Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

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Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Official picture of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
Native name زايد بن سلطان بن زايد آل نهيان
Born 6 May 1918[1]
Abu Dhabi, Trucial States (now the UAE)
Died 2 November 2004(2004-11-02) (aged 86)
Abu Dhabi, UAE
President of the United Arab Emirates
In office
2 December 1971 – 2 November 2004
Prime Minister Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum
Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Vice President Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum
Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum (acting)
Emir of Abu Dhabi
6 August 1966 – 2 November 2004
Preceded by Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan
Succeeded by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Supreme Commander of The Armed Forces
In office
2 December 1971 – 2 November 2004
President Himself
Preceded by Post established
Succeeded by Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan

Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (Arabic: زايد بن سلطان آل نهيان ‎‎; 6 May 1918 – 2 November 2004)[1] was the principal driving force behind the formation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Emîr (أمير) (Ruler) of Abu Dhabi and first Ra’îs (رئيس) President of the United Arab Emirates, a post which he held for the period of almost 33 years (1971–2004).

Family and early life[edit]

The exact date of his birth is unknown, but officially on some documents, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was born on 6 May 1918 in Abu Dhabi.[1] He was the youngest son of Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan.[2] His birth date is also reported to be 1916.[3] His father was the ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1922 until his assassination in 1926. Zayed was the youngest of his four brothers.[4] His mother was Sheikha Salama bint Butti Al Qubaisi.[5][6] She extracted a promise from her sons not to use violence against each other, a promise which they kept.[7] Zayed was named after his grandfather, Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan ("Zayed the Great"), who ruled the emirate from 1855 to 1909.[8] At the time of Zayed's birth, the sheikhdom of Abu Dhabi was one of seven Trucial States along the lower coast of the Persian Gulf[9] He also showed interest in Falconry.[citation needed]

He moved to Al Ain in 1927.[1][10] As Zayed was growing up, there were no modern schools anywhere along the coast. He only received a basic instruction in the principles of Islam, and lived in the desert with Bedouin tribesmen, familiarising himself with the life of the people, their traditional skills and their ability to survive under the harsh climatic conditions.[11]

His eldest brother, Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan, became ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1928 after their uncle, Saqr bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was also assassinated.[4]

Career and reign[edit]

Zayed was appointed the governor of the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi in 1946[8] and was based in the Muwaiji fort in Al Ain. At this time, the area was poor and prone to outbreaks of disease. When survey parties from Petroleum Development (Trucial Coast) began exploring for oil in the area, Zayed assisted them.[12]

In 1952, a small Saudi Arabian force led by Turki bin Abdullah al-Otaishan occupied the village of Hamasa in the Buraimi Oasis (the so-called Buraimi dispute). Zayed was prominent in his opposition to Saudi territorial claims and reportedly rejected a bribe of about £30 million to allow Aramco to explore for oil in the disputed territory. As part of this dispute, Zayed and his brother Hazza attended the Buraimi arbitration tribunal in Geneva in September 1955 and gave evidence to tribunal members. When the tribunal was abandoned amid allegations of Saudi bribery, the British initiated the reoccupation of the Buraimi Oasis through a local military force, the Trucial Oman Levies. A period of stability followed during which Zayed helped to develop the region and took a particular interest in the restoration of the falaj system, a network of water channels which kept the plantations of the Buraimi Oasis irrigated and fertile.[12][13]

The discovery of oil in 1958, and the start of oil exports in 1962, led to frustration among members of the ruling family about the lack of progress under Sheikh Shakhbut’s rule.[14] On 6 August 1966, Shakhbut was deposed in a bloodless palace coup.[15] Although it is not entirely clear from the historical record, the coup appeared to have the full backing of the Al Nahyan family and the support of the British, with the Trucial Oman Scouts providing safe transport for Sheikh Shakbut out of Abu Dhabi.[13][16]

In the late 1960s, Zayed hired Dr. Katsuhiko Takahashi, a Japanese architect, to design and plan the city.[17]

Between 8–11 January 1968, the UK's Foreign Office Minister Goronwy Roberts visited the Trucial States and announced to its shocked rulers that the United Kingdom would abrogate its treaties with them and intended to withdraw from the area.[18] In a seminal meeting on 18 February 1968 at a desert highland on the border between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum of Dubai shook hands on the principle of founding a Federation and attempting to invite other trucial rulers to join in order that a viable nation be formed in the wake of the British withdrawal.[19]

In 1971, after occasionally difficult negotiations with the other six rulers of the Trucial States, the United Arab Emirates was formed. Zayed was appointed to the presidency of the UAE in 1971 and was reappointed on four more occasions: 1976, 1981, 1986, and 1991.[20]

In 1974, Zayed apparently settled the outstanding border dispute with Saudi Arabia by the Treaty of Jeddah by which Saudi Arabia received the output of the Shaybah oilfield and access to the lower Persian Gulf in return for recognising the UAE.[21]


Sheikh Zayed salutes Tunisian crowd during his visit to Kairouan City in the mid-70s

Zayed was determined to unite the Emirates into federation. His calls for cooperation extended across the Persian Gulf to Iran. He 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. The islands remain in Iranian hands, despite over three decades of UAE diplomatic initiatives.[citation needed]

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. Freedom of worship was permitted, and to a certain extent allowances were made for expatriate cultures, but this did not always sit comfortably in the eyes of the wider Arab world with Zayed's role as a Muslim head of state.[13]

Zayed did not shy away from controversy when it came to expressing his opinions on current events in the Arab world. Troubled by the suffering of Iraqi civilians, he took the lead in calling for the lifting of economic sanctions on Iraq imposed by the United Nations in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, despite Kuwaiti displeasure and opposition.[22]

Zayed was considered one of the wealthiest men in the world. A Forbes estimate put his fortune at around US$20 billion.[23] 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. In 1988, he purchased, for £5m, Tittenhurst Park at Sunninghill, Berkshire as his English home.[24][25][26][27]

Policies and charity[edit]

At the time the British withdrew from the Persian Gulf in 1971, Zayed oversaw the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Arab Economic Development; some of 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.[citation needed]

Using the country's enormous oil revenues, Zayed built institutions such as hospitals, schools and universities and made it possible for UAE citizens to enjoy free access to them. Other charitable acts included adopting hundreds of orphans and building several hospitals abroad in Europe, Asia, and Africa.[citation needed]

When asked by the New York Times in April 1997 why there is no elected legislature, Zayed replied,

Why should we abandon a system that satisfies our people in order to introduce a system that seems to engender dissent and confrontation? Our system of government is based upon our religion and that is what our people want. Should they seek alternatives, we are ready to listen to them.

We have always said that our people should voice their demands openly. We are all in the same boat, and they are both the captain and the crew. Our doors are open for any opinion to be expressed, and this well known by all our citizens. It is our deep conviction that Allah has created people free, and has prescribed that each individual must enjoy freedom of choice. No one should act as if they own others.

Those in the position of leadership should deal with their subjects with compassion and understanding, because this is the duty enjoined upon them by Allah, who enjoins upon us to treat all living creatures with dignity. How can there be anything less for mankind, created as Allah's successors on earth? Our system of government does not derive its authority from man, but is enshrined in our religion and is based on Allah's Book, the Quran. What need have we of what others have conjured up? Its teachings are eternal and complete, while the systems conjured up by man are transitory and incomplete.[28]

Land was also often distributed gratis. However, while 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.[citation needed] He allowed non-Muslim religious buildings, such as churches and a temple, to be built. This has particularly had a positive impact on how he was publicly perceived by the vast multitudes of expatriate workers who make up approximately three quarters of the population of the UAE.[citation needed] Zayed was also in favour of certain rights for women, such as access to education and women's labour-rights, within traditional parameters. His views regarding women's rights were considerably more liberal than his counterparts in the GCC nations.[citation needed]

Zayed Centre[edit]

Controversy over the opinions of the Zayed Centre 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 in 2001. The award included a monetary prize of $500,000 from the Zayed Centre, and Carter stated in his acceptance speech that the award carried extra significance to him, since it was named after his personal friend.[29]

There was similar controversy when the London School of Economics accepted a large donation by the Zayed Centre, to build a new lecture theatre in the New Academic Building in 2008.[30] 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 centre in August 2003, stating that the Zayed Centre "had engaged in a discourse that starkly contradicted the principles of interfaith tolerance."[31]

Final years and death[edit]

In 1999, while he was hospitalized and undergoing a series of tests, the people of the UAE wrote him a personal thank-you letter.

On 2 November 2004, Zayed died at the age of 86. He was buried in the courtyard of the new Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

His eldest son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, took an increasing role in government beginning in the 1990s. Directly after his father's death, he was ratified as the Ruler of the United Arab Emirates by his fellow rulers on the Supreme Council.

Memorials and Legacy[edit]

Marriage and children[edit]

Zayed bin Sultan married seven times (two of them were sisters, Hassa and Shamsa)[citation needed]. His children are as follows:[33]

Name Lifespan Notes
Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan 25 January 1948 (1948-01-25) (age 69) Ruler of Abu Dhabi
Shamsa bint Suhail Al Mazrouei (m. 1950)
Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan 1955 (age 61–62) Former Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE
Shamsa bint Zayed Al Nahyan[citation needed]
Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan 11 March 1961 (1961-03-11) (age 56) Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi
Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan bin Mohammed Al-Nahyan (m. 1981)
Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan 1963 (age 53–54) Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan (m. 1979)
Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan 1965 (age 51–52) Mozah Bint Mohammed Bin Butti Al Hamed (m. 1981)
Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan 1968 (age 48–49)[citation needed] Skilled Jiu-Jitsu practitioner[34][35] and son of Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi. He works in the banking sector.[36]
Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan 20 November 1970 (1970-11-20) (age 46) Alia bint Mohammed bin Butti Al Hamed (m. 1995)
Manal bint Mohammed Al Maktoum (m. 2005)
Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan 30 April 1972 (1972-04-30) (age 45) Sheikha Alyazia bint Saif Al Nahyan (m. 1988)
Al Yazia bint Zayed Al Nahyan 1968 (age 48–49) Daughter of Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi[37]
Shamma bint Zayed Al Nahyan 1967 (age 49–50) Daughter of Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi[37]
Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan 1968 (age 48–49) Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates
Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan 1971 (age 45–46)[38] Chief of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court[39]
Omar bin Zayed Al Nahyan Son of Mouza bint Suhail Al Khaili
Second Deputy President of Baniyas Sports Club[40]
Khalid bin Zayed Al Nahyan Founder and Chairman of Bin Zayed Group[41]

Vice-chairman of Etihad[42]

Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan March 26, 2010 (aged 40–41) Son of Mouza bint Suhail Al Khaili
Shamsa bint Zayed Al Nahyan[citation needed]
Afra bint Zayed Al Nahyan Daughter of Mouza bint Suhail Al Khaili[citation needed]
Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Real estate developer
Nasser bin Zayed Al Nahyan June 2, 2008 (aged 38–39) Former chairman of the Abu Dhabi planning and economy department
Rawdha bint Zayed Al Nahyan[citation needed]
Dana Amari bint Zayed Al Nahyan[citation needed]
Saeed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (born 1980[clarification needed])
Falah bin Zayed Al Nahyan 7 November 1970 (1970-11-07) (age 46)
Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan[citation needed]
Dhiyab bin Zayed Al Nahyan[citation needed]
Latifa bint Zayed Al Nahyan[citation needed]
Mouza bint Zayed Al Nahyan[citation needed]
Wadeema bint Zayed Al Nahyan[citation needed]
Sheikha bint Zayed Al Nahyan[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Martin, Douglas (3 November 2004). "Zayed bin Sultan, Gulf Leader and Statesman, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Killgore, Andrew I. (March 2005). "Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004)". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs: 41. Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  3. ^ "Profile. Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan". APS Diplomat Operations in Oil Diplomacy. 27 March 2000. Retrieved 19 April 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Hamad Ali Al Hosani. "The Political Thought of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan" (PhD Thesis). Retrieved 15 April 2016. 
  5. ^ Rabi, Uzi (May 2006). "Oil Politics and Tribal Rulers in Eastern Arabia: The Reign of Shakhbut (1928– 1966)" (PDF). British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 33 (1): 37–50. doi:10.1080/13530190600603832. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2013. 
  6. ^ Al Hashemi, Bushra Alkaff (27 February 2013). "Memories of a simpler time". The National. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  7. ^ Michael Tomkinson (1970), The United Arab Emirates &#91al-Imārāt al- ʻArabīyah al-Muttaḥidah (romanized form)&#93, Hammamet, Tunisia: Tomkinson, 1975, ISBN 0-9504344-3-4, 0950434434, retrieved 3 August 2016 
  8. ^ a b Joffe, Lawrence (3 November 2004). "Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  9. ^ Donald Hawley (1970), The Trucial States (second impression ed.), London: Allen & Unwin (published 1971), ISBN 0-04-953005-4, 0049530054, retrieved 3 August 2016 
  10. ^ "The legacy of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Father of the UAE". AMEinfo. 2 November 2004. Archived from the original on 29 April 2013. Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  11. ^ UAEU Bio
  12. ^ a b Edward Henderson (1988), This strange eventful history, London: Quartet Books, ISBN 0-7043-2671-X, 070432671X, retrieved 3 August 2016 
  13. ^ a b c "Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan", Daily Telegraph, London, 4 November 2004 
  14. ^ "Farewell Arabia (1968)". Special Operations History Foundation. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  15. ^ Helene von Bismarck (29 March 2013). British Policy in the Persian Gulf, 1961-1968: Conceptions of Informal Empire. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 155. ISBN 978-1-137-32673-7. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  16. ^ Christopher M. Davidson (2009), Abu Dhabi oil and beyond, New York: Columbia University Press, retrieved 3 August 2016 
  17. ^ Building a city from the sands The National. 11 September 2008. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  18. ^ Heard-Bey, Frauke (1996). From Trucial States to United Arab Emirates. UK: Longman. p. 339. ISBN 0582277280. 
  19. ^ Maktoum, Mohammed (2012). Spirit of the Union. UAE: Motivate. pp. 30–34. ISBN 9781860633300. 
  20. ^ Federal Research Division (2004), United Arab Emirates: A Country Study, Kessinger Publishing, retrieved 3 August 2016 
  21. ^ Schofield R., Evans K.E. (eds) Arabian Boundaries: New Documents (2009), vol. 15, pp. viii-xv.
  22. ^ "UAE - News Reports". UAE Interact. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  23. ^ "Royals & Rulers". Forbes. 15 March 2004. 
  24. ^ "Tittenhurst Park". Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  25. ^ "Tittenhurst Park". Beatles Blog. 14 May 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  26. ^ "Ascot Studios - Startling Studios Tittenhurst Park". Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  27. ^ "The Beatles Bible - Ringo Starr buys Tittenhurst Park from John Lennon and Yoko Ono". Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  28. ^ Hurreiz, Sayyid H. (1 January 2002). "Folklore and Folklife in the United Arab Emirates". Psychology Press. Retrieved 12 July 2016 – via Google Books. 
  29. ^ Greif, Lloyd (26 April 2008). "To see Jimmy Carter's true allegiances, just follow the money". Daily News. New York. 
  30. ^ Hodges, Lucy (20 November 2008). "The LSE's jaw-dropping £71m structure is a building to wow students". The Independent. London. 
  31. ^ Jacoby, Jeff (31 August 2003). "Harvard must give back tainted money". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 30 April 2008. 
  32. ^ "Montenegro names a street after UAE Sheikh Zayed". Balkan Business News. 12 June 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  33. ^ "RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project: RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project Global Search". Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  34. ^ "Bjj Eastern Europe – The Black Belt Sheikh: The Incredible Journey of Tahnoon the Godfather of Jiu-Jitsu". 5 May 2016. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  35. ^ Blum, Sam (29 August 2015). "UFC to UAE: how an Abu Dhabi sheikh made Brazilian jiu-jitsu a national sport". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  36. ^ "Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan - The World’s Richest Arabs | Forbes Middle East". Forbes Middle East. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
  37. ^ a b "UAE First Lady: Behind-the-Scenes Player". United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi. 6 October 2004. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  38. ^ "Abu Dhabi Emirate Restructuring". United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi. 15 December 2004. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  39. ^ "RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project: RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project Global Search". Retrieved 10 August 2016. [better source needed]
  40. ^ "Stocks". Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  41. ^ "BinZayed Group". Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  42. ^ "Etihad Airways | MEADFA". Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  43. ^ El Reyes, Dr. Abdulla, ed. (December 2014). Liwa Journal of the National Archives (PDF). United Arab Emirates: Emirati National Archives. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 

External links[edit]

Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
Born: 1918 Died: 2 November 2004
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Shakhbut Bin-Sultan Al Nahyan
Ruler of Abu Dhabi
6 August 1966 – 2 November 2004
Succeeded by
Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Political offices
Preceded by
Post Created
President of the United Arab Emirates
2 December 1971 – 2 November 2004
Succeeded by
Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan