Family and early life
Although the exact date of his birth is unknown, officially on documents, Sheikh Zayed was born on 1 December 1918 in Abu Dhabi. He was the youngest son of Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifah Al Nahyan. His birth date is also reported to be 1916. His father was the ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1922 until his assassination in 1926. Zayed was named after his grandfather, Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan ("Zayed the Great"), who ruled the emirate from 1855 to 1909. At the time of Zayed's birth, the sheikhdom of Abu Dhabi was one of seven Trucial States along the coast of the lower coast of the Persian Gulf.
He was raised and lived for the first fifteen ...view middle of the document...
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.
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. On 6 August 1966, Shakhbut was deposed in a bloodless palace coup. 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.
In the late 1960s Sheikh Zayed hired Dr. Katsuhiko Takahashi, a Japanese architect, to design and plan the city.
Between 8-11 January 1968, 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. 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.
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.
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.
Sheikh Zayed salutes Tunisian crowd during his visit to Kairouan City in the mid-70s
Sheikh Zayed was determined to bring the Emirates into federation. His calls for cooperation extended across the Persian Gulf to Iran. Sheikh Zayed 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.
He was considered a relatively liberal ruler, and permitted private media. However, they were expected to practice self-censorship and...