around 1,000 metric tons of various supplies to Bangladesh, which included such necessities as tents, mosquito nets, and blankets, reportedly helping over 480,000 Rohingya people to have a nicer time.
When asked for a statement, the royal said “We will continue to send as much help as we possibly can for these people and pray that the persecution they face will end soon, and they can return to their normal lives,” as well as concluding that “The UAE does not provide conditional assistance and does not wait for any returns. We only want the good and stability of all people”. This guy!