Sheikh Mohammed propels UAE to new heights

Sheikh Mohammed propels UAE to new heights

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. (Wam)

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, never ceases to amaze. He has taken the dreams and aspirations of his late father, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, to a whole new level with ambitious projects in just about every field that most of us would not dare to imagine, let alone implement.

His all-consuming love of the country and the people he serves is the driving force behind his determination and his plans to succeed no matter what. Sheikh Rashid’s futuristic outlook is alive and well today. There were those who laughed when he proposed constructing a mega-port, a dry dock and a trade center premised upon “build it and they will come.” But come they did, and in their droves, putting the doubters to shame.

Sheikh Rashid was my guide and mentor. He not only infused me with the will to succeed, he also helped me achieve my goal of owning a hotel in a practical sense. Sheikh Mohammed is cut from the same cloth. There are no limits to his vision and, no matter how many “sorry, no can do” experts shake their heads, he proves them wrong in the end. Today, he is making us proud by literally taking our country, the UAE, to the stars.

It seems hard to imagine that our nation, just half a century old, could achieve so much in so little time. Fast forward to today… and the world watches us in awe.

Just as we conquered a dire economic situation post-2008, when mean-spirited media pundits issued gloating predictions that Dubai would become a desert wasteland, we are poised to conquer space with an imminent mission to the Red Planet — scheduled to take off this week and expected to reach its target in February 2021, marking the UAE’s 50th anniversary.

The Hope Mars Mission, which follows in the wake of two successful satellite launches and the journey of an Emirati astronaut to the International Space Station, is a giant step for the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre and a first for the Arab world, whose youth are in desperate need of positive news during these troubled times of plague, poverty and conflict.

I have known Sheikh Mohammed for most of my life. As boys, long before life’s concerns or responsibilities entered our minds, we sharpened our competitive spirit racing camels and horses. I remember him as a young man of powerful strength of character and a natural winner, determined to excel in everything he took on. Over the decades, I have seen him grow seamlessly into his responsibilities. He has a rounded character, he is a poet. He never ceases to impress me with his creative thinking, his hands-on management skills and the wisdom of his judgments.

One of my personal experiences with Sheikh Mohammed underscored his acute sense of justice. I met with him in his Zabeel Palace to discuss the possible retendering of the Dubai International Airport Terminal 3 construction project, which my company, Al Habtoor Engineering, had already won. I was shocked and, yes, angry to hear that the project was liable to be retendered, which made no sense at all to me, and I felt obliged to register my complaint with Sheikh Mohammed.

After the usual pleasantries, I began by asking: “If you and I were to race our camels and I win, would you accept that I had won the race or would you request a rematch?” “Of course not,” he answered. “You would be the winner.” I explained to him then that I had won the Terminal 3 tender fair and square, so why is the project being retendered? “It is not. The project is yours,” was his immediate response. He did not need to consult with anyone. His priority was to do what was right.

Sheikh Mohammed is a born leader; clear, determined and firm in all his decision-making. Unafraid to take a decision even in the toughest of times, he is confident that he is on the right path and has the strength to complete the journey, unmoved by foreign critics or media negativity. He has always been our safety net during troubled times and he always maintains confidence in Dubai, which in turn offers comfort and a sense of security to its citizens, residents and investors alike. If only some other Arab states could take a leaf out of Dubai’s playbook of positivity and endless possibilities.

He never ceases to impress me with his creative thinking, his hands-on management skills and the wisdom of his judgments.

Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor

Thanks to the courageous innovations of Sheikh Mohammed, who always rejects anything less than the best, Dubai stands tall as a regional template in terms of living standards and lifestyle opportunities; a place where Emiratis and expats from all over the world coexist harmoniously.

The stunning architecture that graces Dubai is beautiful, but even more beautiful is the respect and friendship between peoples of all faiths and ethnicities, as evidenced by the smiles seen on our streets. Sheikh Mohammed has worked to create a society where everyone is treated with respect and equality.

I pray that God continues to bless Sheikh Mohammed. It is my hope that Dubai’s ruler will continue to amaze and surprise us for years to come.

  • Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is renowned for his views on international political affairs, his philanthropic activity and his efforts to promote peace. He has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Twitter: @KhalafAlHabtoor
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