HH Sheikh Mohammed Told Gulf Leaders In The 80’s Dubai Could Be A Tourist Hub But He Was Met With Laughter

Farah Makhlouf

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai shared an inspiring story from back in the day.

In the 80’s, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was a young minister in his 30’s and he attended a GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) meeting where ministers were addressing issues in the region.⁠ He was always a visionary and had great plans for Dubai. He suggested to the ministers, “Why don’t we develop the Gulf cities into global tourist destinations, and can we start in Dubai?”

His Highness recalled “All eyes turned to me… Then, there was a little silence that was interrupted by the laughter of one of the older foreign ministers.”⁠

A senior foreign minister said people will find a desert, sand, heat and humidity in the gulf cities and that Dubai lacks cultural heritage and history so why would people ever want to visit this emirate?

“I did not argue with him. But I felt sad because why can’t we make better use of our wealth? Why can’t we trust our youth? And can’t we try anything different other than what we know and are familiar with?” HH recalled saying.

4 decades later, the UAE ranked 4th among the world’s top international tourism earners, with a total receipt of AED224 billion in 2022, according to the latest report from the UN World Tourism Organisation.

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