Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan

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Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi on February 11, 2016.jpg
Born (1961-03-11) 11 March 1961 (age 60)
Al Ain, Trucial States
(now United Arab Emirates)
SpouseSheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan
Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa bin Shakhbut bin Dhiyab bin Issa Al Nahyan Al Falahi
Arabicمحمد بن زايد بن سلطان بن زايد بن خليفة بن شخبوط بن ذياب بن عيسى آل نهيان الفلاحي
HouseAl Nahyan
FatherSheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
MotherSheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi
Military career
Allegiance United Arab Emirates
Service/branchUnited Arab Emirates Air Force
Years of service1979–present
Rank15-UAEAF-GEN.svg Air Chief Marshal
Deputy Commander-in-Chief
Commands heldChief of General Staff of the Armed Forces
Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces
Commander of the Air Force and Air Defence
WebsiteTwitter Profile
Instagram Profile

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (Arabic: محمد بن زايد بن سلطان آل نهيان‎; born 11 March 1961), colloquially known by his initials as MBZ,[1] is the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces and the de facto ruler of Abu Dhabi. He is seen as the driving force behind the UAE's interventionist foreign policy and is a leader of a campaign against Islamist movements in the Arab World.[2][3] In January 2014 Khalifa, the emir of Abu Dhabi, suffered a stroke but was in a stable condition. He has since assumed a lower profile in state affairs, but retained presidential powers. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan now carries out public affairs of the state. Mohammed bin Zayed was entrusted with most day-to-day decision making of the emirate of Abu Dhabi as the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and most of the presidential public affairs of the state and hence, he is sometimes considered as the UAE's de facto ruler.[4] His rule is autocratic.[5] In 2019 the New York Times named him as the most powerful Arab ruler and one of the most powerful men on Earth.[6][5] He was also named as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2019 by TIME magazine.[7]

Early life[edit]

Mohamed bin Zayed was born in Al Ain on 11 March 1961 in what was then the Pirate Coast.[8] He is the third son of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi, and his third wife, Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi.[9][10] Mohamed's brothers are: Khalifa (the current Ra'is of the UAE), Hamdan, Hazza, Saeed, Isa, Nahyan, Saif, Tahnoun, Mansour, Falah, Diab, Omar, and Khalid (as well as three deceased brothers, Sultan, Nasser, and Ahmed). In addition to these, he has a few sisters.[11] He has five younger full-brothers: Hamdan, Hazza, Tahnoun, Mansour, and Abdullah.[12] They are referred to as Bani Fatima or sons of Fatima.[13][14]

Al-Nahyan was educated at The Royal Academy in Rabat until the age of 10, where he was a classmate of King Mohammed VI of Morocco.[15] His father Sheikh Zayed sent him to Morocco intending for it to be a discipline experience. He gave him a passport showing a different last name, so that he wouldn't be treated like royalty. Al Nahyan spent several months working as a waiter in a local restaurant. He made his own meals and did his own laundry, and was often lonely. Al Nahyan described his life back then by saying “There’d be a bowl of tabbouleh in the fridge, and I’d keep eating from it day after day until a kind of fungus formed on the top".[16]

He was further educated at schools in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and a summer at Gordonstoun until the age of 18. In the Emirates, his father Sheikh Zayed put a respected Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Islamic scholar named Izzedine Ibrahim in charge of his education.[16] [17]

In 1979, he joined the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst graduating in April 1979.[18] During his time at Sandhurst, he completed a fundamental armor course, a fundamental flying course, a parachutist course, and training on tactical planes and helicopters, including the Gazelle squadron.[11] During his time in Sandhurst, he met and became good friends with Al-Sultan Abdullah, who would later become the King of Malaysia. They were both officer cadets at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.[19]

In the 1980s as a young military officer on holiday in Tanzania, he met the Masai people and saw their customs and the extent of poverty in the country. Upon his return he went to see his father Sheikh Zayed. His father asked him what he had done to help the people he had encountered. Al Nahyan shrugged and said the people he met were not Muslims. Al Nahyan said, “He clutched my arm, and looked into my eyes very harshly. He said, ‘We are all God’s creatures.’ ”[16]

He then returned home to the UAE to join the Officers' Training Course in Sharjah. He has held a number of roles in the UAE military, from that of an Officer in the Amiri Guard (now called Presidential Guard) to a pilot in the UAE Air Force.[20]

Political career[edit]

Emirate of Abu Dhabi[edit]

Al Nahyan and George W. Bush at Camp David

In November 2003, his father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan appointed Sheikh Mohamed as Deputy Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.[9][21] Upon the death of his father, Al-Nahyan became Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in November 2004 and was appointed Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces in January 2005.[22] Later that month, he was promoted to the rank of General. Since December 2004 he has also been the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, which is responsible for the development and planning of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and is a member of the Supreme Petroleum Council.[23] He also serves as a special adviser to the President of the UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, his older brother.

As a result of the ill health of the current UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, Al Nahyan welcomes many foreign dignitaries in the capital district of the United Arab Emirates in the city of Abu Dhabi. In November 2010, Al-Nayhan and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh to the UAE for their second state visit.[24][25] Al-Nahyan also accompanied the Queen and the Duke on a tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque at the beginning of their visit.[26]

UAE foreign policy[edit]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi being received by Sheikh Mohamed in Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Mohamed representing the United Arab Emirates in the NSS 2012

Al Nahyan has played a leading role in the UAE’s foreign policy by facilitating increased engagement with nations outside the MENA region. Al Nahyan and French President Emmanuel Macron share common interests in countering extremism and have formulated a bilateral road map for future partnership. Al Nahyan sought France for increased cooperation and exchange in matters related to education, culture, heritage, economy, investments, energy, space, regional peace and security, defense cooperation, countering extremism, and fighting climate change, among other items.[27] Al Nahyan also sought comprehensive partnership with Singapore and signed memoranda of understanding in which both nations agreed to strengthen cooperation in business, finance, investment, defense, development, and education. They also signed three Memoranda of Understanding in which they agreed to collaborate on environmental protection and sustainable consumption endeavors.[28]

He has also provided substantial financial aid on behalf of the UAE to strengthen its position on the international stage. In 2018, he traveled to Ethiopia to meet Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ahead of the first installment of a $3 billion donation from the UAE to Ethiopia, intended to tide over its foreign exchange shortage. Furthermore, the UAE under Al Nahyan's encouragement and initiative, raised funds to provide aid to Somalia during periods of drought.[29][30][31][32][33]

Al Nahyan also developed new relationships with countries in Eastern Europe. In September 2019, Mohammed bin Zayed made his first official visit to Belarus to hold discussions on previous arrangements, issues of mutual interest, and other avenues in various sectors like trade, economy and investment cooperation. Al Nahyan was received at the Independence Palace in Minsk by President Alexander Lukashenko.[34]

Al-Nahyan is also a supporter of Yemen's internationally recognized government after the Yemen civil war and supported the Saudi-led, western-backed intervention in Yemen to drive out Houthi militants after the Houthi takeover in Yemen.[35] During Al-Nahyan's visit to France in November 2018, a group of rights activists filed a lawsuit against the crown prince accusing him of "war crimes and complicity in torture and inhumane treatment in Yemen". The complaint filed on behalf of the French rights group AIDL said: "It’s in this capacity that he has ordered bombings on Yemeni territory."[36]

United States
Al-Nahyan with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Abu Dhabi, February 2017

Al Nahyan regards the United States as his chief ally and has a strong relationship with United States diplomats including US former Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis and US former national security advisor and counter-terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke. As unpaid advisers, Al Nahyan consults them and follows their advice on combating terrorism and enhancing the UAE's military strength and intelligence. During the Obama administration, Al Nahyan had an initially good relationship with the administration but the relationship deteriorated when Obama had not bothered to consult or even inform the UAE about the Iran nuclear deal. The UAE had a lot at stake, having forced Dubai traders to give up their lucrative business with Iran to comply with the sanctions. According to an Emirati senior adviser “His Highness felt that the U.A.E. had made sacrifices and then been excluded”. Al Nahyan continued talking to Obama regularly and offered him advice. He warned him that the proposed remedy in Syria — Islamist rebels — could be worse than Assad's tyranny. He also urged Obama to talk to the Russians about working together on Syria. The relationship deteriorated further when Obama made dismissive comments in a 2016 interview in The Atlantic, describing the gulf's rulers as “free riders” who “do not have the ability to put out the flames on their own”. After the election of Donald Trump, Al Nahyan flew to New York to meet the president-elect's team and canceled a parting lunch with Obama.[16][37]

With Donald Trump in office, Al Nahyan shared similar ideas with Trump regarding Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, which Trump has sought to move strongly against both.[38] As a child, Al Nahyan's father Sheikh Zayed unknowingly assigned a prominent Muslim Brotherhood member, Ezzedine Ibrahim, as Mohammed's tutor. His tutor attempted an indoctrination that backfired. As Sheikh Mohammed explains, “I am an Arab, I am a Muslim and I pray. And in the 1970s and early 1980s I was one of them,” Prince Mohammed told visiting American diplomats in 2007 to explain his distrust of the Muslim Brotherhood, as they reported in a classified cable released by WikiLeaks. He stated “I believe these guys have an agenda.”[6] Trump also shared Al Nahyan's views over Qatar, Libya and Saudi Arabia, even over the advice of cabinet officials or senior national security staff.[39] In August 2020, Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu and Al Nahyan jointly announced the establishment of formal Israel–United Arab Emirates relations.[40]

Russian president Vladimir Putin meeting with Sheikh Mohamed in Abu Dhabi in October 2019

Al Nahyan maintains a strong relationship with Russia and its president Vladimir Putin, and has brokered talks between Russia and the Trump Administration. In 2016, Mohammed bin Zayed was found involved in the Russian meddling of the US presidential elections, where his adviser George Nader arranged a meeting for him and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Seychelles with the US and Russian delegates, including Erik Prince and Kirill Dmitriev.[41] On 3 June 2019, Nader, who lobbied for the UAE and Saudi Arabia, was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography.[42] A year later, he was sentenced to ten years in prison on child sex charges.[43] Al Nahyan was named in the final report of special counsel Robert Mueller III on the alleged collusion between Trump campaign and Russia, which the investigation later concluded that there was no collusion between the meeting that occurred with Al Nahyan.[44] Al Nahyan's strong relationship with both Russia and the United States, as well as the influence he wields across both of the superpowers, has led to The New York Times to label him as the Arab World's "most powerful ruler".[45] Putin calls Al Nahyan an "old friend", calling him "a big friend of our country, a big friend of Russia". Putin and Al Nahyan talk with each other on the phone regularly.[46] In an official state visit to the Emirates, Putin gifted Al Nahyan a Russian gyrfalcon. The UAE also trained the first two Emirati astronauts Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi, and successfully launched the first Emirati and first Arab Astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri to the International Space Station with Russian help.

Nuclear energy[edit]

Under the leadership of Al Nahyan, the UAE built the first peaceful nuclear power reactor, the Barakah nuclear power plant, in the region.[47] The UAE and US signed a bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation that enhances international standards of nuclear non-proliferation.[48] Al-Nahyan also represented the United Arab Emirates in the Nuclear Security Summit of 2012[49] and 2014, which were hosted by South Korea and the Netherlands respectively.[50]

Promoting tolerance[edit]

Mohammed bin Zayed being presented with Hindu Temple literature among the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Abu Dhabi.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi visited Pope Francis in 2016, and in February 2019, he welcomed the Pope Francis to the UAE, marking the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula. Pope Francis's arrival coincided with a conference entitled “Global Conference of Human Fraternity,” hosted under the patronage of Mohamed bin Zayed. The conference featured talks and workshops about how fostering tolerance and mutual understanding could help prevent conflict and extremism. As part of this visit, Pope Francis held the first Papal Mass to be celebrated in the Arabian Peninsula at Zayed Sports City in which 180,000 worshippers from 100 countries, including 4,000 Muslims, were present.[51][52][53][54][55][56][57]

He has travelled around the world promoting the UAE's theme for 2019: Year of Tolerance. He has also been involved in regional and global efforts to counter violent extremism by speaking with officials in India, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and other leaders about partnering in such efforts.[58][59]

In 2019 the Zayed Global Fund for Coexistence was launched, an initiative that expounds upon the principles and goals detailed in the Human Fraternity Document signed by Pope Francis and Dr Ahmad Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar.[60][61]

Economic policy[edit]

Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan heads the Abu Dhabi council for economic development (ADCED), which is the economic policy advisory council in Abu Dhabi. Al-Nahyan is also the head of the Mubadala Development Company which, since its establishment in 2002, represents the main investment vehicle for the government of Abu Dhabi. Al-Nahyan is also a Director of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the Sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi.[20]

In addition, he is the head of the Tawazun Economic Council, formerly known as UAE offsets programme bureau established in 1992 and is the head of the Abu Dhabi Education Council which was established in 2005. His efforts in the realm of economic development are aimed at increasing economic diversification in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. As the head of the UAE offsets group, Al-Nahyan is involved with the task of channelling defence-related investments into profitable projects across different sectors in order to help diversify the economy of the UAE.[62]

According to The Intercept and referencing the hacked emails of Yousef Al Otiaba, an American citizen Khaled Hassen received a $10 million in 2013 for an alleged torture settlement after a lawsuit presented in the federal court in L.A. against three top members of the royal family of Abu Dhabi, including Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.[63]

He is the chairman of the Mubadala Development Company[22] which, since its establishment in 2002, represents the main investment vehicle for the government of Abu Dhabi. Mubadala aims to cultivate long-term social and economic benefits for the Emirates through economic diversification and global investment.[64][65]

In addition to this, he also serves as Head of the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development (ADCED), which is the main economic planning institution in the country. In this capacity, he launched the Sharaka initiative, which seeks to bolster the UAE's private sector and make it easier to conduct business and invest in Abu Dhabi. Under his leadership, ADCED has pursued numerous initiatives to increase entrepreneurship in the UAE.[64][66]

In June 2018, he approved a 3-year 50 billion AED stimulus package aimed at facilitating long-term economic benefits for Emiratis and investors alike. He also commissioned a comprehensive review of building regulations in an effort to galvanize urban development.[67]

He is the Deputy Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), which invests funds on behalf of the people of Abu Dhabi with the goal of diversifying and globalizing the economy. ADIA's portfolio spans more than two dozen asset classes and sub-categories.[68]

He approved one billion AED's worth of incentive packages for agricultural technology has helped fund projects related to precision farming, agricultural robots, bio-energy, and indoor farming.[69]

Supreme Petroleum Council Role[edit]

Mohamed bin Zayed is Vice Chairman of the Supreme Petroleum Council of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, the primary governing body in charge of Abu Dhabi's hydrocarbon resources. He has overseen the implementation of several development and diversification strategies, particularly those relating to crude oil, gasoline, and aromatics production; gas pricing; and polyolefin capacity.[70][71][72]

Interests, activities and philanthropic work[edit]

Al-Nahyan and U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., May 2017

Support of the Arts[edit]

In an effort to promote tourism and to diversify the local art scene, Mohamed bin Zayed has supported the construction of art museums—including the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the upcoming Guggenheim Abu Dhabi—as well as cultural heritage sites such as Qasr Al Hosn.[73][74][75][76]

In June 2009, al-Nayhan and then President Nicolas Sarkozy of France inaugurated an exhibition at the Emirates Palace Hotel, which included works of art purchased for the Louvre Abu Dhabi, as well as loans from the French national museums to mark the beginning of the construction work of the Louvre outpost, located in the cultural district in Saadiyat Island. The museum was inaugurated in November 2017.[77]

Al-Nayhan also stated that he was confident that the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi would be able to "accumulate a prestigious art collection" by the time of its opening in 2012.[78]

His support extends beyond the visual arts to the oral ones. A lover of Nabati poetry, he frequently extends support to local poetry competitions, hosting some of them under his patronage.[79]

Conservation Work[edit]

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi focused on protecting nature by spearheading the UAE's efforts in protecting wild falcons, bustards, and the Arabian Oryx, and has donated $1 million to an initiative aimed at preventing the power line-related deaths of wild birds. This latter effort is part of launching of the $20-million-dollar Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Foundation.[80]

Additionally, he heads the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, a philanthropic endowment established that provides targeted grants to individual species conservation initiatives, recognise leaders in the field of species conservation and elevate the importance of species in public discourse. The Fund also aims to inspire additional contributions to species conservation efforts around the world.[81][82][83]

A species of woodlizard--Enyalioides binzayedi—was named after him as the creator of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund that provided financial support to the expeditions leading to the discovery of the specie in the Cordillera Azul National Park in Peru.[84][85] In 2017, a rare and majestic species of maple tree was named after him. Acer binzayedii is found in the mountainous cloud forest of Jalisco in Western México.[86]

He has pledged $15 billion towards the development of solar, wind, and hydrogen power technologies in his country. Through Mubadala-owned facility GlobalFoundries, Al Nahyan has helped develop the UAE's semi-conductor manufacturing program, paving the way for advanced technologies, including in the energy sector.[87][88]

Education and Innovation Initiatives[edit]

Al Nahyan has also worked on elevating the level of education in the UAE to be on par with the highest international standards, through his position as chairman of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, which was established in 2005 to develop and implement strategies for improving both private and public P-12 and higher education.

Additionally, he chairs the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR). ECSSR furthers academic engagement with the economic, socio-political, and security issues that are relevant to the region.

He has helped foster the development of UAE's technology and encouraged a culture of innovation by sponsoring events such as the National Science, Technology and Innovation Festival. He has also founded the Mohamed bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge to transform the UAE into a regional hub for research into robotics and autonomous systems.[11][89][90][91][92]

In 2008, the first group of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed University scholars were selected as part of an initiative with New York University Abu Dhabi, recognising outstanding students in the United Arab Emirates and providing them with special academic and leadership opportunities.[93]

Other Philanthropy[edit]

In 2011, Al-Nahyan and the Gates Foundation pledged $50 million each to fund the purchase and delivery of vaccines for children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.[94] Two-thirds of the total $100 million were given to the GAVI Alliance to purchase and administer the pentavalent vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine, immunizing approximately 5 million Afghan children against six diseases. The remainder of the donation was allocated to the World Health Organization, which used it to purchase and administer the oral polio vaccine to approximately 35 million children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The GPEI announced in April 2018 that the UAE had completed the US$120 million commitment made by Al Nahyan by dispersing the final US$12 million of the pledge made at the 2013 Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi.[95][96][97][98]

His contributions to global health initiatives also include a $30 million donation to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to help fight malaria. A month after announcing the donation, Abu Dhabi hosted a global health forum centered on efforts to eliminate worldwide diseases such as malaria, polio, and river blindness.[99][100][101]

He has also gifted 55 million AED to the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.[87]

The Zayed Charity Marathon, which takes place in New York City, has raised millions of dollars since its inauguration in 2005. The race raises awareness about kidney disease, and the proceeds go to the US's National Kidney Foundation. Al Nahyan launched the event in honor of his father, who received a kidney transplant at the Cleveland Clinic in 2000.[102][103]

He has contributed to improving world health by launching the Reaching Last Mile Fund. In 2017, he launched the fund to raise $100 million with the aim of eradicating, eliminating, and controlling preventable diseases that affect the health and economic prospects of the world's poorest people.

Al Nahyan committed $20 million to the Fund. Other contributors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the British government. The donations will be managed by the END Fund, a philanthropic investment platform focused on tackling the five most common neglected tropical diseases: river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, polio, malaria, and Guinea worm disease. In addition to this, Al Nahyan announced his intention to found an Abu Dhabi-based research institute to develop policies to combat infectious disease.[104][105][106][107][108][109][110][111][112]

University of Texas chair for scientific and medical knowledge in cancer research is named after Al-Nahyan as a result of a funding grant to MD Anderson Cancer Center from Al-Nahyan to support genetic-analysis based research.[113]

Women's rights[edit]

A champion of female empowerment, Al Nahyan has supported their increased presence in a number of traditionally male-dominated fields. In April 2019, he welcomed a delegation of female officers from the Military and Peacekeeping Programme for Arab Women, who were undergoing training in Abu Dhabi to prepare for United Nations global peacekeeping operations. He emphasized the importance of the role female officers play in peacekeeping and security operations.[114]

He has encouraged the presence of women in the public service sector as well. In 2019, he hosted the first certified Emirati women firefighters, emphasizing the role of women as “true partners and contributors to national development” and said they “drive strategic plans for the nation’s present and future.”[115]

Furthermore, he has made it a point to regularly meet with the female representatives of many UAE institutions to express his confidence in their ability to help the nation realize its aspirations.[116][117]

He arranged specialized medical care and a transfer to the UK via a UAE air ambulance for Malala Yousafzai after she was shot in the head and neck by the Taliban in October 2012. She received long-term care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK.

Under Al Nahyan's direction, UAE officials worked closely with Pakistani authorities to arrange for Malala's specialized care and transfer. In May 2013, on her way to perform Umrah rituals, Malala stopped over in Abu Dhabi to thank the UAE and Al Nahyan for their assistance and support, noting that the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi's role highlighted the humanitarian aspects of Islamic teachings.[118][119][120][121][122][123][124][125]


Al Nahyan as Chief of Staff in his airforce military uniform greeting then US Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen in Abu Dhabi, 1997.

Al Nahyan served as an officer in the Amiri Guard (now known as Presidential Guard), as a pilot in the UAE's Air Force, as Commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defense, and as Deputy Armed Forces Deputy Chief of Staff. In 2005, he was appointed Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and was accordingly promoted to Lt. General.[126][127]

In the early 1990s, Al Nahyan told Richard Clarke, then an assistant secretary of state, that he wanted to buy the F-16 fighter jet. Clarke replied that he must mean the F-16A, the model the Pentagon sold to American allies. Al Nahyan said no, he wanted a newer model he'd read about in Aviation Week, with an advanced radar-and-weapons system. Clarke told him that that model didn't exist yet; the military hadn't done the necessary research and development. Al Nahyan said the UAE would pay for the research and development. The subsequent negotiations went on for years, and according to Clarke “he ended up with a better F-16 than the U.S. Air Force had”.[16]

Under Al-Nahyan's leadership, he made jujitsu compulsory in schools. In 2014 he established the military draft, forcing young Emiratis to endure a year of boot camp, initially running a pilot project within his own family and making his own daughters run as the sample size by making them endure a boot camp. He invited Maj. Gen. Mike Hindmarsh, the retired former head of Australia's Special Operations Command, to help reorganize the Emirati military. According to the New York Times, as a result of Al Nahyan's vision, the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces became the best equipped and trained military in the region apart from Israel.[16] Under Al Nahyan's leadership, the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces also became commonly nicknamed as "Little Sparta" by United States Armed Forces General and former US defense secretary James Mattis as a result of their active and effective military role despite their small active personnel.[128]

According to a 2020 study, Al Nahyan's reforms successfully increased the effectiveness of the UAE military.[129]


On 17 July 2020, a French investigating magistrate was appointed to carry out the probe targeting Mohammed bin Zayed, for “complicity in the acts of torture” citing the UAE’s involvement in the Yemen civil war.[citation needed] The investigation was initially opened in October 2019, after two complaints were filed against the Crown Prince during his official visit to Paris in November 2018. One of the two complaints was filed with the constitution of civil party by six Yemenis, who claimed of being tortured, electrocuted and burned by cigarettes in Yemeni detention centers controlled by the UAE armed forces.[130]

Sporting interests[edit]

A lifelong fan of falconry, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi established the Mohamed bin Zayed Falconry and Desert Physiognomy School with the goal of promoting and sustaining the ancient tradition by teaching it to new generations of Emiratis. He himself learned the practice from his late father.[79][131][132]

In March 2019, the Special Olympics World Games were hosted in Abu Dhabi. During the Games, Al Nahyan affirmed the importance of solidarity with and empowerment of participants during the event, as well as in their respective countries.[133]

Personal life[edit]

Al Nahyan is married to Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan.[134] They married in 1981.[135] They have nine children together, four sons and five daughters.[20] His children are:

  • Sheikha Mariam bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Sheikha Shamsa bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Sheikha Fatima bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Sheikha Shamma bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Sheikh Zayed bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Sheikha Hasa bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan[18]


On April 2021, the Jakarta–Cikampek Elevated Toll Road in Indonesia was renamed as Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Skyway (Jalan Layang Mohammed bin Zayed), at the behest of the Indonesian President's secretary.[137]



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