Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 August 2019

Sheikh Hamdan married: From British army drills to sky-diving and poetry, the story of Dubai's Crown Prince

As Sheikh Hamdan marries Sheikha Sheikha bint Saeed bin Thani, we look at the extraordinary life of the young prince

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai who has married this week, has been trained to carry the responsibilities of power from an early age.

Born into the royal palace and one of more than 20 sons and daughters of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, he will one day be Ruler of the emirate.

His father, long before becoming Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, assumed the duties of governance as a teenager.

He was just 19 when tasked with the protection of Dubai through its armed forces.

Sandhurst education

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - APRIL 16: Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Crown Prince of Dubai is pictured during Al Marmoom Heritage Festival at the Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack on April 16, 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The festival promotes the traditional sport of camel racing within the region. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed pictured during Al Marmoom Heritage Festival at the Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack in 2014. Francois Nel / Getty Images

It was no surprise when the current Crown Prince of Dubai followed his father for officer training in the United Kingdom, graduating from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2001, a few months short of his 20th birthday.

The experience, Sheikh Hamdan said in a 2012 interview with a Dubai magazine, “showed me the importance of self-discipline, commitment, virtue, responsibility, endurance, understanding, teamwork, and friendship… and the benefits of hard work".

After Sandhurst, the Crown Prince continued his education at the London School of Economics.

Communication between us and between the people is the most important thing, because there's a big gap these days [in some countries]

Sheikh Hamdan, in a 2010 Bloomberg interview

“Continuing my studies overseas was important,” he said in the same interview.

“It provided me with new skills and taught me how to apply them.”

Barely four years later and still only in his mid 20s, Sheikh Hamdan assumed his first official position, as Chairman of Dubai’s Executive Council in September 2006.

Two years later, he was named by Sheikh Mohammed as Crown Prince of Dubai, an appointment that added more responsibilities and his own staff and office.

In an interview with Bloomberg Television in 2010, the young prince talked about his expanding role and learning from his father.

He also touched on the family's very public profile.

"Communication between us and between the people is the most important thing, because there's a big gap these days between people and rulers [in other countries]," he said in fluent English.

His expanded role also placed him firmly in the public eye, not just at home but overseas. Young and good looking, the Crown Prince’s every appearance made news.

The adventurer

Hamdan bin Mohammed al-Maktum, son of equestrian endurance champion Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktum, rides his horse during an Equestrian Endurance Championship in Palmyra, 190 km northeast of Damascus, 01 May 2000. (Photo by LOUAI BESHARA / AFP)
An 18-year-old Sheikh Hamdan competes in the Equestrian Endurance Championship in Syria in 2000. AFP

He acquired a reputation as an adventurer, and something of a thrill-seeker. His passions include speedboat racing, skydiving, deep sea diving, and, of course, like his father, endurance horse competitions.

Social media has only magnified his reputation, with eight million followers on Instagram and nearly four million on Twitter.

Images posted on Instagram include the Crown Prince trekking across glaciers and up mountains. In 2013, he famously climbed to the tip of Burj Khalfa, waving the UAE flag and posing for a selfie. “Is there anything this prince can’t do?”, the London Evening Standard asked.

The one who helps

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MAY 12, 2018. Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed with his team, F3, win first place at Govgames. Set in motion by the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Govgames sees teams of Government workers pitted against each other in a bid to be Gov Games champions. The competition is held on Kite Beach. (Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National) Reporter: Section: NA
Sheikh Hamdan and his team compete at the Gov Games in 2018. Reem Mohammed / The National

Yet Sheikh Hamdan is very far from the image some may have of a playboy prince. His nickname, widely used for many of his activities is 'Fazza', an Arabic word which translates as the “one who helps.”

It appears on his social media accounts, but also on the poetry he publishes.

A keen photographer, he launched the Hamdan International Photography Award in 2011 and played a major role in the successful Dubai bid for Expo 2020.

The Crown Prince also heads a young business entrepreneurs foundation, is a member of the Dubai Sports Council and Dubai Autism Centre.

His devotion to his family and siblings is also clear from his social media posts, while he frequently pays tribute to his father, Sheikh Mohammed both as a ruler and a mentor.

He has also spoken publicly about the death of his brother, Sheikh Rashid, from a heart attack at 33, paying tribute to him on the anniversaries of his passing.

Like Sheikh Mohammed, he also shows the common touch, father and son seen riding together three years ago on the London Underground. In 2017, footage emerged of the Crown Prince using his Mercedes 4x4 to help tow a lorry that had become stuck in the sand.

The news that Sheikh Hamdan has married opens a new chapter in his life.

No doubt in time there will be less sky diving and more buggy pushing. Regardless, the world will still be fascinated.

Updated: May 19, 2019 02:58 PM

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