His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed
I saw Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (the Ruler of Dubai) the other day. Really him. In the flesh. I was driving home and he was driving the car behind me. I knew it was him because he drives a white Mercedes G -Wagon and his number plate is a bit of a give-away: 1.
I’ve seen him a couple of other times, too. The first time was at a party he held to celebrate the Dubai World Cup – I looked up from a plate of hummus and there he was, right next to me. The other time is not confirmed, but I like to think it was him.
DH and I were camping on a public beach, years ago – a beach that’s now planned to be a new city, marina and ‘lifestyle’ development. We woke early and walked along the white-sand beach, which was uninterrupted as far as the eye could see. A small white helicopter appeared, flying low towards us – high on the joie de vivre that comes from sleeping outdoors, we waved at the pilot, who flashed his lights at us.
Urban myth holds it that Sheikh Mohammed flies his own helicopter around the city early some mornings, so I like to think it was him, though… well, who knows.
Sheikh Mohammed is quite the celebrity over here. He generates a lot of respect and admiration, not just from UAE citizens, but from expats as well. Seeing him is an honour – but one that’s always a possibility.
He drives his own car around; he’s often seen in the building where his offices are; he appears to like mingling among the people. I simply can’t imagine any of the Western leaders behaving in a similar fashion, moving freely around without an entourage.
Anyway, the day he was driving behind me we were on a single-lane road through road works, where everyone speeds a bit. I didn’t know what to do: go faster so I didn’t hold him up? Drive at the (ridiculously low) speed limit so I wasn’t breaking the law? Wave? Slam my brakes on so I could say hello?
Of course I kept on driving at a reasonable speed, and he passed me when the road turned dual carriageway.
Maybe next time I’ll get to say hello.