DUBAI // It was six years ago today that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid became Ruler of Dubai.
Since then, the completion of a series of major projects he inspired have transformed the city and the country.
The Palm Jumeirah, Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Metro and Meydan Racecourse stand out as particularly striking symbols of the new Dubai that Sheikh Mohammed, the Vice President and Prime Minister, mapped out during his years as Dubai's Crown Prince.
But the significance of such developments extends far beyond the city limits and, indeed, the country's borders, according to Nasif Kayed, general manager of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.
"Dubai is now a great city that people look to as a role model," said Mr Kayed. "His greatest achievement is the vision for the region at large rather than the vision for the individual city of Dubai.
"To give Arabs the hope and the vision that they can be great nations rather than remaining third-world countries, this is one of the most amazing things."
Mr Kayed said projects such as the Burj Khalifa and the Metro were vital to that vision
"To be recognised and to be part of everybody's itinerary you have to have something totally different, such as the tallest tower in the world," he added. "And the Metro makes it convenient. All these elements come together, it's a complete vision. Now we have a great pioneer city that encompasses 200 nationalities."
Mattar Al Tayer, chairman of the board and executive director of the Roads and Transport Authority, said Sheikh Mohammed had played a hands-on role in the creation of the Metro.
"During the design and implementation phases of the project, he would frequently inquire about the progress of the work and issue various directives regarding details such as the shape of the train, its colours and its internal design," said Mr Al Tayer.
"From the start he said the Dubai Metro should be the best and most advanced in the world."
Mr Al Tayer paid tribute to Sheikh Mohammed's efforts on behalf of the UAE. "He has the interests of his country and his people at the top of his priorities. His vision for the future is always 20 years ahead of anyone else's, and he doesn't know what the word 'impossible' means."
Sheikh Mohammed's years as Ruler have not been marked only by massive development projects. In 2007, he demonstrated his commitment to philanthropy by launching the humanitarian organisation Dubai Cares, which has since raised many millions of dirhams to support education around the world.
Tariq Al Gurg, the Dubai Cares chief executive, said: "The initial goal was to provide a million children with access to quality primary education. Owing to the tremendous support of the UAE community, individuals, corporations and government entities, we have so far reached out to over five million beneficiaries in 24 developing countries."
This support has enabled the organisation to build and renovate more than 1,000 schools, drill more than 1,000 wells, distribute over a million books written in local languages and train over 20,000 teachers. Mr Al Gurg said the UAE and all its current and past leaders had been extremely supportive of humanitarian and charitable causes.
"Sheikh Mohammed has continued on this path and is admired locally and around the world for his generous contributions and philanthropic and humanitarian initiatives," he added. "The phenomenal success and growth of Dubai in the past six years is attributed to his vision, leadership and efforts."
Another innovation has been the way Sheikh Mohammed has embraced the internet, in particular the social networking website Twitter.
His tweets have attracted nearly 600,000 followers, and he is using the site to encourage people to make mothers the focus of the celebrations of today's landmark.
He tweeted: "I don't wish to be celebrated personally. Instead, each year, a deserving group in our society shall be recognised. Last year, we celebrated the orphans. This year, we shall celebrate mothers, the force behind all our successes."
Yesterday, the Dubai Twitter user "Admiring Sheikh Mohammed's visit to two Arab mothers celebrating his accession as Dubai Ruler. Other leaders should follow similar path!"