Sheikh Rashid's Secret Hideaway in a Tower
Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum had a "vision" for Dubai's future. He saw an Industrial Port as essential part of that concept and a key to Dubai's future development and industrialisation.
He personally chose Jebel Ali as the location for his new "super sized" Port. Sheikh Rashid already conceived an outline concept before involving his Advisors in the planning, financing and construction of what was to become one of the world's major ports. Sheikh Rashid retained a personal interest in Jebel Ali Port long after the Port was completed and even after he became ill. He continued to visit "his" Jebel Ali Port until he was no longer able to do so.
A Visit to Sheikh Rashid's Secret Tower
I was new to Jebel Ali Port and needed to get to know what was there. First "port of call" was Jebel Ali Port's Control Tower. I could get an overview of the Port from there. I drove to the Control Tower, parked, then took the Elevator to the Control Room. Harbournaster met me and kindly gave me a conducted tour of his Control Room. From here his Marine Officers could see way out to sea, all of Jebel Ali Port and its adjacent hinterland. At the end of the tour I mentioned I had seen another floor above Control Room. What was it for?. HM offered to show me. We took another elevator up to this floor and entered a much smaller room through an open door. The view of Jebel Ali Port and its surrounds through almost floor to ceiling windows windows was stunning. The room was bare of any furnishings except a well worn settee positioned so anyone seated in that settee could see comfortably out of the windows. HM explained this floor, in the past, had been used regularly by Sheikh Rashid. He often came just to sit on the settee and look out over "his" Jebel Ali Port and the newly developing Jebel Ali Free Zone. Since Sheikh Rashid's death in 1990 the floor had remained untouched and unused. It was as it was when Sheikh Rashid left the Tower after his final visit. HM told me few people knew of Sheikh Rashid's visits or of the room's existence. I felt privileged to be where the Great Man had sat towards the end of his remarkable life looking out over one of his many accomplishments.
My Last Visit to Sheikh Rashid's Secret Tower
Several years passed before I revisited Sheikh Rashid's "Secret Tower". Much had happened during that time. Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. Desert Storm had evicted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Political tensions between US and Iran had risen in the Gulf Region. US Navy was now using Jebel Ali Port as a strategic base for their Gulf Operations meanwhile Jebel Ali Port and its Free Zone continued to grow and make its presence felt internationally.
I wanted to show this special place to an old friend visiting from UK. We drove to the Control Tower and took the elevator to the Control Room. There I asked if we could see Sheikh Rashid's Room. There was no immediate response. Eventually - "Well you can try knocking on the door and see if they will let you in." We didn't ask who "they" were. Instead we made our way to the next level where we knocked on the door - twice! At the second knock the door opened slightly so I could see a part of a face. I asked that "part of a face" if we could come in - " I want to show my visitor where Sheikh Rashid used to sit". The door opened. We were let in. Inside was vastly different from my previous visit. The floor was now home to three camp beds and various bags, boxes and packets. The windows sills were now convenient shelves to hold binoculars, radios and other equipment. All of this was for the three US Navy Personnel in the room. They were each glued to binoculars watching for potential attacks from the sea on the US Nimitz currently berthed in Jebel Ali Port. We were treated courteously by the Sailors. I had time to show my visitor a view that not many had seen. Our presence did not disturb the Navy men but we stayed only a short time then left.
I had looked around for Sheikh Rashid's old settee. It had gone. So had the special atmosphere I previously sensed. I was sad that this little piece of Dubai's history had been lost.