At the age of 73, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected president of the United Arab Emirates.
He was a pro-Western moderniser and was well-known for bringing the Gulf State closer together with the US and its allies.
He was responsible for much of the country’s economic growth, and he bailed out the Dubai insolvent during the financial crisis that hit more than ten years ago.
Burj Khalifa was also funded by Sheikh Khalifa. It was named after him.
In 2004, he was elected president. However, he suffered a stroke a decade later. He then stopped participating in the day to day affairs of the country.
Since then, he had not been seen in public.
His half-brother Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed became the de-factor ruler of the country and the decision-maker for major foreign policy decisions. He was instrumental in joining the Saudi-led war on Yemen and imposing an embargo against Qatar over the past few decades.
Sheikh Mohammed stated that the UAE had lost its righteous son, leader of the “empowerment phase” and guardian for its blessed journey.
Anthony Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States, called Sheikh Khalifa “a true friend” and stated that the United States remains committed to its friendship with the UAE.
Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States, also offered her condolences.
Sheikh Mohammed is expected to claim the presidency
The UAE’s refusal to be part of US efforts to isolate Russia after the invasion of Ukraine has caused tension between the Biden administration, UAE and each other.
UAE declared a 40-day mourning period and a three day suspension of work for the public and private sectors.
Although no details were given about Sheikh Khalifa’s death or who will succeed him, Sheikh Mohammed is widely believed to be the next president.
After the two countries had normalized relations in 2020, the crown prince, who is also the deputy supreme commanding commander of the Armed Forces, helped bring the UAE closer to Israel.
He also battled against the rising tide of political Islam in the region.