Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

From the scorpion men of the desert to the pearl divers of the sea, the men who inspired Sheikh Mohammed

Autobiography recalls ordinary people whose skills and wisdom had a profound effect on Dubai Ruler

Sheikh Mohammed, who shared this image in his new book, said he learned the hardships of Emirati life in the years before the Union from a pearl diver named Abu Jaber.
Sheikh Mohammed, who shared this image in his new book, said he learned the hardships of Emirati life in the years before the Union from a pearl diver named Abu Jaber.

Many people helped to shape the early life of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

Some names are familiar, from his grandfather and father, to the Father of the Nation, Sheikh Zayed.

Others are less well known – ordinary people whose skills and wisdom also had a profound effect on Sheikh Mohammed.

Among them was Humaid bin Amhi, a man of the desert who schooled the young sheikh on surviving life away from the streets of Dubai.

In his autobiography, Sheikh Mohammed recalls how, when staying with Humaid, he would often wake in the night with scorpion bites.

Later he discovered that his mentor had deliberately put baby scorpions in his bedding. Their bites, which were not severe, provided immunity against the more dangerous poison of adult scorpions.

“Not everything that hurts you is evil. Sometimes, it’s for your own good and protection,” Sheikh Mohammed reflects.

“The scorpions of the desert are much easier to deal with than human scorpions. I hate rumour mongers. They ruin your heart. They destroy institutions. They focus only on the negative.”

From another older Emirati, Abu Jaber, Sheikh Mohammed learnt of the lives and hardships of the country’s pearl fishers, and the rhythms of nature.

“There are lessons I gathered being with pearl divers – a leader has to have an eye of a bird, view things from above so he can understand it objectively. Make decisions based on that.

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Read more on Sheikh Mohammed's autobiography:

Sheikh Mohammed offered Saddam Hussein asylum in 2003, new book reveals

Sheikh Mohammed advised Assad and Qaddafi on the Dubai model of success

Embracing English manners and mashed potatoes, young Mohammed Al Maktoum's days in Cambridge

7 key moments from the Ruler of Dubai's new autobiography

How the UAE confronted coup plotters in the early days of the Union

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“So I say, the human leader’s feet must be firmly on the ground, live with the people. A leader must live their lives, know their suffering, so he can help to change their lives for the better.”

Not all those who offered life lessons to Sheikh Mohammed were human. As he recounts in one chapter, at the age of 10 he cared for an injured horse, bringing it back to full health and sometimes even sleeping in the stable.

“I learnt a lot from that beauty – how to build a relationship with a beautiful animal, a bond of friendship and loyalty,” he writes.

“I learnt that when you give something good to a horse, they will give back double. My horse taught me about loyalty.”

Of his grandfather, Sheikh Saeed, Sheikh Mohammed writes: “My childhood memory of Sheikh Saeed was that he was the most benevolent person I have ever known.

“No one can imagine Dubai without Sheikh Saeed, who ruled for 46 years. Thanks to him, Dubai’s journey into development had started and hasn’t ended today.”

Sheikh Saeed was Ruler of Dubai from 1912 to 1958, passing away when Sheikh Mohammed was only nine. But his influence on the emirate and his grandson was great.

“Sheikh Saeed was known for his steadfastness and clemency, patience and soberness despite all odds when he was in power,” Sheikh Mohammed writes.

“He succeeded in maintaining Dubai’s status as a vibrant emirate and a crucial trade hub of those around. It is undeniable that the cultural and human diversity that we have today were established by Sheikh Saeed. Openness, tolerance and opportunities were available to everyone.”

When his father, Sheikh Rashid, was Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed was to learn the challenges and responsibilities of governing from an early age. He remembers questioning his father about a meeting with Dubai merchants and businessmen in the early days of his rule.

“A human being never stops learning,” was the reply. “We want them to tell us how they want us to build Dubai and we want them to teach you now to be a leader. Your training has started.”

Of Sheikh Zayed, the country’s founding President, Sheikh Mohammed simply says: “There are two types of people. Some are dead in their lives and others alive deep down the earth.

“Zayed taught us how a person can remain alive in people’s hearts and minds. He taught us how one can remain exalted in life and death.”

The words come in an entire chapter in the book given to the passing of Sheikh Zayed in 2004.

“Zayed is the first ruler of the Emirates, the first founder and the first who formed and legislated the law and the first to lay out the foundations for them. Zayed is the first in everything. He has a unique way to love, a unique place in our hearts, in anyone’s heart.”

Sheikh Mohammed concludes: “Those who build nations don’t die, neither do those who made leaders and men, did good, and build generations.

"They are alive with their Lord receiving provision and in the hearts of people they shall remain.”

Updated: January 16, 2019 12:55 PM

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