Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is adding to his reputation as a polymath and establishing himself as a leading figure in the region. The poet prince – who writes verse under the name of Fazza – is one of the most accomplished and dynamic royals in the world, and he channels much of his energies into promoting the Emirates. Prince Hamdan is now focussing on helping to develop Dubai as the high tech capital of the Middle East, as the economy shifts even further away from oil production.
Many people are describing the 36 year old prince as a modern day renaissance man. The prince is a graduate of Britain’s prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst where he completed initial officer training, before continuing his education at the London School of Economics, giving him a global and cosmopolitan outlook. The prince rejected a military career as too limiting, but enjoys high adrenaline sports including scuba diving, sky diving and horsemanship up to gold medal standard. His robust physical side is balanced by a love of photography, art, nature and poetry, attracting over 8 million followers to his Instagram site.
Crucially for the Emirates, the Crown Prince has rejected an idle playboy lifestyle. If he plays hard, he works even harder, and was instrumental in pushing Dubai’s winning bid to host the 2020 World Expo. Hamdan is also highly active in promoting education and entrepreneurship among Emirates youth. Few royal families in the Middle East – or anywhere in the world – have succeeded in producing a prince who is capable of dealing on equal terms with the best and brightest in finance, technology and politics.
In career terms the prince is still a young man and he has the drive and energy to make Dubai a major player in the global economy. The Emirates is situated at the heart of the Middle East and has ready access to Europe, Asia and Africa. Hamdan plans to capitalise on Dubai’s strategic location, situated on ancient trade routes, to create a thriving modern mercantile kingdom. He is keen to build on existing strategic alliances with the USA, Britain and the EU to underpin the coming economic miracle.
But Sheikh Hamdan is also aware that there are obstacles to achieving his vision. He has to ease a conservative society, nurtured on easy money from decades of oil production, into a flexible go getter mindset. The Emirates have traditionally been dependent on foreign expertise and labour to get things done – and this has to change. The prince is reportedly optimistic that Dubai’s merchant traditions and instincts are powerful enough to adapt, and will drive the new economy forwards. His is keen to transform the educational system to create an aspirational generation that is truly ready to work for the good things in life.
This will mean integrating women into the 21st century economy and cutting back hard on the number of foreign workers. The message is not a simplistic xenophobic one; foreign businesses and investors are welcome, but Emiraties will have to step up and run things. Inevitably this means adopting a more Western mentality and implementing business practices that will enable Emirates corporations to compete effectively with the biggest and best US and EU enterprises. This will mean a major change in mindset, and it may only be the current generation of schoolchildren that can adapt.
Prince Hamdan left Britain’s Sandhurst with a strong sense of self discipline. He understands what it takes to get results when faced with tough competition in an ever changing global economy. The prince is a subtle man, he will try to steer the Emirates gently towards a new high tech economy and preserve the best of our conservative traditions, but he is likely to be firm – perhaps even harsh – towards anti-modernisers. For those Emiraties who are keen to embrace change, there will be massive opportunities. Anybody who is ready to study any aspect of tech, finance, precision manufacturing or modern languages is likely to be well rewarded in coming years. The rewards will not just be financial, but will include the satisfaction of being part of something exciting, ground breaking, and of historical importance for the UAE.