sheikh mohammed bin khalifa al maktoumHis Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum
(Photo : Mike de Kock Racing)

My Wednesday diary was devoted to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum and his right-hand man, Mohammed Khaleel, and my trip to what we would term the Ministry of Land and Development is characterised by a very smart car which arrives, as usual, 15 minutes ahead of time. You see, His Highness is a highly organised man, whose organisation is exceeded only by his hospitality and his open pleasure at welcoming a fellow horseman.

A meeting I expected to last just an hour was far beyond the third, and gathers breath again when it becomes apparent that we won’t be able to make dinner because of a midnight flight.

The talk is about horses, and there are many of them stretched across several time zones from Australia to the United States. And then, inevitably, because of his palpable love of a challenge, our talk settles on the Dubai Carnival which gets under way in the New Year.

It seems Sheikh Mohammed will be double fisted in 2009, with the formidable likes of ARCHIPENKO and EAGLE MOUNTAIN already proven in international competition this year; known Dubai entities ASIATIC BOY and HONOUR DEVIL and any number of new “kids”, including the Summerhill boys, IMBONGI and ART OF WAR.

Sitting in the shadow of a portrait of his grandfather, Sheikh Zayed al Maktoum, whom His Highness shares with Dubai’s current Rulers, the warmth, the humility and the sheer decency of this great friend and admirer of South Africa, is a beacon of any visit to the Emirate. In many respects, Sheikh Mohammed is a symbol of his family’s history, a man of tradition and custom, with a deep understanding of where he and his people have come from, as well as the modern businessman and administrator, whose Ministry is a facilitator of everything Dubai represents today.

Whatever the dictionary has in the way of adjectives, what’s happened in Dubai is beyond the book. It demands a new language.