Forty years ago, His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council, became the Ruler of Sharjah. In these four decades, he has revolutionised the face of the Emirate of Sharjah, making it a stellar signpost of cultural and humanitarian development, apart from giving it an urban and industrial facelift. Cloaked in humility and capped by modesty, Sheikh Sultan is a Ruler with munificence, a multi-faceted repository of talent and generosity who not only cares for the people but also believes in all-round development of not just Sharjah, but the UAE as well.
It was because of him that Sharjah was honoured with the title ‘Cultural Capital of the Arab World’ by Unesco in 1998. He has been the brainchild and architect behind setting up key landmarks in the emirate. He has fostered the growth of the annual Sharjah International Book Fair for the past 30 years; established Sharjah TV; set up the Sharjah Excellence Award for the physically challenged; and created model free zones in Hamriyah and Sharjah International Airport. He is also a groundswell of academic radiance, having not only achieved two doctorates from distinguished universities but received honorary doctorates, medals and awards from institutions and bodies across the globe. He has also penned several books, both literary, historical and theatrical. Here we take a look at the trajectory of his life and strides of advancement in Sharjah.
On January 25 1972, the Al Qasimi Ruling Family in Sharjah selected His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, at the age of 32 years, to succeed his late brother His Highness Sheikh Khalid Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi as the Ruler of Sharjah and its dependencies, and as member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates. His Highness is the 15th Ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah in a chain of Al Qasimi Rulers since the year 1630 AD.
Sheikh Sultan was born on July 6, 1939. He did his elementary and secondary education in Sharjah, Dubai and Kuwait. He completed his B.Sc in agricultural engineering from Cairo University in 1971. He also holds a PhD with distinction in history from Exeter University, UK, and a PhD in political geography from Durham University, also in the UK. He was UAE Minister for Education from 1971-72.
He has also established some prominent bodies and organisations, such as the Consultative Council of Sharjah, Department of Culture and Information, Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development, Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority, Sharjah International Airport, Sharjah Municipality and Sharjah Police General Directorate.
Sheikh Sultan has also played a distinguished role and been a stellar model where learning and academia are concerned. He was visiting professor, Exeter University (1998); Professor, Modern History of the Gulf, University of Sharjah (1999); Visiting Professor, Cairo University (2008), and has been President of both the American University of Sharjah and the University of Sharjah since 1997. He also founded the American University of Sharjah and University of Sharjah.
Sheikh Sultan has also been honoured with honorary doctorates from various universities around the world, including Exeter University, American University in Cairo and University of Sheffield. Besides, he has several honorary posts, including:
- Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in England.
- Honorary Member, Centre of Middle East and Islamic Studies, University of Durham
- Honorary President, Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services
- Founding Member of the University of Exeter’s College of Benefactors, Exeter University.
- Honorary Member of the National Geographic Society, Washington DC
He also received several medals and awards. Among his awards are: the Creative Sports Award - Order of Merit - received from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in the second edition 2010 for continuous leading guidance and supporting all forms of sports in the UAE; Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Award for Cultural Personality of the Year; Princess Fatima Ismail Distinguished Award - Cairo University, in recognition of his generous and longstanding support of Cairo University’s mission and goals; and the “Order of Merit” both from the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Senegal.
He has also played a key role in promoting arts and culture in the emirate of Sharjah. He established the Sharjah Award for Arabic Culture, the idea for which was born out of the designation of Sharjah as the Cultural capital of the Arab world for 1998 by Unesco. The award was officially adopted based on Sheikh Sultan’s generous initiative to allocate a sum of $250,000 to Unesco.
He has also initiated Sharjah Cultural Festival tours in different cities, which bring aspects of Arab and Islamic art and culture to the people of the world.
He has also established the Sharjah Creative Thinking Foundation; inaugurated Sharjah TV in February 1989; hosted the Sharjah Biennial Exhibition, and set up the Sharjah Art Foundation in 2010.
He has also been at the forefront of humanitarian services and industrial development. He has founded centres for the rehabilitation of the mentally and physically challenged persons, established a care centre for old people, and set up the Sharjah Excellence Award for the physically challenged to enhance their smooth social rehabilitation.