Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan 

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

(Arabic: زايد بن سلطان آل نهيان‎)‎, (1918 – 2 November 2004), the principal architect and founder of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE for over 30 years (1971–2004).

Zayed was the youngest son of Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, the traditional ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1922 to 1926. He was named after his famous grandfather, Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, who ruled the emirate from 1855 to 1909. On August 6, 1966 he succeeded his brother, Sheikh Shakhbut Bin-Sultan Al Nahyan, as emir of Abu Dhabi after the latter was deposed in a bloodless palace coup. Zayed was first appointed (by the other six Sheikhs on the Supreme Council) to the presidency of the UAE in 1971 and was reappointed on four further occasions: 1976, 1981, 1986, and 1991.

He was considered a relatively liberal ruler, and permitted private media. However, they were expected to practice self-censorship and avoid criticism of Zayed or the ruling families.

He was the ruler of the Eastern Region from 1946 before becoming the ruler of the whole Abu Dhabi.

Early life

At the time of Zayed's birth, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, like the surrounding states, was located along what was then known as the Trucial Coast. It was in treaty relations with Britain, signing a series of agreements on maritime truce with the local rulers. As he was growing up, there were no modern schools anywhere along the coast. He received only a basic instruction in the principles of Islam, and went out into the desert with the Bedouin tribesmen, familiarising himself with the life of the people, their traditional skills and their ability to survive under the harsh climatic conditions.[1]

Ruler's Representative

In 1946, Zayed was appointed to the post of Ruler's Representative in the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi, based in Al Ain. His influence was also extended to the Abu Dhabi owned part of the Al Buraimi Oasis.


His religious tolerance of Christians and the freedom given Western workers sojourning in the UAE was in marked contrast to most neighbors in the region and exposed him to criticism from other more conservative nations. Sheikh Zayed was respected around the world[citation needed] for his unifying influence and his drive to make the Emirates one nation. His calls for cooperation extended across Persian Gulf to Iran. Sheikh Zayed advocated dialogue as the means to settle the row with Tehran over three strategic Persian Gulf islands which Iran seized from the (future) UAE Emirate of Sharjah in 1971, though the islands remain in Iranian hands, despite over three decades of UAE diplomatic initiatives.

Zayed did not shy away from controversy when it came to expressing his opinion on current events in the Arab world. Troubled by the suffering of Iraqi civilians[citation needed], or perhaps for other reasons, he took the lead in calling for lifting sanctions on Iraq imposed by the United Nations in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, despite Kuwaiti displeasure and opposition.

Zayed was considered one of the wealthiest men in the world. A Forbes magazine estimate put his fortune at around USD billion. The source of this wealth could be almost exclusively attributed to the immense oil wealth of Abu Dhabi and the Emirates, which sit on a pool of a tenth of the world's proven oil reserves. Nevertheless he chose to live a relatively modest and traditional lifestyle, riding and hunting with falcons, though he gave up hunting with firearms, a sport at which he excelled, to set an example for wildlife conservation in his fragile desert homeland. He was personally popular, and was regarded to be considerably pious in his religious observances.[citation needed]

Policies and charity

At the time the British withdrew from the Persian Gulf, Zayed oversaw the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Arab Economic Development; through its oil riches were channeled to some forty less fortunate Islamic nations in Asia and Africa during the decades that followed. He is also remembered as "the man who turned the desert green," because he invested oil revenues into projects to improve the harsh desert environment.

Using the country's enormous oil revenues, Zayed built up institutions such as hospitals, schools and universities and made it possible for UAE citizens to enjoy free access to them. He also decreed that the State would undertake the cost of foreign health care for those families unable to afford it. Other charitable acts included adopting hundreds of orphans and building several hospitals abroad in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Land was also often distributed gratis. However, whilst this policy benefited many landless families, enormously wealthy clans and individuals were given free land grants in proportion to their status and influence with the royal family. His majlis (a traditional Arab consultation council) was open to the public, and as well as discussing national and personal issues, he enjoyed hearing people's opinions on poetry, as well as recitals by new and young poets. His tolerance towards other people and their faiths was evident, and he allowed the building of religious buildings such as churches and temples. This action in particular helped his image with the vast multitudes of expatriate workers who make up approximately three quarters of the population of the UAE. Zayed was also an advocate for the education and participation of women in the work force, within traditional parameters. His views regarding women's rights were considerably more liberal than his contemporaries in the GCC nations.

Collapse of BCCI

In 1972, Agha Hasan Abedi, a Pakistani banker who had set up a new bank called Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), approached Zayed for investment. Abedi had previously set up the United Bank of Pakistan in 1959, which became a leading nationalized bank in 1971. Zayed fronted the majority of the investment for the BCCI. Bank of America (25%) and the CIA allegedly invested, too. It is claimed that the CIA was seeking a funding route for the mujahideen in Afghanistan, similar to the Investors Overseas Service and the Nugen Hand Bank in the 1960s.

By 1977, the bank was almost insolvent. It took on the attributes of a Ponzi scheme, as it funded its operating expenses by deposits it received, rather than by returns from investments it made. In eight years, it reported assets of over $4 billion with over 150 branches in 46 countries. Bank of America reduced its shares, while holding companies in Abu Dhabi took on a controlling block.

In 1990, an audit of the BCCI by Price Waterhouse revealed an unaccountable loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. The bank approached Sheikh Zayed, who funded the loss in exchange for increasing his share to 78% of the bank. The bank was shut down in 1991 by the Bank of England. At the time Zayed's shareholding was 77%.[4]

In December 1991, further investigation found layers of criminal activity taking place through the bank. The law enforcement in the U.S. established the BCCI as an organized crime syndicate[citation needed]. Although Sheikh Zayed was not directly mentioned during interrogations, other family members were implicated in the criminal activity tied to the bank[citation needed]. The investigation found evidence of bribery, money laundering, arms trafficking, prostitution, and support of terrorism.[5] See: CIA Reading Room Document of William Kerr dated October 25, 1991 for details of Iran Contra and ElSalvador links.

Zayed Center

Controversy over the opinions of the Zayed Center caused the Harvard Divinity School to return Sheikh Zayed's $2.5 million gift to the institution in 2000 as "tainted money." Former United States president Jimmy Carter accepted the Zayed International Prize for the Environment, 2001. The award included a monetary prize of $500,000 from the Zayed Center, and Carter stated in his acceptance that this award meant a lot to him, since it was named after his personal friend, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan.[6]

There was similar controversy when the London School of Economics accepted a large donation by the Zayed Center, to build a new lecture theatre in the New Academic Building in 2008.[7] Despite student protests[citation needed], the gift was accepted with the Sheik Zayed Theatre being the second largest lecture hall on the campus.

Harvard's equivocation, the Carter controversy, and the engendering negative publicity, prompted Sheikh Zayed to shut down the center in August 2003, saying that the Zayed Center "had engaged in a discourse that starkly contradicted the principles of interfaith tolerance."[8]

Final years

Sheikh Zayed

In 1999, while he was in a hospital for some tests, the people of the UAE wrote him a personal thank-you letter with 1.5 million signatures. He underwent a kidney transplant in 2000 at the Cleveland Clinic in the U.S.

On 2 November 2004, Zayed died, as announced by Abu Dhabi TV. He was believed to be 86 years old. however he had recently been in London undergoing hospital treatment. He is buried in the courtyard of the new Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.


Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

(Arabic: خليفة بن زايد بن سلطان آل نهيان‎; born 25 January 1948; referred to as Sheikh Khalifa) is the current President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and emir of Abu Dhabi. He succeeded to both posts on 3 November 2004, replacing his father Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who had died the day before. He had effectively been acting president earlier, since his father was in ill health.

He is the current chairman of Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD).



The eldest son of Sheikh Zayed, Khalifa was appointed as Ruler's Representative in the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi (the mayor) and as Head of the Courts Department in Al Ain in 1966, as his father Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan became the new ruler of Abu Dhabi. Zayed was the Ruler's Representative in the Eastern Region. Few months later the position was handed to Tahnoun bin Mohammed Al Nahyan[2]

On 1 February 1969, Sheikh Khalifa was nominated as the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and on the next day he was appointed as the Head of the Abu Dhabi Department of Defence, in which post he oversaw the building up of the Abu Dhabi Defence Force, ADDF, which later became the nucleus of the UAE Armed Forces.

Independence in 1971

Following the establishment of the UAE in 1971, Sheikh Khalifa became the Prime Minister of Abu Dhabi (and head of Abu Dhabi Cabinet, under his father), Minister of Defense and Finance. Following the reconstruction of the Federation Cabinet including the abolishing of Abu Dhabi Cabinet and setting up of Executive Council of Abu Dhabi, he became the 2nd Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates on 23 December 1973 and Chairman of Executive Council of Abu Dhabi on 20 January 1974, under his father.

In May 1976 he became deputy commander of the UAE armed forces, under the President.

He also heads the Supreme Petroleum Council in the late 1980s (until today), which enjoys wide powers in energy matters.

He was the Chairman of the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, ERWDA.

President (2004 – )

Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan with then President of Russia Vladimir Putin on 10 September 2007.

He succeeded to both posts on 3 November 2004, replacing his father Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who had died the day before. He had effectively been acting president earlier, since his father was ill during the period prior to his passing.

On 1 December 2005, the President announced that half of the members of the Federal National Council, the closest body the country has to a parliament, will be indirectly elected. However, half of the council's members will still need to be appointed by the leaders of the emirates. The 40-member FNC serves in an advisory capacity. The elections were set to take place in December 2006.

On 4 January 2010, the world's tallest man-made structure, originally known as Burj Dubai, was renamed to Burj Khalifa, in honor of the Sheikh [1].

Sheikh Khalifa is known for his interest in sports traditional to UAE, chiefly horse and camel racing. He is generally regarded as a pro-Western modernizer. Early in his term, in April 2005, he authorized a 100% salary increase for employees of the state.

In 2010 Khalifa was described in a recent WikiLeaks cable signed by the U.S. ambassador as a "distant and uncharismatic personage."[3]

In recent times there have been question marks over his health as he has not been seen in public for a number of months since returning from receiving medical treatment in Europe for an undisclosed condition. In 2011 he sent in the UAE's Air Force and Navy to support the Anti - Gaddafi rebels against Muammar Gaddafi alongside NATO , Qatar, Sweden , and Jordan .


Khalifa is building a six-storey palace on the main island of the Seychelles, on the site of a former United States satellite tracking station, the 27 hectares of land were bought by Khalifa for millions Seychelles rupee.[4] Sewage from the huts and shipping containers which house the hundreds of South Asian workers building the palace has polluted one of Seychelles' main rivers, and has destroyed the water supply of several villages. In November 2009, the official passport stamp of the Seychelles, a coco de mer was replaced by a square, apparently at the behest of Sheikh Khalifa, who objected to the nuts resemblance to buttocks.[5]


According to Forbes, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the world's third wealthiest monarch, with an estimated wealth of US$19 billion.[6]

On 30 April 2007, Johns Hopkins Medicine announced a "magnificent" and "transformational" gift by Sheikh Khalifa,[7] most of which, made in honor of Sheikh Khalifa’s father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was planned to support construction of the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s new cardiovascular and critical care tower (also to be named after Sheikh Zayed). Additionally, some funds would be directed to cardiovascular as well as AIDS research.

He also founded the Khalifa Award for Education and finances a major housing programme in Sheikh Khalifa City (Gaza Strip).

A building in the theology department at the University of Wales is named after him, due to his being a benefactor.

MD Anderson Cancer Center announced on January 19, 2011 that they received $150 Million From Abu Dhabi Charity;.

The Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Charity Foundation has pledged $150 million to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to establish a cancer treatment clinic, the Emirates News Agency reports.

The largest grant in the center's history will support construction of a state-of-the-art facility to house the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Specialty Institute for Cancer Diagnosis and the Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Pancreatic Cancer Center. The grant also will fund a number of annual fellowships and will be used to endow an oncology chair named after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a cancer research chair named after Sheikh Khalifa University, and a scientific and medical research chair named after Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Speaking at a signing ceremony, Anderson Center president John Mendelsohn said that the funding will be channeled into research programs dedicated to discovering new and more effective ways of diagnosing and treating cancer.


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