Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid turns 70: A look back at his life

The UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai celebrates his 70th birthday on July 15, 2019

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1949 was a year of recovery for much of the world as countries began to show signs of economic improvement following the rampant destruction caused by the Second World War.

In the Gulf, the Emirates had yet to unite but were presided over by the British as the Trucial States. In the height of summer, on July 15, 70 years ago, Sheikha Latifa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, wife of the Dubai Ruler, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, gave birth to the couple’s third son in their home in Al Shindagha. They named him Mohammed.

From a young age, expectations were high for Sheikh Mohammed. At age four he was privately tutored in Arabic and Islamic studies. He began formal education at age 6 and 11 years later, attended an English language school in Cambridge, where he boarded with a local family and was given £2 as a weekly spending allowance, worth the equivalent of around Dh165 today. Sheikh Mohammed’s education took a military turn when he attended at a cadet school, in Aldershot, that would become part of Sandhurst. There he would emerge as the top

Commonwealth student before going to Italy to be trained as a pilot.

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 hub after the collapse of the pearling industry and well before the discovery of oil. These lessons, coupled with his extensive military training, served him well when he went on to become Minister of Defence and, decades later, Ruler of Dubai.

In January 1968, at the age of 19, he accompanied his father to meet Sheikh Zayed in the desert between Dubai and Abu Dhabi to agree to forming a union between the Emirates.

When the British withdrew from the Trucial States and the UAE was formed in 1971, Sheikh Mohammed became the UAE’s first Minister of Defence. The heavy task of setting up a defence force for a country previously protected by the British was placed in his hands.

When it came time for him to rule the emirate in 2006, after his older brother Sheikh Maktoum died, Sheikh Mohammed continued his father’s work of growing the emirate’s economic assets and turning Dubai into a global tourist destination and thriving business hub.