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With four country mansions and 100,000 acres of land in the UK, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has his feet firmly planted on British soil.
The ruler of Dubai has long held ties to this country and – not least through their mutual love of horses – has developed a friendship with the Queen. A High Court judge even went so far as to confirm in a ruling in 2019 that Sheikh Mohammed, aged 72, was “said to be on respectful and friendly terms with the British Royal family”.
He has been a regular guest of the Queen at Royal Ascot, even riding with her in the Royal carriage. He has gifted to the Queen a number of racehorses, including Carlton House, which came third in the Derby at Epsom in 2011.
Sheikh Mohammed has invested vast sums in this country, not least in the Godolphin stables, a sprawling, state-of-the-art complex based at the home of horseracing in Newmarket and which includes a swimming pool for horses and an equine spa. Nearby he owns Dalham Hall, a £45 million mansion once the home of the Bishop of Ely and latterly Cecil Rhodes, and Moulton Paddocks, an historic racing yard.
His main residence in the UK is said to be Longcross, a £75 million country estate in Surrey, which he bought in 1976, and from where his daughter Princess Shamsa, then aged 19, tried to escape from his control 21 years ago. She was tracked down to a street in Cambridge, and flown back to Dubai via a private jet taking off from Newmarket.
Experts suggest his land holdings in the UK exceed the size of the Queen’s private estate. It includes a 63,000-acre estate at Inverinate, a village in Wester Ross, that comprises a 14-bedroom manor house and a 16-bedroom guest house. Planning permission has also been sought for a hunting lodge, his architects reportedly complaining that the Sheikh’s trips to the Highlands have been “limited by a lack of accommodation”.
Last year he acquired Woodhay, another mansion in Surrey, for £13 million. Sheikh Mohammed also bought a vast house in a Belgravia square at a cost of £17.3 million in 2013 and a six-storey terrace in Knightsbridge for £61.5 million, according to reports. It is suggested the property empire built up in the UK is needed not least to accommodate a family said to comprise six wives and around 30 children. The houses are said to have been bought by the Sheikh for their benefit.
Sheikh Mohammed was born into Dubai’s ruling family, the third of four sons of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed, who ruled for 32 years from 1958. His links to the UK began in earnest while still a teenager. After Sheikh Mohammed completed secondary school in his homeland in 1965, he was despatched to an English language school in Cambridge before attending the British Army’s officer cadet school at Aldershot for six months’ military training.
His father had put in place a plan to transform Dubai into a trade and financial centre and tourist destination and Sheikh Mohammed was an enthusiastic supporter. His father died in 1990 and his eldest brother passed away in 2006, leaving Sheikh Mohammed, by then the Crown Prince, to take charge.