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Chapter 25: Politics

The Sheikh calls the Shots

sunny 103 °F

Chapter 25: Dubai Politics

September 25, 2022

bb7bac00-3ccd-11ed-a1b9-cf04199ba29b.JPGb832e9a0-3ccd-11ed-a1b9-cf04199ba29b.JPG59b0b680-3cd4-11ed-a59f-51a7a2038aa3.JPGThe car arrived early at 5:15am. Driving in the dark past the Pepsi plant, the "Safestway Grocery Store," and the Ferrari Dealership, we are ready to come home.

5c2c16c0-3cd4-11ed-a59f-51a7a2038aa3.JPGAfter a sub-Emirates first class pre-flight experience (the airline has lost a bit of its allure for me on the past few flights) we left the gate on time but were held on a taxiway for a bit longer than normal giving us a chance to enjoy the graphics of the pre-flight safety video. On this double decker aircraft, I always find the animation fascinating.

Ours was an unusual route of flight leaving Dubai and the UAE on a northwesterly track over Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and the Gaza Strip to the Mediterranean. Then over Greece, the Ionian Sea and up the entire boot of Italy into France before leaving Europe at La Rochelle with 3,500 miles remaining at the mid-point of our 13-hour flight. Unusual heading west, we averaged well over .8 mach thanks to no headwind and even, at many points, tailwinds.

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Sometimes, the best time to discuss politics of a foreign country is after you've left it. We saved this chapter for this journey home. On our way to the airport, we passed the truly fabulous Museum of the Future, a "torus-shaped shell" adorned with Arabic text. What are the words on this iconic building? They are 3 quotes from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (also spelled Muḥammad ibn Rāshid Āl Maktūm):

"We won't live for hundreds of years, but we can create something that will last for hundreds of years."
"The future will be for those who will be able to imagine, design and build it, the future does not wait, the future can be designed and built today."
"The secret of the renewal of life, the development of civilization and the progress of humanity is in one word: innovation."

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The Billionaire Sheikh carries the titles of emir of Dubai and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates—the UAE. (The Muslim term “emir” derives from the moniker given early local chiefs or rulers). To be clear, he is the absolute ruler of Dubai where the government is autocratic; no democratic institutions exist and internal dissent is prohibited. His official photograph is omni-present.

The UAE itself was born after the British withdrew from the region in 1968, six years after the first cargo of crude oil was exported from the region.

Mohammed’s father took him to a summit of the Trucial States Council in 1971 whereupon Mohammed was named minister of defense of the new entity. His early life included English studies at Cambridge and military training at Aldershot in the U.K. He became an accomplished equestrian and owner of a race horse dynasty.

His brother Maktoum became emir upon the death of their father in 1990. During that time, Mohammed engineered the creation of modern-day Dubai which, due to its lack of massive oil reserves enjoyed by the other emirates, of necessity became an international business and tourist destination. He presided over, among many other things, the $12-billion-dollar creation of the man-made Palm Islands and the $8-billion-dollar construction of both the island and the structure known as the iconic sail-shaped 202-room Burj al-ʿArab hotel, the world’s fifth tallest (but only the third tallest in this city).

Upon the 2006 death of Maktoum—who was at the time visiting Queensland, Australia—Mohammed became emir. His was a rough start as the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 devastated the economy which left him with a $100-billion-dollar developmental debt burden.

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Two 10-billion-dollar bailouts from neighboring Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Kahlifa ibn Zayed Al Nahyan saved Dubai itself from default. Mohammed renamed the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, to Burj Khalifa in tribute. Abu Dhabi, 90 miles away by car, is described as the world’s richest city and sits atop about ten percent of the planets oil reserves. Our recent visit there was brief and covered more extensively back in chapter 11.

Sheikh Mohammed ibn Rashid Al Maktoum is reported to have had six wives and over 24 children. His second wife, Haya bint Hussein, daughter of King Hussein of Jordan, fled Dubai and divorced Mohammed in 2019; his daughter Latifa fled the country a year earlier but was captured and returned to the country. Discussion of this situation is fraught with peril and I am both ill-informed and unwilling to say more.

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The Sheikh's 40-year-old second eldest son (by his senior wife) is popularly known as Fazza, which in Arabic means "the one who helps." Born in 1982 as Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he is the Crown Prince of Dubai and was educated in both Dubai and the U.K. He married his cousin, Sheikha Shaikha bint Saeed bin Thani Al Maktoum in 2019 on the same day his brothers, Maktoum and Ahmad, also got married.

With 14.7 million followers on his Instagram, the charismatic prince posts pictures which include animals, poetry, sports, photography and adventures of which he has many.

I'll not write much more about politics here, leaving it for you to Google it for yourself. YouTube is full of content; one of the most interesting is a long interview with him from the BBC. Be advised that YouTube is rich in both accurate and inaccurate information which comes from verified and unverified sources who hold both noble and wicked motivations. It is up to you to discern which is accurate and which is the one you wish to embrace. The BBC is, in my opinion, highly trustworthy, making it a source that I embrace while rejecting others. If that process sounds burdensome, it is the choice each of us makes on a daily basis when we decide whether to watch either Fox or CNN or neither. Interestingly, the option of "both" is exercised, I propose, by nearly nobody. That is unfortunate and I hope and wish that not to be true. Listening to only what affirms what one already believes doesn't open people's minds and allow them to independently evaluate what both sides are saying. We would be much better off if we still had a 'Walter Cronkite' when news was truly news and no one had to doubt it. Now in many cases the news has become entertainment. I try to be an optimist and hope that we can one day find our way again.

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On our final day here, with my contribution virtually complete but B4's just begun, we (mostly her) have been invited back to continue this engagement in more depth, perhaps next spring when it is cooler. Have I not told you of her brilliance?7a04a9e0-3cd5-11ed-a59f-51a7a2038aa3.JPG

Posted by paulej4 22:21 Archived in United Arab Emirates

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Comments

I have enjoyed your political history discourse on the emirate. Glad to supplement when we next talk rather than type.

by Sandi

Enjoyable and highly informative travelogue.

by Vince

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