It was in the 1990s when he decided to build the world’s largest pick-up truck complete with a full suite of luxurious rooms. The most recent twist of extravagant news to keep United Arab Emirates billionaire Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan’s name in the spotlight is having his name etched in the sand so big the letters can be seen from space.
A satellite image from space confirms the enormous letters of the name “HAMAD” carved into the sand on Al Futaisi Island in Abu Dhabi. The name stretches a staggering two miles long and will likely be a permanent fixture on the distant island.
The island of Futaisi lies near the barrier island of Bahrani, in a shallow sheltered lagoon-type complex to the southwest of Abu Dhabi Island.
For those interested in viewing the enormous piece of sand graffiti, it can be seen on Google Earth and Google's map site.
Futaisi Island has a history dating back hundreds of years and judging by the existence of old water wells, archeologists say it is the location of an ancient mosque and a grave yard.
The island is said to be entirely owned by the Sheikh and contains resorts, a golf course, wildlife sanctuaries and horse stables.
Nobody seems to know many details of the project and how it was accomplished.
We do know that Hamad, 63, dreamed up the idea and had his workers figure out how to craft the giant letters for weeks, according to media reports.
The Daily Mail reports today that rather than allow the writing to be washed away by the ocean, the billionaire ordered that the giant letters form waterways to absorb the encroaching tide.
The photos from space show the tip of the “H” reaches into the strait that leads to the Arabian Gulf, which has allowed the first two letters of his name to be filled with water. The “M” looks partially filled as well.
The cost of such a venture is unknown at this time, but according to current construction costs someone can expect to pay roughly $2.50 per cubic yard to dig out the sand.
Figure $1.50 to $3.50 per yard of material depending on the difficulty of excavation and costs specific to local market conditions.
However, the entire sea area around the Island is very shallow, boat access is difficult.
The sheik reportedly imported laborers from Pakistan and Bangladesh to dig the canals, or letters. Some reports say the project could be part of a grand tourism plan.
"There are not a lot of straight lines in Arabic,” said Tom Gara from the The Financial Times.
“Hamad halted the project temporarily halfway through. There was a rumor that other royals weren't happy about the extravagant, high-profile project. For a while on Google Earth, we could just see 'HAM.'"
It has been reported that the excessive living sheikh adheres to the motto "go big or go home.”
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.
The Daily Mail also reported that Hamad has painted many of his cars in the colors of the rainbow, presumably the reason why he's nicknamed the "Rainbow Sheikh."
He is also said to own more than 200 cars, including seven Mercedes 500 SELs painted in the colors of the rainbow.
Alongside his lavish displays of wealth he has become a well-known philanthropist in medicine and supplied a complete kidney stone operating theatre to a public hospital in Morocco where he continues to fund its staff.
Comments run the gamut from positive to some with a bit of humor on Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan’s Facebook page.
Jennifer De Guzman wrote, “Sir, You have everything but GOD said in mark 10:21 ‘ONE THING YOU LACK.’"
Another comment in response to the giant sand art includes one from Linda Laws Thornton Libbey who wrote to the sheikh, “Who knew he was so handsome!..regardless if you get finished and bored carving up you island...I need some help with my homes landscape here in Florida, USA.”
Repeated attempts to reach Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan for comment were unsuccessful.