A por­trait of Mo­hammed bin Rashid

▶ From learn­ing to sur­vive in the desert to talk­ing down ter­ror­ists, the Vice Pres­i­dent tells of events that made a mark,

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - writes Rory Reynolds

A rarely seen pho­to­graph of Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid as a child. Sheikh Mo­hammed, Vice Pres­i­dent and Ruler of Dubai, this year marks 50 years of ser­vice and has shared some of the defin­ing mo­ments of his life in a new au­to­bi­og­ra­phy,

The early years of Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid’s life are re­vealed in an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy chart­ing his jour­ney from young Royal to Vice Pres­i­dent, Prime Min­is­ter, and Ruler of Dubai.

In ex­cerpts on Twit­ter, Sheikh Mo­hammed tells of wit­ness­ing the 1971 sign­ing of the Union, and of the mo­ment his fa­ther, Sheikh Rashid, turned down the op­por­tu­nity to be the first Pres­i­dent of the UAE, in­sist­ing that Sheikh Zayed lead the newly formed na­tion.

He also tells of ne­go­ti­at­ing with the hi­jack­ers of Ja­pan Air­lines Flight 404 when it landed at Dubai In­ter­na­tional Air­port in 1973. Here are some pas­sages from the book,

Qis­sati or My Story.

The day his fa­ther turned down the pres­i­dency

Sheikh Mo­hammed de­scribes the mo­ment Sheikh Zayed, who would be­come the Found­ing Fa­ther of the UAE, met Sheikh Rashid in a tent in Al Sameeh on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi bor­der in 1968.

“In the tent, some­thing hap­pened that usu­ally never hap­pens in Arab coun­tries and won’t hap­pen again in decades – Sheikh Zayed asked Sheikh Rashid to be the Pres­i­dent of the Union,” he writes in the book.

“How­ever, Sheikh Rashid smiled, moved the rosary in his hand and said: ‘You are the Pres­i­dent’.”

The Ruler of Dubai has spo­ken of the meet­ing be­fore, in­clud­ing on Fe­bru­ary 18 last year, 50 years to the day that it took place.

“Give me your hand, Zayed,” Sheikh Mo­hammed re­called his fa­ther re­ply­ing. “Let us shake upon the agree­ment. You will be Pres­i­dent.”

The two lead­ers reached a for­mal agree­ment that would bind them to­gether and lead to the for­ma­tion, three years later, of the UAE on De­cem­ber 2, 1971.

‘We have weapons, and we are go­ing to kill all the pas­sen­gers’

There were dozens of air­craft hi­jack­ings across the world in the 1970s, car­ried out by lib­er­a­tion groups and ter­ror­ists.

Dubai was the scene of one such stand-off when Ja­pan Air­lines Flight 404 was hi­jacked shortly after leav­ing Am­s­ter­dam and di­verted to the emi­rate.

Sheikh Mo­hammed led tense, days-long ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Ja­pa­nese Red Army and the hi­jack­ers from the Pop­u­lar Front for the Lib­er­a­tion of Pales­tine.

Then the Min­is­ter of De­fence, he was al­lowed on board the Boe­ing 747 to ne­go­ti­ate.

“I was at a mil­i­tary base when my phone rang and I was told that Ja­pan Air­lines Flight 404 was hi­jacked,” Sheikh Mo­hammed wrote.

“Osamu Maruoka [who led the ter­ror­ists] told me: ‘Do not change the sub­ject, we have ex­plo­sives, we have weapons and we are go­ing to kill all the pas­sen­gers’.”

The plane even­tu­ally flew on to Da­m­as­cus then Beng­hazi in Libya, be­fore all the pas­sen­gers were re­leased, 89 hours after the drama be­gan.

Sheikh Mo­hammed also ne­go­ti­ated when Lufthansa Flight 181, from Palma de Mal­lorca to Frank­furt, was hi­jacked on Oc­to­ber 13, 1977, and di­verted to a se­ries of air­ports in­clud­ing Dubai.

It was even­tu­ally flown to So­ma­lia, where spe­cial forces killed the hi­jack­ers and the pas­sen­gers were res­cued from the plane.

Sur­viv­ing in the desert

Sheikh Mo­hammed has of­ten spo­ken of his love of na­ture and of the sim­plic­ity of desert life. He says his fa­ther taught him how to sur­vive and pro­tect him­self.

“Be­fore I turned 18, my fa­ther taught me how to live in the desert and how to deal with its an­i­mals, gazelles and wolves, its cold weather and its volatil­ity,” he wrote.

“After I turned 18, he taught me how to live in the city with hu­mans. How hard-hearted are hu­mans! And how beau­ti­ful is the desert!”

He has sought to pro­mote and pre­serve desert life and its tra­di­tions, in­clud­ing fal­conry and en­durance rac­ing.

Bury­ing his grand­fa­ther

Sheikh Mo­hammed de­scribed the fu­neral of Sheikh Saeed bin Mak­toum Al Mak­toum, who is be­lieved to have been born in the late 1870s and ruled Dubai un­til his death in 1958, when the cur­rent Ruler was aged nine.

“When they car­ried the body of my grand­fa­ther from the house, my fa­ther held my hand tightly while we were walk­ing among the peo­ple be­hind the cof­fin,” he says of that day. “I do not know why he was hold­ing my hand so tightly. Was it due to sor­row or did he want me to re­mem­ber that mo­ment for­ever?”

The day Tripoli wel­comed the Mak­toums

Sheikh Mo­hammed de­scribes a fran­tic trip to Tripoli and a warm, if startling, re­cep­tion by the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

“We went to Tripoli’s squares that were filled with crowds. Sur­pris­ingly, some­one told the peo­ple that we were there,” he wrote.

“They hys­ter­i­cally sur­rounded our car and all of them wel­comed us warmly. The car started to lose its sta­bil­ity and mo­ments later, I felt it lift off the ground.”

In Tripoli, the Mak­toums were im­me­di­ately recog­nised but on other jour­neys, their en­tourages were more low-key.

Sheikh Mo­hammed has writ­ten about his early trav­els in the past, in­clud­ing to New York and the Em­pire State Build­ing.

“This is a photo of me and my late fa­ther in the 1960s at the Em­pire State, the tallest sky­scraper world­wide,” he wrote in 2016. “It was a be­gin­ning of a dream that turned into a re­al­ity in Dubai.”

Em­brac­ing tourism

In 1990, Dubai In­ter­na­tional Air­port han­dled 4.3 mil­lion pas­sen­gers. Last year, al­most 90 mil­lion peo­ple passed through the ter­mi­nals.

But Sheikh Mo­hammed won­ders whether the city could have had an even big­ger head­start in the 1980s, when it be­gan to host golf tour­na­ments and the fa­mous 1986 Chess Olympiad.

“What would have hap­pened if we co-op­er­ated with our brothers in the tourism sec­tor since the ’80s? Would we have had bet­ter suc­cess?” he writes.

“Or would we have con­tin­ued to study the ef­fec­tive­ness of projects un­til to­day? Just a

ques­tion I raise to their ex­cel­len­cies [mem­bers of the UAE Cab­i­net],” he says.

On hu­mil­ity and van­ity

“The worst things to af­fect a hu­man be­ing are van­ity, mega­lo­ma­nia, the be­lief in one’s own power and his de­pen­dence on his lim­ited mor­tal strength,” Sheikh Mo­hammed writes.

“We work, but suc­cess is from Al­lah; we move, but the Almighty guides us; we serve our peo­ple with sin­cer­ity, but God grants us suc­cess based on our in­ten­tions. Guid­ance is from Al­lah, care is from Al­lah and pro­tec­tion is from Al­lah.”

Sheikh Mo­hammed with Sheikh Rashid at the Em­pire State Build­ing, then the world’s tallest build­ing, in New York in the 1960s


Above, Sheikh Mo­hammed as a young of­fi­cer; left, rid­ing with com­pa­tri­ots in the 100-kilo­me­tre en­durance race south of Cairo in 2000; far left, young Sheikh Mo­hammed in uni­form

A young Sheikh Mo­hammed dur­ing Um­rah


The late Sheikh Zayed at Union House along­side the other Found­ing Fa­thers, in­clud­ing Sheikh Rashid of Dubai


Sheikh Mo­hammed has pub­lished an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy ti­tled Qis­sati or My Story

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