Spotlight on Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi of Ras al Khaimah

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In Bedouin nomadic culture, seeing the top of a tent from afar as you travel through a rocky desert is considered to be a blessing. This site lets travelers know that a camp has been set up, often at an oasis, which means that they are close to reaching a spot where they can relax, meet other travelers, and engage in trade. Ras al Khaimah, one of the seven United Arab Emirates, is named after the expression “top of the tent,” which happens to be highly adequate when considering how much this jurisdiction has progressed under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi.

Even though His Highness has formally ruled Ras al Khaimah since 2010, the economic transformation of this Emirate dates back to the late 20th century. The Sheikh studied abroad and graduated from the University of Michigan with degrees in political science and economics; he returned home in the late 1970s and started working in a municipal administration capacity. The socioeconomic development of Ras al Khaimah has always been a priority for His Highness, and he resolved to make his beloved Emirate a haven of economic growth despite its lack of oil riches.

What Ras al Khaimah lacks in petroleum production it makes up elsewhere; this is something that His Highness holds dear to his heart, and he knows that these blessings, which were taken full advantage of by the ancient Julfar civilization, are the key to the sustainable development of this Emirate. When looking at the terracotta deserts of Ras al Khaimah, the Sheikh saw an opportunity for industrialization that eventually turned into the formation of RAK Ceramics. The raw materials are already in the desert, but His Highness did not stop with production; he took things further by establishing a materials research division that now produces advanced products such as anti-microbial solid surface slabs, glow-in-the-dark fixtures, ultra-slim panels, and others.

The international attention garnered by RAK Ceramics prompted His Highness to expand on the legacy of his father, Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, a leader whose vision for the Emirate hinged on promoting education as a means of moving beyond agriculture and fishing. Getting the best jobs at RAK Ceramics, for example, requires a certain level of schooling. As the flagship company of the Emirate, RAK Ceramics prefers to hire workers from the community, particularly for its research and development section, and this entails finding prospects who are trained in scientific fields.

His Highness has borrowed various pages from Abu Dhabi and Dubai in terms of setting up free trade zones and courting foreign companies with tax incentives and other business perks, but he has also succeeded in building a country brand for Ras al Khaimah. Whereas Dubai has developed a reputation that evokes a hectic image of hard-charging entrepreneurs and greedy executives, Ras al Khaimah has a more laid-back approach to doing business. Even the tourism industry of RAK projects an image that is more family-friendly and not as flashy or extravagant as Dubai; in fact, RAK has become a popular destination for international workers who wish to escape the hustle and bustle of Dubai City for a weekend retreat.

Far from being a technocrat, the Sheikh has welcomed the input and collaboration provided by various societal sectors in the Emirate, and his vision can be characterized as dynamic; for example, when His Highness resolved to overhaul the public healthcare system, an important step in the process involved founding the RAK Health Sciences University, which these days graduates more than just nurses and doctors working for government clinics. This institution of higher learning also provides skilled workers for the pharmaceutical companies operating in RAK, and in the near future it will produce graduates who will conduct biotechnology research for the various companies that have set up shop in this Emirate.

The Sheikh is a strong advocate of equal access for all community stakeholders, and it should be noted that RAK is a small society by virtue of its relatively low population count. This is a leader who is well aware of the intrinsic wealth of the Emirate he was born to rule, and he wants to take the best advantage of those offerings for the benefit of his people.

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