Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the United Arab Emirates President whose modernization policies helped transform his country into a regional powerhouse, died on Friday aged 73, state media WAM said.
“The Ministry of Presidential Affairs mourn the people of the UAE, the Arab and Islamic nations, and the whole world. The leader of the nation and the patron of its march, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the State, passed away to the Lord’s side today, Friday, May 13,” WAM said.
“The Ministry of Presidential Affairs announces an official mourning and flags to be flown at half-mast for the late His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, may God have mercy on him, for a period of 40 days, starting today, and suspending work in ministries, departments, federal and local institutions, and the private sector for 3 days, starting today (Friday),” WAM said in a tweet.
Sheikh Khalifa’s role had been largely ceremonial since he suffered a stroke and underwent surgery in 2014. His brother and Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, has been widely seen as the de-facto leader of the UAE, handling day-to-day affairs for the Gulf state.
Sheikh Khalifa was appointed as the second president of the UAE in 2004, succeeding his father and founder of the nation, Sheikh Zayed al Nahyan.
Born in 1948 in the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa was the eldest son of Sheikh Zayed. Prior to his role as president, he was crown prince of Abu Dhabi and headed Abu Dhabi’s Supreme Petroleum Council, which drafts oil policy.
As president, he headed one of the largest investment funds in the world, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, managing hundreds of billions of dollars in assets.
One of the world’s tallest buildings, the Burj Khalifa, took on his name after the UAE government bailed Dubai out of its debt, and as a sports fan, he supported the acquisition of English Premier League soccer club Manchester City.