As the escaped wife of the ruler of Dubai took refuge in London, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum took to Instagram condemning her in a poem. Princess Haya, 45, is the latest in a line of royals who have attempted to escape the UAE, an authoritarian state where even those at the top are not safe.

In a story befitting these strange times, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, has written an enraged poem, denouncing the supposed treachery of his escaped wife, Princess Haya bint Al Hussein of Jordan. 

Princess Haya, daughter of the late king of Jordan, half-sister of Jordan’s current king, and sixth wife of Sheikh Mohammed, drew the ire of her husband when she fled to Europe with their son Zayed, 7, and daughter Al Jalila, 11 in late June. Sources say that the trio are currently residing at the royal’s million-dollar mansion in London and are now seeking asylum in either the UK or Germany. The governments of those countries have so far declined to comment on the matter, as have officials from the UAE. 

However, Sheikh Mohamed has filed a complaint against the princess in the Family Division of the High Court in London, and hearings are scheduled for July 30 and July 31 presumably seeking custody of their two children.

Princess Haya with her husband Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai

Sheikh Mohammed is one of the richest rulers in the world, with an estimated wealth of $4 billion, but it appears that money is not everything. It is possible that the Dubai ruler’s visible insecurity is based partially on Dubai’s recent poor economic performance. The emirate’s growth in GDP slowed to 1.9 per cent last year, its slowest rate of expansion since 2010. In the eyes of many, his reputation pales in comparison with that of Princess Haya, who was educated at Oxford University and later became a goodwill ambassador for the UN World Food Program and served on the International Olympic Committee.

Haya’s escape brings back chilling memories of 2018 and the failed escape of Sheikh Mohammed’s daughter from another wife, Princess Latifa. Following that incident, Haya was criticised for appearing alongside a recaptured Latifa and former Irish President Mary Robison, in a video that many regard as mere propaganda for Sheikh Mohammed’s regime. Many have suggested that Latifa showed signs of having been drugged in the video. 

Another of the sheikh’s daughters, Princess Shamsa, fled her father’s UK estate south of London in Surrey in 2000. She was last seen in August of that year in the town of Cambridge north of London from where she was reportedly abducted by employees of the Sheikh.

Sources have said that Haya’s decision to escape may have been based to some extent on her discovering the details of what had happened to Latifa, although how Haya could have remained unaware of these details until now is unclear. 

“Latifa’s case proves Princess Haya had good reason to try and escape,” said Radha Stirling, the CEO of Detained in Dubai. “It is clear that Princess Haya has taken this step precisely to protect her children from facing the same fate Latifa endured, and which she is still suffering.”

Questions had been hovering over the state of the marriage after Haya did not take her husband’s side at Royal Ascot (a prestigious horse race) in the UK in July. 

The Sheikh, 69, is known for his poetry, often marking official occasions of state in verse. The world’s leading breeder of racehorses, his poems are replete with equine imagery. His latest to the princess is no exception. In it he writes of his wife: “You let the reins on your horse go free.” The poem, entitled You Lived and You Died, is a wrathful account of betrayal: “You betrayer, you betrayed the most precious trust, and your game has been revealed….Your days of lying are over and it doesn’t matter what we were and what you are.” 

While his work has often been the subject of international derision, this latest work has been lampooned more than most. Asked if the poem sounded as bad in Arabic as it did in translation, a source told The Daily Beast: “It’s actually worse.”

The Daily Beast went on to report that: “bin Rashid and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the entire United Arab Emirates (of which Dubai is a part), had made an unscheduled visit to Germany prior to Ascot, which, sources say, was part of an attempt to negotiate a solution with Haya.” It is likely that the Sheikh will seek a civil divorce from princess Haya and not attempt to bring her back to Dubai. Some have suggested that this is evidence of the waning of Dubai’s regional power. 

Princess Haya with her father the late King Hussein of Jordan

Princess Haya is a highly popular figure in Jordan, of which her father was king. It is possible that Sheikh Mohammed’s frustration is partially based on the knowledge that risking a diplomatic dispute with Jordan would be unwise. The two economies are heavily integrated with one another and it is possible that Jordan will use this opportunity to request vast influxes of capital investment, which they felt they were promised when the marriage first took place but which, from Jordan’s perspective, did not materialize.

The poem, initially shared on Instagram by one of the Sheikh’s advisors, caused a minor-sensation on Arabic language social networks. It concludes with the crIngeworthy denunciation: “You no longer have any place with me/ Go to who you have been busy with!/ And let this be good for you; I don’t care if you live or you die.” 

According to some sources, Sheikh Mohammed was encouraged to write the poem by his eldest sons, who are said to dislike Princess Haya intensely. It remains to be seen how this will play out, but many are hoping that the combination of Haya’s escape and the Dubai ruler’s unhinged behaviour represents the beginning of the end of the influence of Sheikh Mohammed and his family in the region.