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Spotlight on: Rashid Al Habtoor

Born into the prominent Al Habtoor Family, Rashid is as passionate about sports as he is about business. After graduating from George Washington University, he returned to the UAE and his family’s business, where he played a pivotal role in the design and execution of successful strategies across a diverse range of industries such as construction, engineering, hospitality, automobiles, lifestyle and FMCG. After gaining insightful knowledge and leadership skills, he founded Al Habtoor Trading Enterprises LLC, followed by Al Habtoor Properties, a company that specialises in property management and brokerage.

On the sporting side, after playing polo for years alongside his brother Mohammed, Rashid became the patron owner of the Mahra polo team, which he started in 2009 and named after his daughter. Merging his love of sports and business, he is also the visionary behind gourmet food retail store The Farmer’s Garden, through which he aims to encourage healthy eating habits by supplying numerous schools, universities, and fitness clubs with nutritious meals – with the sole objective of building a healthy and happy nation. We asked Rashid about his passion for polo, the growth of the sport in the UAE, and how he manages to balance it all!

Work, family, polo. How do you fit them all into your busy schedule?

I don’t do any other sport. I go to the gym, play polo, and work. And other than dinner every night with the family, I don’t do too much during the polo season. Here in Dubai, April is the final month for polo, then we head out to Spain to play as much as we can. In June, I play one week in Malaysia, and then in Brunei and France in August.

As a patron of polo, do you think your responsibility is to make the sport more accessible?

I’m probably one of the few to have played in all six clubs in the UAE: Desert Palm, the Plantation Club, Ghantoot, Arabian Ranches, Mahra polo, Habtoor polo. We’d like to see big real estate companies like Emaar, who built the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club, become more involved. The Dubai police has a team, and I’d like to see the Dubai military have a team as well – just like in the UK, Pakistan, and India.

„I’ve been playing polo for almost three decades, and the more I play, the more I fall in love with it. It’s the speed, the horse, and the challenge that make it so beautiful.“

There are so many equestrian events in the UAE, including the World Cup. Do you think Dubai is becoming a world centre for equestrian sports?

Yes, absolutely. They’re now building the world’s biggest racetrack costing $3 billion. You’ll never see anything like this. It’s going to be out of this world.

The Habtoor name is synonymous with success in the UAE. Why do you think your family has achieved so much here?

Everything goes back to my father. He’s the person behind our success. The family came out here in the 60s and 70s, when the UAE was growing, and they worked very hard. They’ve experienced the bad and the good. Because we’ve seen bad times in the UAE, we appreciate what we have and always want to achieve more. It’s the same with most of the old merchant families of Dubai.

What are you going to hand down as a legacy to your children?

To play polo well and take it to the top of the world of sports.

What do you hope for your children’s future?

That they protect our country’s name and reputation, our business, and our family. Growing up these days isn’t easy, so you have to keep an eye on your children.