Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Ash-Shaykh Zyed bin Suln l Nahyn was the driving force behind the foundation of the United Arab Emirates, merging seven emirates and becoming the Union’s first Ras (president), a position he maintained for nearly 33 years (1971 until his death in 2004).
For more than 30 years, he was the king of Abu Dhabi (6 August 1966 – 2 November 2004).
After staging a bloodless coup against Zayed’s elder brother, Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the British placed him as king of Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan had four sons, the youngest of whom was Zayed. From 1922 till his death in 1926, his father was the king of Abu Dhabi.
Zayed was the eldest of four siblings. Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan, his eldest brother, succeeded their uncle, Saqr bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as ruler of Abu Dhabi.
His mother was Sheikha Salama bint Butti. She got a pledge from her sons that they would not use violence against one another, which they kept.
Sheikh Zayed’s grandfather, Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, ruled the emirate from 1855 to 1909.
The sheikhdom of Abu Dhabi was one of seven Trucial States along the Persian Gulf’s lower coast at the time of Sheikh Zayed’s birth.
In 1946, Zayed was appointed governor of Abu Dhabi’s Eastern Region, and he was located in Al Ain’s Muwaiji fort.
The area was impoverished and prone to illness epidemics at the time. Zayed aided Petroleum Development (Trucial Coast) when they began looking for oil in the area.
The ‘Buraimi Dispute’ began in 1952 when a small Saudi Arabian force led by Turki bin Abdullah Al-Otaishan captured the town of Hamasa in the Buraimi Oasis.
Zayed was a vocal opponent of Saudi territorial claims and is said to have turned down a £30 million bribe to allow Aramco to explore for oil in the disputed zone.
Zayed died on November 2, 2004, at the age of 86. Diabetes and kidney problems had been bothering him.
He was laid to rest in the courtyard of Abu Dhabi’s new Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, his eldest son, began to play a larger role in the administration in the 1980s.
He became Ruler of Abu Dhabi immediately following his father’s death, and his fellow rulers in the Supreme Council approved him as President of the United Arab Emirates.