Without question the most popular, and among the more controversial, of posts the author has dared to publish on this blog within the last year concerns the alleged private peccadilloes of Dubai’s current Crown Prince. Many of this blog’s subscribers who’ve read the at times visceral reactions to that piece, both of random commentators and of the author responding to said commentators, left below the post are aware that Sheikh Hamdan isn’t the only member of his family rumored to entertain a less than honorable, by Middle Eastern standards, private life behind closed doors. By far the member of the House of Al Maktoum with the worst reputation among their subjects is His Highness’ older brother, the virtually disinherited Prince Rashid. Pictured topless in the above photo after what one presumes was a vigorous workout, a pastime that His Highness isn’t only rumored to be obsessed with, but is alleged to have developed a steroid addiction in order to maintain, Sheikh Rashid is widely regarded as the royal family of Dubai’s ultimate black sheep. His bad reputation was publicly solidified in 2008 when his father designated Rashid’s little brother, Hamdan, as his heir apparent and affectively banned his first born son from public duties of any sort.
One of the features of the Bedouin originated monarchies of the Middle East that differentiate them from their counterparts in other regions of the world is that none of them posses a clearly delineated line of succession to their thrones. Part of their kings’ inherent prerogatives is to choose their successors, regardless of the heir apparent’s lineal relation to their sovereign. There certainly was never a guarantee that Prince Rashid, despite being Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s eldest son, would one day inherit his father’s throne. Certainly by the early 2000’s, when it became obvious that the King had a preference for his London School of Economics educated and poetry writing second son, and began calling upon him to take on more and more public duties within the Emirate, Rashid’s fate was all but sealed.
This leads one to wonder why His Highness, whose purported social crimes seem to be mundanely de rigueur for an Arab prince, which is definitely not a compliment, has fallen so far from grace in his father’s eyes and the eyes of his father’s subjects? The answer might lie in the high priority Dubai’s King places on his, his family’s, and his kingdom’s international image. The author recently caught up with several Emirati aristocrat friends, who frequently travel in Middle Eastern royal circles, who reiterated to him over after dinner cocktails that their governments value their international reputations, particularly their favorable coverage by the Western media, above all else, and will stop at nothing to maintain their status as the Monte Carlo of the Middle East. Since graduating from Sandhurst in the early 2000’s, Sheik Rashid has made it all too clear that maintaining appearances is just not a task for which he’s capable.
He was, after all, the first among his brothers to be rumored to be a drug and sex addict. The fact that the gender of the majority of the escorts he’s purported to have frequented since his early twenties has remained unspecified by his expat countrymen has only furthered speculation regarding the nature of his sex life. His refusal to marry has also only furthered the conjecture. Normally, a well known love of sports would serve as a means of deflecting doubts concerning an Arab prince’s “masculinity.” Unfortunately for Rashid, the fact that the sports he prefers require full body contact with other men, as opposed to the more autonomic athletic pursuits favored by Crown Prince Hamdan, have further raised private eyebrows.
It’s perhaps his love of maintaining an athletic physique, and the rumored steroid addiction that’s resulted from it, that was the root cause of the most damning allegation yet made against His Highness, which supposedly resulted in his father finally deciding once and for all to settle the succession on Prince Hamdan, and ban Rashid from ever playing a role in Dubai’s government. According to a confidential 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable authored by David Williams, the acting U.S. consul general in Dubai at the time, entitled Dubai Designates Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler, and subsequently published on Wikileaks, it was widely rumored at the time that Hamdan was designated Crown Prince that Rashid, perhaps in a steroid induced rage, murdered an assistant in his father’s “office.” Which of the many offices of the King the assistant was done away with in, or whether or not the assistant worked for Rashid or his father, or even the gender of the assistant, and the circumstances of the alleged crime, are all unspecified in the report. While an Arab prince murdering a servant is hardly a novel crime, either in the Middle East or elsewhere, the public nature of this rumored incident, and the fact that it would’ve been impossible to hide from Sheikh Mohammed’s gossipy subjects, whose image of him as their ultimate benefactor he definitely values, certainly would’ve been enough to force the King’s hand and prevent him from leaving his throne to his unstable oldest son.
Since being removed from public life, Prince Rahid’s struggle with drug addiction has become a matter of public record in Great Britain. According to a 2011 article published in The Telegraph and entitled Dubai Royal Family Aid Lifts Lid On U.K. ‘Sex Secrets’, Ejil Mohammed Ali testified that Prince Rashid had visited at least one rehab clinic during a visit to Britain. It should also be added, however, that the former servant stated in his wrongful termination lawsuit that every member of the House of Al Maktoum that he personally met, including Prince Rashid, seemed like nice, unpretentious people.
Rashid’s reputation in the private sector is hardly less brutish than his public standing. He’s rumored to have taken possession of a race horse in South Africa without having paid for it. His attempt at breeding racehorses has also thus far yielded laughable results.
Those among this blog’s readers who remember its author’s post several months back concerning the alleged private bisexuality, and his own travails with drug use, of Dubai’s Crown Prince are probably wondering why Hamdan’s reputation remains so favorable, while his older brother’s has been dragged through the mud for having committed virtually the same “vices”? The author can provide no definite answer to this query, except to write that, for one thing, Hamdan’s not suspected of having committed murder. Aside from that, Prince Hamdan by all accounts is intelligent, charming, and not without his share of personal charisma. In essence, he’s a people person, and his father appears to be the first person he ever won over. Rashid, if anything, seems to be the polar opposite of his little brother.
Their father’s private favoring of Hamdan over Rashid lies at the crux of the riddle. For it’s the King who ultimately decides his individual children’s public reputations, just like he decides virtually every other aspect of their lives. As long as Hamdan has his father’s support, he can count on the full weight of Sheikh Mohammed’s massive media resources protecting and filtering his every move in the public eye. If Rashid is indeed a murderer, then he certainly deserves to be punished far more than he has been. But, once again, such a misdeed is common among Arab royals, and the author seriously doubts that this alleged act in and of itself explains the King’s decision to internally exile his oldest son. In essence, the King probably doesn’t trust Rashid, and has no faith in his leadership ability. The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what Prince Rashid’s countrymen think about him. All that matters in Dubai is what his father thinks, and that speaks volumes concerning the political reality of life within that particular desert kingdom.