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Fanfare is for Sheikh Mohammed, too

As fireworks illuminated the Burj Khalifa during its official opening, it also marked the fourth anniversary of the Ruler's accession.

As fireworks illuminated the Burj Khalifa during its official opening last night, it was not the only milestone being celebrated in the city. The event also marked the fourth anniversary of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid becoming Ruler of Dubai. On January 4, 2006, Sheikh Mohammed, then Crown Prince, was named the 10th ruler of the emirate following the passing of his brother, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid.

The following day, the Supreme Council, comprised of the rulers of the seven emirates, elected him as Vice President of the UAE. In February 2006, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE, also nominated Sheikh Mohammed as Prime Minister. Since 2006, Sheikh Mohammed, 60, has spearheaded Dubai's rapid development, which Burj Khalifa has come to symbolise. Hussein al Shafar, a member of the Federal National Council from Dubai, described the massive development as a landmark accomplishment.

"It is one of the achievements of Sheikh Mohammed," he said. "Dubai is growing fast, and although it has faced economic problems, that doesn't mean that we will stop." The year after his appointment, Sheikh Mohammed launched Dubai's Strategic Plan for 2015, which laid out a road map for the emirate's growth. One of his most significant moves came in 2007, with the launch of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, a US$10 billion (Dh36.7bn) endowment promoting education and research, cultural preservation and empowerment across the Arab world.

The same year, the Dubai Cares initiative was announced with events and activities across the emirate raising Dh1.7bn in just two months to promote education in the developing world. After the initial fund-raising drive, Sheikh Mohammed announced he would match the donations, bringing the total to Dh3.4 billion. Since 2007, the organisation has reached more than four million children in 20 countries, building schools, training teachers and providing books.

Noor Dubai was launched a year later, to tackle sight-related problems in developing countries. Closer to home, steps have also been taken in the protection of women and children, with Sheikh Mohammed issuing a decree in 2007 to open the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, the UAE's first licensed shelter in Dubai. According to Ohood al Suwaidi, the foundation's communications director, it has made particular strides in the realm of social development.

"We are working in an area that is very sensitive in a social sense, so getting support from the Government gives us a way to reach out to the community so we can alleviate violence against women and children," Mrs al Suwaidi said. The past four years has also seen "huge attention" paid to developing Dubai's human capital, she added. Over the past year, Sheikh Mohammed has embraced the online community, signing up to both Facebook and Twitter, which has provided unprecedented glimpses into his life.

He has also engaged with the members of the public during question-and-answer sessions on his website. Last April, Sheikh Mohammed responded to questions from the media. In June, he answered 56 submissions from the general public on topics from national identity to the global financial crisis. In September, Sheikh Mohammed was the first passenger on board Dubai Metro's inaugural trip, as he launched the Gulf's first mass-transit rail system.

Prior to his position as Crown Prince of Dubai, which he assumed in 1995, Sheikh Mohammed served as Head of Dubai Police and Public Security, as well as Minister of Defence. @Email:zconstantine@thenational.ae

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