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Biographical Data :

Name :Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan
Period :1918 - 2004
Biographical detail : Benevolent Sheikh devoted to creating modern Gulf federation.

Sheikh Zayed oversaw the seemingly magical transformation of his realm from a dusty emirate into a booming city-state, a mirage-like place of boulevards, towers and emerald parks. He ruled the country, by the standard of the region, a model of tolerance, goodness and decent government.

Sheikh Zayed, ruler of oil-rich Abu Dhabi since 1966, founder-president of the United Arab Emirates and the man who took his country from the medieval to the modern world. He steered a disparate group of squabbling city-state into a viable country, the Arab world’s only working federation.

Sheikh Zayed led the transformation, in more than 30 years, of Abu Dhabi and in varying degrees, of Dubai and other five emirates – Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah – from coastal settlements dependent on pearl-diving and small-time trading, into gleaming hypermodern metropolises of steel and plate-glass skyscrapers and luxury tourist facilities.

From being a collection of huts clustered around the ruler’s fort, Abu Dhabi had already become a city of modern buildings and facilities, and Sheikh Zayed oversaw an investment of its oil revenues in hospitals, schools and roads throughout the UAE. Abu Dhabi itself became a centre for finance and banking, while Dubai greatly expanded its revenue from trade. Dubai with a thriving free port, media and internet cities, is the world’s largest aluminium smelter.

Sheikh Zayed’s shrewd management made the UAE, in terms of liquid assets, among the wealthiest of global oil-producers, with cash and portfolio investments amounting to several hundred billion dollars for a small national population. Despite its wealth – sitting on nearly 10 per cent of global oil reserves and 4 per cent of gas – the federation is small, militarily weak and vulnerable, in a region packed with potential problems.

When the UAE was formed from the former British protected emirates known as the Trucial States on 2 December 1971, in its beginnings when its entity was created from virtually nothing were not auspicious – a poverty-stricken backwaters whose ruler Sheikh Zayed only heard of the British government’s decision to pull out on the BBC’s Arabic service – British held power since 1820. Sheikh Zayed became ruler in 1966 when the British removed his elder brother who had ruled for nearly 40 years. Independence in 1971 was followed swiftly by the oil-price increases of 1973, generating an immense windfall to the ruler.

Sheikh Zayed fostered a sense of Emiriti unity as its president and laid down the foundation of his federation’s society as such that it has remained remarkably tolerant of others faith, ethnicity and culture. In 1971, the UAE had 180,000 largely rural, tribal inhabitants. By the 21st century, its population exceeds three million, of whom some 90 per cent is foreign, a federation of an easy-going, liberal oasis of stability.

It is said that Sheikh Zayed learned the art of persuasion from his mother Sheikha Salama, who, in 1927, by force of character, ended fratricidal struggles within the family. Zayed eschewed confrontation in favour of sura (consultation) and ijma (consensus) and got local landowners to share precious water resources. The al-Nahyan clan has dominated Abu Dhabi’s affairs since they conquered the eponymous island in 1793. Sheikh Zayed never strayed far from his desert roots and showed unswerving devotion to the edicts of Islam.

Sheikh Zayed championed the Palestinian cause by imposing a total oil boycott on the West during the 1973 Palestinian-Israeli war and, some say, he forced a more cautious Saudi Arabia to follow suit. “Arab oil is not dearer than Arab blood”, he pronounced – one of many phrases that he bequeathed to the political lexicon.

Over four decades, Sheikh Zayed directed billions of dollars in aid to no fewer than 40 poorest countries. Egypt alone has two model cities named after the Sheikh, as well as a giant canal that feeds Nile water to a vast desert-reclamation scheme.

Sheikh Zayed had passion for ecology and he founded the world-renowned Sir Bani Yas animal sanctuary, and planted 100m trees. Four thousand gardeners are employed in the capital alone to manage the irrigated lawns and parks. Today, Abu Dhabi exports vegetables to the US and dates to Japan.
 (Compiler : M. Nauman Khan / Ghulam Mohiuddin)

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