DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Dubai's ruler writes poetry, rides horses across the desert in long-distance endurance races and hobnobs with royals like the Queen of England. Mixing extravagance with boundless ambition, he commanded the desert city-state's meteoric rise — and helped sow the seeds, some observers say, of its debt crisis.
Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's business-over-politics approach turned Dubai into a city-state with the surface trappings of Western liberalism — a thin veneer over the conservatism and strict political boundaries familiar throughout the Arab world.
Drink at the bars, wear bikinis at the beach, hit the discos and make money, was the overt message. But there was a red line in the sand: Don't question his grandiose plans or the foundations they were built on. Those foundations, it turns out, were not oil, but other people's money. Lots of it.