Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid al-Maktoum

Ruler of Dubai since 1990 who with his brothers revolutionised the world of horse-racing
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The Independent Online

Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum, statesman and racehorse owner: born Dubai 1943; Prime Minister, United Arab Emirates 1971-79, 1991-2006; Deputy Prime Minister of Dubai 1979-90, Ruler 1990-2006; married; died Main Beach, Queensland 4 January 2006.

Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum ruled over Dubai for 15 years from 1990, a period which saw the tiny Gulf emirate blossom into the main centre of commerce in the Middle East. At the same time, Dubai, through a host of sponsorship and promotion deals, became a household name around the world. In short, Sheikh Maktoum put Dubai on the map.

His success was all the more remarkable when one considers Dubai's meagre natural resources. The emirate is surrounded by some of the world's largest oil producers - not least its southern neighbour in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Abu Dhabi. Yet Dubai's own crude oil production is small and dwindling fast.

Nevertheless, thanks to qualities that he inherited from his father, Sheikh Rashid, who laid the foundation for the current success story, Sheikh Maktoum with the help of his brothers was able to build up his own emirate into a thriving city state, with a skyline to compete with that of Manhattan. Those qualities were a natural instinct for trade and business, and fearless vision. Sheikh Maktoum learned how to put these qualities to their best use at the feet of his father.

Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum was born at the Maktoum family home in the Shindagha area of Dubai, in 1943, eldest son of Sheikh Rashid bin Said al-Maktoum, the "merchant prince", who had been the de facto leader of Dubai during the long dotage of his father, Sheikh Said bin Maktoum al-Maktoum, since the 1930s, acceding formally as ruler in 1958.

Sheikh Rashid's philosophy was that commerce and politics should inhabit separate worlds. Long before the discovery of oil in the Gulf, Dubai had been a thriving trading centre, lying strategically on the route between Arabia and the Indian subcontinent. A creek provided a natural harbour for dhows, the wooden workhorses of the sea which plied routes stretching northwards to Kuwait, Iran and Iraq, eastwards to the Indian subcontinent and southwards to the coast of East Africa.

In essence, that remains Dubai's role today, with the emirate's international airport to a large extent replacing the creek as the hub of commercial activity. With the arrival of oil, there was always the possibility of another trading centre emerging to rival Dubai - all the more so when it became clear to Sheikh Rashid that his own emirate would not be one of the big players on the energy stage.

To ensure that Dubai did not lose its pre-eminent role, Sheikh Rashid, and Sheikh Maktoum after the death of his father in 1990, had to ensure that two conditions were always met. The first was that Dubai should open its doors to all who wanted to trade there and provide them with all the necessary facilities. The second was that politics should not be allowed to interfere with commerce.

As a result, Dubai today is as cosmopolitan as any major capital around the world - and plays host to the Middle East regional headquarters of dozens of major firms. Furthermore, it has continued to maintain cordial relations with all its neighbours. During the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, for example, when all the Gulf states provided support for Baghdad, trade between Dubai and Iran carried on as normal.

Quiet pragmatism on the part of Sheikh Maktoum and of the late Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi saw the centuries-old rivalry and, at times, hostility between the two neighbouring emirates set aside in favour of the common goal of strengthening the UAE, the federation that was formed in 1971 after the withdrawal of British forces from the Gulf.

Nevertheless, Sheikh Maktoum would never allow Dubai's unique character to be subsumed by political allegiance to the federation. As a result, the emirate's successes sometimes appeared to irritate its oil-rich neighbour to the south. For example, Dubai's airline, Emirates, with the UAE flag painted on the tail of its aircraft, gave the impression that it was the national airline of the federation. This prompted Abu Dhabi in 2003 to form Etihad airlines, with a decree from Sheikh Zayed stating pointedly that the latter would be the UAE's official flag-carrier.

For Sheikh Maktoum's successor, his brother Sheikh Mohammed, the Crown Prince, the challenge will be to maintain the policies of the past few decades. In one respect, his task could become more difficult. As Dubai's boom keeps on growing, a number of questions are starting to be asked. Is the boom really a bubble? How much of the money pouring into Dubai is dirty money? Are the checks on banks in the emirate now sufficient to stop the channelling of funds to terror organisations? Why, indeed, is Dubai one of the few cities in the region not to have been targeted by Islamic extremists?

If Sheikh Mohammed follows the practice of his brother, then he will not respond to such enquiries. Sheikh Maktoum was a quiet man who enjoyed the respect of his people by leaving them to do what they did best: trade. His role was to provide the vision and embark on the kind of schemes that other, more timid, leaders said could never be completed. For Sheikh Maktoum's goal, like that of his father, was to make sure that Dubai was as well prepared to go on thriving in the era after oil, as it was in the era before it.

Gerald Butt

Along with his brothers Sheikh Hamdan and Sheikh Mohammed, Sheikh Maktoum revolutionised the racing world, writes Richard Griffiths. Although the sport has always attracted big-spending, high-profile owners, none of them could ever have matched the Maktoums for the extent of their global involvement, both in financial and numerical terms.

The starting point was Britain and, even though he also had studs in Ireland and America and employed 10 trainers worldwide, the bulk of Sheikh Maktoum's 200 racehorses have always been based there.

Although his younger brother Sheikh Mohammed adopted a higher profile in horse-racing terms, Sheikh Maktoum's own colours were carried by some of the best horses of the last 20 years. He was also the co-owner of the Godolphin stables, the globally ambitious racing operation that has a Dubai base and from which the cream of Maktoum-owned horses were aimed at the top races of Europe, America, Australasia and Asia.

While all of the Maktoum brothers had their own racing colours - Sheikh Maktoum's were royal blue, with a light blue "V" - the best horses tended to be pooled and sent to Godolphin at the end of their two-year-old careers. For example, Shamardal won the prestigious Dewhurst Stakes in Sheikh Maktoum's ownership in 2004 before transferring last season to Godolphin and winning three Group One races in less than a month, the French 2,000 Guineas (Poule d'Essai des Poulains, sponsored by his own Gainsborough Stud), French Derby (Prix du Jockey Club) and the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, held this year at York.

Pictures taken in the aftermath of that race showed Sheikh Maktoum, dressed in morning coat, quietly leading in Shamardal, holding one side of the reins, with Sheikh Mohammed doing exactly the same on the other. Such a scene was commonplace at the prestigious race meetings.

Other high-class horses to have run in Sheikh Maktoum's colours included two temperamental but very talented colts: Shareef Dancer, winner of the 1983 Irish Derby, and Shadeed, who won the 1985 2,000 Guineas and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Hatoof, who won the 1992 1,000 Guineas, and Lailani, who won the Irish Oaks in 2001, were among the best fillies he raced.

The latter was campaigned by Ed Dunlop, who trained for Sheikh Maktoum at the owner's Gainsborough Stables in Newmarket. Dunlop was a beneficiary of the Maktoums' well-known loyalty to those they employed when he was appointed trainer of the high-tech, 100-horse yard in October 1994. Dunlop, whose father John was one of the first trainers used by the Maktoum family, was only 26 at the time and took over because Sheikh Maktoum's previous trainer, Alex Scott, had been murdered by an employee at Scott's privately owned stud.

An illustration of Sheikh Maktoum's love of all thoroughbreds, rather than the individual horses that the Maktoums owned, came in recent years at Gainsborough Stables, from where Ed Dunlop has trained the brilliant filly Ouija Board for the present Lord Derby. Sheikh Maktoum, sometimes with his brothers, would like to have Ouija Board "pulled out" of her stables just so that he could gaze at the physique and outlook of a champion racehorse.

His involvement in racing was undoubtedly "hands on" and he would not be afraid to take issue with his jockeys if he felt they had ridden injudiciously. The former champion jockey Kieren Fallon is among those to have fallen foul of the owner, if only on a temporary basis.

In 1985 Sheikh Maktoum was elected to the Jockey Club and the current senior steward Julian Richmond- Watson paid tribute to his involvement in racing by saying:

Sheikh Maktoum al-Maktoum made a hugely significant contribution to the sport of horse-racing and British thoroughbred racing and breeding in particular. The majority of his racing interests were based in this country and I believe he shared with the British racing public a love of horses, of racing and of the history and heritage the sport has in this country.

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