The U.A.E.’s Sheikh Mohamed, 61 years old, was once the Saudi crown prince’s mentor, bonding a few years ago on an overnight camping trip in the vast Saudi desert, accompanied by trained falcons and a small entourage, The Wall Street Journal has reported. But more recently, the two men have drifted apart as they offer divergent visions of leadership, and with Sheikh Mohamed avoiding the scrutiny faced by Prince Mohammed.
“Up until a few years ago, this sort of division and openly pursuing objectives that are counter to what their brothers are pursuing was unheard of,” said Dina Esfandiary, senior adviser for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group. “Now it’s becoming increasingly normal.”
Emirati officials declined to comment. Saudi officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.