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Fujairah: The Crucial Emirate

A war with Iran could shut off the flow of Middle Eastern oil. Will the tiny emirate of Fujairah become the world’s lifeline?
A newly built road leading to Hilal City, a residential and business development
A newly built road leading to Hilal City, a residential and business developmentPhotograph by Kate Peters/INSTITUTE

The office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Mohammed al-Sharqi, crown prince of Fujairah, sparkles with sculpture and medallions. Mounted on one wall is a large painting of the Fujairah shoreline, the only level portion of this rocky, mountainous, tiny kingdom in the United Arab Emirates. The crown prince sits on a crimson sofa in a white dishdasha as he is served tea from a silver platter. His manner measured, Sheikh Mohammed discusses the transformation of the land he will someday rule.

In this part of the world, he says, “We are still tribal.” Accordingly, Sheikh Mohammed, 26, is married to the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Prime Minister of the U.A.E., ruler of Dubai and executor of an $80 billion family fortune. Such alliances have always carried more weight in the desert than elsewhere. The marriage reinforces Fujairah’s newfound strategic value. To the sheikh, of course, Fujairah has always held special importance. “We talk about it now, but it has always been this way,” says Sheikh Mohammed. “You don’t appreciate it until something goes wrong.”