Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Memoriam: Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004)

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Memoriam: Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004)

Article excerpt

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, died Nov. 2, 2004. He was 86 years of age. In keeping with Arab tribal practice, Sheikh Zayed-who was well known for his statesmanship in welding seven constituent sheikhdoms, formerly known as the Trucial States, into the United Arab Emirates-was known simply as Zayed. His eldest son, Khalifa bin Zayed, succeeded him as president.

Born poor in the Ras al-Khayma town of al-Ein, long before the discovery of oil, as a young man Zayed lived the life of a bedouin. This taught him the values of simplicity and lack of pretense, which he practiced all his life. Even after oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi in 1958, and it became clear that the UAE possessed 10 percent of the world's proved deposits of petroleum, Zayed remained the same unassuming man he had always been. In 1966 he succeeded his brother as ruler of Abu Dhabi.

When Britain pulled out of the Gulf in 1971, after having occupied the region since 1820, the nine Arab sheikhdoms negotiated for unity, but Qatar and Bahrain each opted instead for independence. The remaining seven sheikhdoms-Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras al-Khayma, Um al-Quwayn and Fujaira-chose to join together, and in 1971 the seven emirate leaders elected Sheikh Zayed president of the UAB federation. He subsequently was re-elected to the post every five years.

As sheikh of Abu Dhabi, the largest and richest of the seven emirates, Zayed never threatened the other six but instead used persuasion to get his way. With patience and good sense, he saw to it that there was gain for everyone in unity and independence. Zayed established the UAE's modern infrastructure, building state-of-the-art roads, housing, schools, health services, air- and sea ports, and even a bridge to link Abu Dhabi with the mainland.

He inspired a beautification campaign throughout the UAE, planting over 18 million palm trees and an additional 10 million other trees, now full-grown and lush, which line the emirates' streets and highways. He built experimental farms and encouraged agricultural research in order to create plants capable of thriving despite the country's heat and saline groundwater. As early as 1967, he built a popular zoo in Al Ain.

Sheikh Zayed's wife, Sheikha Fatimah bint Mubarak, worked to improve education in the emirates. …

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