ABU DHABI // Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai - and now Facebook friend. After snapping up one of the personalised web addresses the social networking site launched earlier this month - www.facebook.com/SheikhMohammed - the Ruler offers a rare personal look into his life.
Sheikh Mohammed has used the internet on several occasions to interact with the public, including fielding questions online. This year, journalists quizzed him on local and regional issues during an online forum. "One's experiences and personal history shape who they are," he writes on his page. "And by sharing the lessons I have learnt during my lifetime I hope I can continue to have a positive effect on others, especially young people."
And unlike, for instance, the US president Barack Obama, Sheikh Mohammed appears to be accepting friend requests. Debbie Weil, a corporate social media consultant and author of The Corporate Blogging Book, said that high-profile people were reaching out more and more to the general public. "Very public figures, celebrities, politicians are doing this for the same reason that everyone else is," she said. "There is this pleasure in connecting, in putting something out there."
In the page's various sections, Sheikh Mohammed expounds on his beliefs, interests and even his reading list. Politically, he says: "Contemporary challenges prompt us to think in innovative ways to achieve sustainable development." And in the section on religion, he describes a message of tolerance: "As a Muslim, I honour all religious traditions, and respect people regardless of their faith." Sheikh Mohammed also has a lengthy list of favourite activities, from poetry to athletics.
"I am passionate about sports, particularly endurance racing," he writes. "I enjoy and love horse riding with my family members. I enjoy the outdoors, especially the Arabian desert experience. "I often go to cultural gatherings. Writing Nabati (traditional Arabic poetry) has been a lifelong passion." His bookshelf includes works such as The Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldun, a 14th-century Arab polymath accredited with major contributions to political theory, sociology and historiography; the autobiographies of former US president Richard Nixon and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, as well as that of former French president Charles de Gaulle.
"I was brought up in a family that believed in the importance of visionary public service and philanthropy and I have tried to live these values in my everyday life," he writes in the "About Me" section. He also cites family life as being immensely important. One of his two photo albums, which comprises 11 images and was uploaded only yesterday, features moments with his family. The first picture is captioned: "Celebrating with my children after a victory in an endurance race in the UK." Another: "My angels, daughters Salamah and Shamma."
Ms Weil, who spoke at a social media conference in Dubai in December, said sites like Facebook allow public figures to tap into a welcoming community and easily manage any negative feedback. "Clearly he is a very engaging, people-orientated kind of guy," she said. "Being on Facebook seems like a perfect fit with his personal brand." firstname.lastname@example.org