Sheikh Saeed

Sheikh Saeed

Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum was born in 1878.

An unimposing man, Sheikh Saeed began his rule in 1912, a time when the pearling industry was thriving and Dubai was establishing itself as the leading port in the Gulf. He would continue to rule for forty-six years until his death in 1958.

A deeply religious man, Sheikh Saeed based his decisions on the teachings of Islam. "And he practiced what he preached. An occasion is recalled when he rose early one morning, even before the guards of his modest house in Shindagha, and surprised a foreign craftsman attached to the household in the act of stealing an expensive Persian carpet from the Ruler's majlis. 'Put it back,' Saeed advised the thief. 'The guards will certainly catch you.' The man took Sheikh Saeed's advice, and continued his employment for many years as though nothing had happened."1


Sheikh Saeed was an uncomplicated man who relished the simple pleasures of life. A favorite pastime was the traditional Arab sport, falconry. He would travel to the outskirts of Dubai to where the houbara, his favorite prey, were abundant. As soon as his sons, Sheikh Rashid and Sheikh Khalifa, were able, they would accompany him on his hunting expeditions.

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In addition to his hunting trips, Sheikh Saeed and his family would retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life to Ras Al Khaimah, a neighboring sheikhdom where the Al Maktoum family owned several date plantations. Free from the pressures of political life, Sheikh Saeed enjoyed the quiet joys of life as a family man.

Photograph by Ronald Codrai
© Justin Codrai





In the 1930's, the pearling industry went into sharp decline. European and American demand for pearls had decreased due to a depressed economy and the creation of cultured pearls in Japan. The world's leading jewelers turned to the Asian market for cultured pearls because they were cheaper than natural pearls and it was possible to mass-produce them. Had it not been for the Ruler's farsightedness in diversifying Dubai's economy and developing the port and the market, Dubai would certainly have suffered greater repercussions. "Both Sheikh Saeed and Sheikh Rashid had long been regarded as the most forward thinking leaders along the Trucial Coast. Dubai was the major trading entrepot on the , and despite the recession, its diverse souq retained a level of wealth that was the envy of neighboring sheikhdoms."2

Over the course of his lifetime, Sheikh Saeed witnessed remarkable transformations in his city-state in terms of the burgeoning population that trebled during his rule and the emergence of a modern city. In addition, the Al Maktoum family consolidated its position as the ruling family of Dubai. Deeply loved and respected by his fellow men, Sheikh Saeed played an invaluable role in establishing the foundation of Dubai.

1. WILSON, GRAEME, Father of Dubai, Media Prima, Dubai, 1999, p.41.
2. ibid., p.53.

The photograph of Sheikh Saeed at the top of this page is by Ronald Codrai. © Justin Codrai