Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid celebrates 74th birthday

Vice President and Ruler of Dubai completes a year in which he relaunched the Palm Jebel Ali mega project

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid celebrates his 74th birthday on Saturday.

During his 17 years as Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, he has overseen the growth and transformation of the emirate and country into a thriving global centre of business, industry and tourism.

Sheikh Mohammed was born on July 15, 1949, and raised in Al Maktoum family home in Shindagha on the banks of Dubai Creek.

He was privately tutored in Arabic and Islamic studies from the age of four and began formal education two years later.

He later trained at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot in the UK, which is now part of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. There he would emerge as the top Commonwealth student before going to Italy to be trained as a pilot.

In 1968, aged 19, he became the world’s youngest defence minister and was appointed the head of Dubai Police and Public Security force.

He became the nation’s first Minister of Defence in 1971 after the formation of the UAE.

While a significant part of his development took place under the tutelage of academics and military officials overseas, sitting under the learning tree provided by his father, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed, in the Emirates proved vital.

As a young man, he had a front-row seat to his father’s pro-business mentality that established Dubai as a commercial and trading centre after the collapse of the pearling industry and well before the discovery of oil.

During the 1980s, Dubai’s population soared past 500,000. The city became a thriving international destination with the creation of Emirates airline in 1985, and events such as the Dubai Desert Classic tournament, held at the first grass course in the Middle East, the Emirates Golf Course, which opened in 1988.

Sheikh Rashid died in October 1990 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid, with Sheikh Mohammed appointed Crown Prince in 1995.

Sheikh Mohammed took responsibility for the airport and oil industry and merged Port Rashid and Jebel Ali to create Dubai Ports Authority, now DP World, one of the world’s most successful ports companies.

Looking to the future and recognising early the potential of the internet and the digital age, he ordered all government services to move online in 1999.

He also oversaw the development of Burj Al Arab hotel, which opened in September 1999, two months after his 50th birthday. Its now familiar sail shape confirms that Dubai was a leading holiday destination.

Sheikh Mohammed became the Ruler of Dubai in 2006 after the death of Sheikh Maktoum, who died unexpectedly on a visit to Australia.

The growth of Dubai accelerated under his rule. The world's tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, was completed in 2009, followed soon afterwards by The Dubai Mall and Dubai Metro.

Since then, Dubai's population has risen from 1.7 million in 2009 to nearly3.6 million today.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre sent the UAE’s first astronaut into space as the ruler turned 70 and currently has a second on board the International Space Station. In February 2021, the space centre’s Hope probe began orbiting Mars.

During a momentous 12 months, Sheikh Mohammed oversaw the successful hosting of Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE's 50th year celebrations.

Looking to the future, Sheikh Mohammed continues to develop Expo City Dubai, which will welcome thousands of new residents and businesses, and launched a series of projects and initiatives to boost the UAE's development.

In the past year, the Ruler of Dubai also announced the renewed plan for the Palm Jebel Ali mega project, which will one day be home to about 250,000 people, featuring 30 hotels, resorts and theme parks.

He also announced Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed as Second Deputy Ruler of Dubai in April, and approved a new law that will govern the use of self-driving cars in the emirate.

In November, Expo City Dubai will welcome tens of thousands of visitors as host of the 28th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (Cop28). The meeting of world leaders will seek to find solutions to the threats posed by climate change.

Updated: July 16, 2023, 3:11 AM