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Fast facts about UAE’s new President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan

The UAE’s Federal Supreme Council today unanimously elected His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as President of the United Arab Emirates, succeeding the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

In January 2014, when his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the president of the UAE and ruker of Abu Dhabi, suffered a stroke, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan became the de facto ruler of Abu Dhabi, controlling almost every aspect of UAE policymaking. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed was entrusted with most day-to-day decision-making of the emirate of Abu Dhabi as the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

Academics have characterized Mohamed bin Zayed as the strongman leader. In 2019, the New York Times named him as the most powerful Arab ruler and one of the most powerful men on Earth. He was also named as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2019 by TIME magazine.

On 13 May 2022, he became the ruler of Abu Dhabi and was elected President of the United Arab Emirates the next day.

RELATED STORY: Federal Supreme Council elects Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed as UAE President

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed was born in Al Ain on 11 March 1961 in what was then the Trucial States.

He is the third son of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi, and his third wife, Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi. Mohamed’s brothers are: Hamdan, Hazza, Saeed, Isa, Nahyan, Saif, Tahnoun, Mansour, Falah, Diab, Omar, and Khalid (as well as four deceased brothers; Khalifa bin Zayed, Sultan, Nasser, and Ahmed). In addition to these, he has a few sisters. He has five younger full-brothers: Hamdan, Hazza, Tahnoun, Mansour, and Abdullah. They are referred to as Bani Fatima or sons of Fatima.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed was educated at The Royal Academy in Rabat until the age of 10, where he was a classmate of King Mohammed VI of Morocco. His father Sheikh Zayed sent him to Morocco intending for it to be a disciplinary experience.

Sheikh Zayed gave him a passport showing a different last name, so that he would not be treated like royalty. Al Nahyan spent several months working as a waiter in a local restaurant. He made his own meals and did his own laundry, and was often lonely. Al Nahyan described his life back then by saying “There’d be a bowl of tabbouleh in the fridge, and I’d keep eating from it day after day until a kind of fungus formed on the top”.

He was further educated at schools in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and a summer at Gordonstoun until the age of 18. In the Emirates, his father Sheikh Zayed put a respected Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Islamic scholar named Izzedine Ibrahim in charge of his education.

READ ON: Khalifa bin Zayed man of peace and compassion: Higher Committee of Human Fraternity

In 1979, he joined the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst graduating in April of the same year. During his time at Sandhurst, he completed a fundamental armor course, a fundamental flying course, a parachutist course, and training on tactical planes and helicopters, including the Gazelle squadron. It was also during his time in Sandhurst, when he met and became good friends with Al-Sultan Abdullah, who would later become the King of Malaysia. They were both officer cadets at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

In the 1980s as a young military officer on holiday in Tanzania, he met the Masai people and saw their customs and the extent of poverty in the country. Upon his return he went to see his father Sheikh Zayed. His father asked him what he had done to help the people he had encountered. Al Nahyan shrugged and said the people he met were not Muslims. Al Nahyan said, “He clutched my arm, and looked into my eyes very harshly. He said, ‘We are all God’s creatures.’”

He then returned home to the UAE to join the Officers’ Training Course in Sharjah. He has held a number of roles in the UAE military, from that of an Officer in the Amiri Guard (now called Presidential Guard) to a pilot in the UAE Air Force.

Staff Report

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