Emir Tamim of Qatar– a Youthful Hand Among the Elders
I know little about the new ruler of Qatar. But by the normal customs of Middle East monarchies, his accession to power at the age of 33 is an extraordinary event. Over the past fifty years we have come to expect that the absolute rulers of the Gulf states will be middle aged at least, if not pushing towards elderly.
I say fifty years, because it’s easy to get the impression that Arab rulers need to be of a certain age before they can win the respect of their families, let alone their people. But let’s not forget that King Abdulaziz, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, was a mere 28 when he took the first steps towards creating his kingdom by capturing Riyadh from a rival tribe. King Hussein of Jordan acceded to the throne at the age of 17 following the assassination of his father. And Sultan Qaboos, the current ruler of Oman, succeeded his father at 30.
What’s different about Emir Tamim’s accession is that the Gulf rulers tend to hang on until the end – rather like my own dear Queen. Tamim’s father Emir Hamad has always followed his own path in developing his country, and by abdicating at 61 did it his way to the last.
Though my knowledge of the new Emir is limited, I understand that he was educated at Sherborne School and Sandhust Military Academy in the UK. If his experience of those institutions was a happy one, there’s a fair chance that, like his father, he’s reasonably well-disposed towards my home country.
Sherborne is a school I do know, since they were fierce sporting rivals of my own school, Bryanston. So the chances are that he’s the only current Gulf ruler to be handy with a cricket bat as well as an assault rifle, like Hussain of Jordan, who went to Harrow and Sandhurst.
Whether Tamim’s accession influences other rulers to follow Emir Hamad’s example remains to be seen. Personally I doubt it. But I have no doubt that when the new Emir grasps the elderly hands of his fellow rulers at the next GCC conference, there will be younger members of some of the ruling families looking on with envy. Not to mention, I dare say, a certain “younger” member of my own royal family.
I wish the Emir the best of luck. His father is a hard act to follow. And how long before Qatar bids for the cricket World Cup?