The President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa Ben Zayed Al-Nahyan, who had accompanied his country’s meteoric rise on the international scene for the past two decades, died on Friday May 13 at the age of 73. Rarely seen in public since a stroke in January 2014, Sheikh Khalifa is expected to be replaced shortly by his half-brother, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed Bin Zayed, known as “MBZ”, who was already considered the de facto ruler of the country.
“His positions, his achievements, his wisdom, his generosity and his initiatives are found in every corner of the country”Mohammed bin Zayed said on Twitter. “Khalifa bin Zayed, my brother, my mentor and my teacher, may God have mercy on you.” The government has decreed “an official mourning and the flags lowered” for forty days, the official WAM news agency said. The next three days from Friday will be non-working, she added.
His portrait everywhere in the streets
The Emirati media quickly interrupted their usual programs to broadcast images and articles in tribute to Sheikh Khalifa. His portrait is displayed Friday everywhere in the streets, institutions and even hotels of this Gulf state. Born in January 1948, Sheikh Khalifa succeeded in 2004 to his father, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, president and founding father of the United Arab Emirates, a rich oil state in the Gulf comprising seven emirates including Dubai and the capital, Abu Dhabi.
Under the mandate of Sheikh Khalifa, the Emirates experienced rapid economic growth, driven by the oil wealth of Abu Dhabi, which concentrates 90% of the federation’s reserves, and the affirmation of Dubai as an important financial institution, as well as as a luxurious tourist destination or an air transport hub.