Just another year in the life of a legend…

2018 has been a big year for Dubai, and just as much so for its leader – HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the UAE and ruler of Dubai.

Whether he was announcing major visa changes that would better lives of UAE residents, sending aid to a country in need or hanging out with fellow royals, Sheikh Mohammed handled every situation with characteristic aplomb. Here are his top 10 moments of 2018.

When he reminded us of the importance of preserving UAE heritage

Back in February, Sheikh Mohammed paid a visit to the Shindagha Heritage District, which is currently being given a facelift to boost cultural tourism. While there, Sheikh Mohammed shared an importance message about preserving UAE heritage. “Preserving our heritage and culture are part of our national responsibility,” the Dubai ruler said. “The Emirati architectural heritage is part of its identity and culture. Future generations have to preserve it so that it remains a testament to the ability of Emiratis to innovate and discover solutions to adapt to their environment”.

When he rescued a stranded woman in the desert

A woman had an unexpected encounter with Sheikh Mohammed back in March, after her car became stuck in the Dubai desert. Hanna Karen Arroyo said the Dubai ruler and his crew came to her assistance when she and her friend were unable to tow their car out of the sand. “My friend and I got stuck on the desert of Dubai and we got rescued by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid,” she wrote on Twitter. Afterwards, the Dubai ruler posed for a picture with Hanna and her friend, as well as another motorist who had tried to help.

When he donated his plane to send aid to Papua New Guinea

The vice president of the UAE and ruler of Dubai sent his private cargo jet to Papua New Guinea earlier in the year, which was hit by a devastating 7.5 magnitude earthquake in February. According to the UN World Food Programme, the aircraft donated by Sheikh Mohammed carried more than 80 metric tons of life-saving, nutrient-dense biscuits to Papua New Guinea, benefiting 60,000 people in the southwest Pacific nation.

When he released 700 prisoners ahead of Ramadan

The annual pardoning of prisoners before the start of Ramadan is a tradition that has been in the UAE for decades, and Sheikh Mohammed this year released 700 prisoners in Dubai. The prisoners represented a wide cross-section of nationalities and a broad range of UAE society. Those pardoned are all considered people who are safe to the community and more than ready to be back on the UAE’s streets.

When he announced major changes visa changes that will allow residents to make the UAE a long-term home

The UAE is often seen as a place where expats come and work with the intention of returning home within a few years, but that changed this year with the announcement of changes to the UAE visa system, which will allow some residents to make the country a long-term home. At a cabinet meeting in May, Sheikh Mohammed announced that certain residents will be eligible for ten-year visas, certain students studying in the UAE would be granted five or even ten year visas, as well as introducing temporary visas for job seekers and 48-hour visas for passengers in transit wishing to explore the city.

When he surprised iftar volunteers

Volunteers received a pleasant surprise one evening during iftar in May whilst handing out iftar meals on a busy Dubai road. A familiar Mercedes G-Class SUV pulled up beside them and inside was none other than Sheikh Mohammed. The moment was caught on camera by Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali Al Nuaimi – better known as the Green Sheikh – who posted this now-classic photo of Sheikh Mohammed interacting with one of the volunteers from the Al Ihsan Charity Association.

When he personally paid to transport aid to quake-hit Indonesia

On September 28, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province, leaving 2000 dead and more than 70,000 homeless. Dubai’s International Humanitarian City sent 92 metric tonnes of relief items to the quake-hit region, on behalf of UNICEF, and Sheikh Mohammed played a crucial role in making it happen by covering the cost of chartering the cargo aircraft to deliver the aid.

When he won the Epsom Derby (and caught up with Queen Elizabeth II)

It was smiles all round when Sheikh Mohammed’s horse Masar from his Godolphin stables finished first at the 239th annual Epsom Derby race in Britain. Ridden by jockey William Buck, Masar started from six horses back at the start of the race, coming through to successfully finish first. But as well as celebrating their impressive win, the Dubai royal family were also spotted meeting with another royal, British Monarch Queen Elizabeth II, on the sidelines of the show.

When he ordered emergency airlift to help Jordan flood victims

In October, Jordan was devastated by flooding, in what was described as one of the country’s worst natural disasters in decades. In response to the disaster, Sheikh Mohammed ordered an emergency airlift of humanitarian aid to help those affected. In November, a 747 jumbo jet and a C130 Hercules transport carrier took off from Dubai carrying more than 58 tons of health, nutrition, and sanitation supplies, as well as temporary shelters to those in need.

When he attended Ascot

Sheikh Mohammed celebrated another racing victory in June when he saw he saw Godolphin’s Blue Point finish first in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. The Dubai ruler was joined by his wife, HRH Princess Haya, son Sheikh Hamdan and 10-year-old daughter Sheikha Al Jalila at the prestigious event in the British town of Ascot. In a rare interview in English after the race, Sheikh Mohamed said that he had come into the race relaxed, having won the esteemed Epsom Derby a few weeks prior with his horse Masar, though was happy to have won this race too.

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