The Billionaire Sheikh Who Carved His Name Into an Island

You can see the word "HAMAD" from space

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The Sun has a curious report today on Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family. The paper informs us that the billionaire sheikh had workmen carve his name, Hamad, in capital letters into an island he owns in the United Arab Emirates called Al Futaisi, without elaborating on when the name was inscribed, how it was accomplished, or how The Sun learned of the exploit. The paper reports that the name is so massive--we're talking two miles across, with each letter over half a mile high--that it's visible from space. Indeed, it is. To get a sense of just how gigantic this thing is, here's a view of both Abu Dhabi and Al Futaisi captured by Google Earth's satellites in 2009 (we've inserted an arrow to Hamad's name):

Zoom in a little closer and you'll see this post's lead image. Zoom in still closer and you get this:

We'll forgive you if you have some questions. For example, don't names scrawled in sand wash away? The Daily Mail explains that the letters form waterways that "absorb the encroaching tide" (check out the "M" above). Or you might ask why Sheikh Hamad chose to write his name in Roman letters rather than in Arabic. Was it to make sure everyone in space knew who he was? Perhaps. But The Financial Times' Tom Gara has another explanation: "Not a lot of straight lines in Arabic." Gara adds that that Hamad halted the project "temporarily, halfway through (rumour is other royals weren't happy). For a while on Google Earth, it just said 'HAM.'"

Finally, just who is this man with the audacity to carve his name on an island for astronauts and satellites to see? The 63-year-old Hamad, it turns out, seems to live by the motto "go big or go home." Forbes notes that Hamad's Emirates National Auto Museum features a "custom-built globe-shaped motor home said to be one-millionth the size of the Earth itself" and a pyramid housing his vast car collection. Here's a shot of that motor home and pyramid from the museum's website:

Hamad also built the world's largest truck--an operational Dodge Power Wagon 64 times larger than the original with a whole apartment inside--in the middle of the desert. Here's a BBC clip highlighted by Tom Gara profiling the vehicle (starts two minutes in):

The Daily Mail adds that Hamad has painted many of his cars in the colors of the rainbow, presumably the reason why he's nicknamed the "Rainbow Sheikh." Here's a picture from a Facebook fan page showing the sheikh standing next to a real Jeep and a Jeep replica:

Before you start criticizing Hamad for his lavish displays of wealth, however, you may want to know that the sheikh is also a philanthropist who focuses on medical causes, according to The Daily Mail.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.