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The Fairy Tale Is Over for Dubai’s Royal Family

Sheikh Mohammed’s wife has fled her home—and that may just be the beginning of his troubles.

Everything about the story of Haya bint al-Hussein has always been remarkable. The half-sister of the current Jordanian king, Princess Haya has long been the most publicly visible and widely known of the six wives of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. She was often seen by her husband’s side at regional and international functions, greeting dignitaries and delivering speeches—all highly unusual for the wife of a Persian Gulf ruler.

She has recently become remarkable in a different way. Last week, it emerged that she became the latest notable instance of a growing trend in the Arab world: women fleeing their homes to seek shelter elsewhere. Princess Haya is at least the third royal known to have deserted Dubai’s ruling family, leaving the glittering city-state sometime this spring for the United Kingdom with her two children: Zayed, 7, and Al Jalila, 11. Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, then filed a lawsuit against the princess in a U.K. court.

Much of the drama is still shrouded in mystery. But court cases in Britain may soon offer a window into a major scandal involving two of the most notable royal families in the region.

An indication of that scandal is legible in a poem reportedly composed by Dubai’s ruler and posted on social media by one of his close associates on June 22. In the poem, Sheikh Mohammed refers to a woman’s treachery and lying. The full text, according to my own translation, reads:

Some wrongs are called betrayal, 

And you broke the boundary and betrayed. 

O you who betrayed the most precious of trust,

My sorrow revealed your game.

Your lie, let it be known, its time has passed,

We care not about “we were, and you were,”

I have proof of conviction, 

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