OZY | Elizabeth Dickinson | October 20, 2017

The first time he spoke in public, Omar Saif Ghobash spent months preparing. As the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Russia, he had needed special permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deliver remarks at the University College London — unheard of at the time as Emirati diplomats rarely spoke to the media. Ghobash walked onto the stage in March 2013, certain, he says, someone would be listening for errors.

Instead, his 30-minute talk, “An Accidental Liberal,” struck a chord in the audience, boosted his stock at home and turned the 46-year-old Ghobash into the exemplar of a new idea: “There is this myth that we [in the Gulf] are young countries, we don’t have the experience … we don’t have the smarts,” he says. “I think we need to stop saying that.”

Four years later, Ghobash — incoming UAE ambassador to France — has become a de facto spokesperson for his country and its global ambitions. He is often described as the most important Emirati ambassador after the country’s representative in Washington — a post many expect him to fill one day. His gift for carefully crafting messages allows him to address taboo issues, as few others can. “I don’t want to be shocking; I want to be inviting,” he tells OZY. “That was a choice I made.” READ MORE