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Father of Dubai  (A Review of the book)
Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum
By Grame Wilson
Photographs by Ramesh Shukla

The first authorised biography of HH Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, late ruler of Dubai is an honest attempt at understanding the man who "led his pocket-sized Gulf emirate to unprecedented prosperity based not only on oil but also on trade".

Being the ruler's son was probably not such an attractive proposition during Sheikh Rashid's youth when the pearl-driven Gulf economies crashed with the emergence of the cultured pearl. In 1929, a 17-year-old Sheikh Rashid witnessed Dubai's 'Great Depression'. Boats lay idle, merchants went bankrupt and unemployment was widespread. Against the backdrop of a fragile economy set in a harsh desert landscape, Sheikh Rashid made his first moves to build one of of the most prosperous city-states in the world.

Father of Dubai
Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum,
written by Grame Wilson (photographs
and pic above by Ramesh Shukla) is
priced at Dhs. 195/-. More about the book

Grame Wilson's biography describes the youthful Sheikh Rashid as a 'serious young man' who was groomed to be a leader by his dynamic mother, the remarkable Sheikha Hessa and his gentle father, Sheikh Saeed. By the age of 12, he was a permanent fixture in the ruler's majlis. By the mid-twenties, he was independantly wealthy. His imposing personality and drive soon began to attract an equally dynamic and creative group of young and old residents of Dubai.

'One imaginative programme followed another, all emanating from the Ruler's Majlis, and by the early 1980's Dubai had in place an infrastructure which rivalled any in the Gulf'. Whether it was constructing inexpensive accomodation for Dubai's working class or the world's largest man-made harbour at Jebel Ali, Sheikh Rashid showed remarkable drive and courage. While rulers elsewhere preferred lining their own pockets, he utilised the limited resources in Dubai, borrowing money at times, to secure a prosperous future for his people and the region.
More about Dubai

Father of Dubai - Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum
By Grame Wilson, Photographs by Ramesh Shukla
Price = Dhs. 195/-

The reader will be left with a grudging admiration for the Arabs. The triumphs of the pre-oil days that the book focusses on extensively, will erase the popular misconception among non-arabs the world over, that 'the Arabs had it easy'. 'Father of Dubai' is the story of not just one remarkable man, but more importantly, of the men and women who transformed a small trading outpost to a bustling metropolis on par with Hong Kong and Singapore. To this day, oil revenues account for just 10% of Dubai's GDP.

Author Grame Wilson has used a simple narrative style that is easy to digest. A resident of Dubai for the past six years, Grame is no stranger to the movers and shakers of this city, largely due to his popular equestrian-related books. 'Father of Dubai' is thoroughly researched as is evident in the pre-oil boom details that the author has managed to unearth. Interviews with prominent locals as well as archives of the British administration of the time, have been the major sources of information on the life and times of Sheikh Rashid.

The book comprehensively spans Sheikh Rashid's thirty-two year rule. The highlight of the book, however, is its indepth study of the twenty years that Sheikh Rashid managed the affairs of Dubai as Crown Prince - facts that would come as news even to a veteran in Dubai. The author's straightforward narrative appeals. The minimal drama in the words, however, would make it difficult for an outsider (the book is to be promoted in the U.K. and elsewhere) to conjure those all-important 'pictures in the mind's eye'.

Ramesh Shukla, a well-know photographer who has spent nealy four decades capturing images of the country and its people has used his unmatched archive of photographs to perfection. While the photographs evoke the bygone era, the general captions below them do not satisfy entirely. The year and the names of some of the persons in each photograph, so important to understand the historical context, should have been mentioned.

In essence, the author narrates an important story, set in a sparsely documented era, of a man whose role in defining the course of history has yet to be recognised.

Interested in the Book?

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