Like Father, Like Son: Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi of Ras al Khaimah

Located at the northernmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Ras al Khaimah has been making headlines as the new jewel of the United Arab Emirates. Under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, this jurisdiction of just 960 square miles has been transformed into a major hub for international business and an example of how smart economic development should be undertaken. The Emirate of Ras al Khaimah is one of the most economically diverse in the Persian Gulf, and this is a remarkable achievement when considering that this UAE jurisdiction does not possess crude oil reservoirs.

His Highness has formally ruled RAK since succeeding his father, the late Sheikh Saqr bin MoḼammed Al Qasimi, in 2010. It is clear that many of the socioeconomic achievements RAK has been recognized for in recent years can be traced to his father’s vision and the various efforts undertaken to elevate the socioeconomic well-being of the Emirate and his people.

Sheikh Saqr and His Rise to Power

During World War II, Sheikh Saqr participated in the peaceful ouster of Sultan bin Salim Al Qasimi, a leader who believed RAK was ripe for petroleum exploration. Unbeknownst to his subjects, the Sultan had granted several oil exploration concessions to a British company, and his mandate had fallen into neglect. The early rule of Sheikh Saqr was complicated by tribal infighting in RAK, but he was able to mediate peace agreements between the tribes. Following the departure of British subjects from the region, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi agreed to join the UAE.

Prior to the establishment of the UAE, Sheikh Saqr was convinced that further oil exploration in RAK was not going to result in the discovery of reservoirs. The concessions underhandedly granted by his predecessor proved to be fruitless, thus prompting Sheikh Saqr to focus on other natural resources. Quarries and mines started operating in the desert areas of RAK in the 1960s, and they would later provide abundant materials to RAK Ceramics, a global market leader in the tile and slab production sector.

Sheikh Saqr was a firm believer in the intrinsic benefits of a well-educated society. His upbringing featured an educational foundation provided by clerics, and he had an interest in the Arabic arts. He insisted in higher education for his children, and he dreamed of the day when the people of RAK would have equal access to local universities. This dream became a reality in recent years with the foundation of the RAK Medical and Health Sciences University as well as the establishment of the American University of RAK.

The Legacy of Sheikh Saqr

Long before the philosophy of sustainable development was formulated at the United Nations, Sheikh Saqr felt that making a difference for the people of RAK was a matter of nurturing what he considered to be inevitable: societal welfare, infrastructure, and education. He looked past the reality of ruling an Emirate that did not enjoy the crude oil fortunes of its neighbors; this did not matter because he believed that Allah had blessed RAK with plenty of other riches. RAK is a land of benevolent climate, a coastline abundant with marine life, and fertile regions highly ideal for agriculture. Sheikh Saqr taught his children to not only be grateful for these blessings but to also put them to good use and for the common good.

Just like the adage “if you build it, they will come” proclaims, the RAK industrial and business zones pay active tribute to what Sheikh Saqr believed his Emirate should be. In 2019, it is safe to say that this vision has come full circle.

Throughout the history of RAK, which dates back more than 7,000 years, the region has been known as a welcoming place. When the Julfar people ruled RAK, oasis camps welcomed nomadic Bedouin tribes, and this brought about prosperity fueled by trade. Sheikh Saqr hoped for a return to such prosperous times, and the first step he took consisted of stopping tribal conflict; once this was accomplished, he focused on education and welfare. Now that RAK is considered as being one of the world’s best places for doing business, it is important to honor the legacy of Sheikh Saqr.

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