Amid the fine horses competing in this year’s Royal Ascot, the red-coated postilions driving the Queen of England in her carriage, and the rabble in immense grandstands, one man stands in the event’s most exclusive VIP area wearing a black silk hat.
This accessory is a rarity for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who more often wears the traditional headscarf and white robe, or kandura, of Dubai, one of the seven states that make up the United Arab Emirates. “Sheikh Mo,” as he’s called, has been the leader of Dubai for 13 years. He’s thought of as a progressive who bows to the laws of capitalism as well as the mosque, and so unlike the dictators of old that he writes his own poetry. “Mohammed is articulate, erudite, and suave—a Davos type,” says a businessman who has dined with him in Dubai. A major landowner in Britain and one of the largest racehorse owners in the world, Sheikh Mohammed is even friends with the Queen of England, who adores horses so much that she has made more than $8 million in betting rounds over the past 30 years. In a typically passionate piece of writing, Sheikh Mohammed has described horses as “symbolizing pride, self-esteem, tenderness, and strengt