The late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the eldest son of the founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is the second president of the country. He was elected on Nov. 3, 2004 as President of the Gulf state that was founded on Dec. 2, 1971.
His mother is Sheikha Hessa bint Mohammed bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He was born on Sept. 7, 1948 in Al Muwaiji Castle in the city of Al Ain in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. He lived with his family in the castle, and received his school education at the Al-Nahyaniya School established by Sheikh Zayed. He spent most of his childhood in the oases of Al Ain and Al Buraimi, along with his father, who ruled the Al Ain region at that time.
Sheikh Khalifa remained loyal to his father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, in his mission to improve the lives of the tribes in the region and establish the authority of the state, which had a great impact on his education.
He was appointed as the representative of the ruler of Abu Dhabi in the eastern region, and head of its legal system in August 1966. He later assumed the position of Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi on the first of February 1969.
Sheikh Khalifa assumed the presidency of the first local council of ministers of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi on July 1, 1971, as well as the defense and finance portfolios. He became Deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Council of Ministers on Jan. 20, 1974, then Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces in 1976.
When Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan moved to Abu Dhabi to become the ruler of the emirate in August 1966, he appointed his son, Sheikh Khalifa - who was 18 years old at the time - as his representative in the Eastern Province and head of the courts.
On the first of February 1969, Sheikh Khalifa was nominated Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and assumed the duties of the Defense Ministry. He established the Defense Department in Abu Dhabi, which later became the nucleus that formed the UAE armed forces.
On the first of July 1971, as part of the restructuring of the Abu Dhabi government, he was appointed the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and the local minister of defense and finance in the emirate.
On December 23, 1973, Sheikh Khalifa assumed the position of Deputy Prime Minister in the second cabinet. Shortly after, on Jan. 20, 1974, he took on the presidency of the Executive Council of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which replaced the local government in the emirate.
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed supervised the Executive Council’s endeavor to achieve comprehensive development programs in Abu Dhabi, and ordered the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority in 1976, with the aim of managing financial investments in the emirate.
He was elected President of the State on Nov. 3, 2004, following the passing away of his father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan on Nov. 2, 2004.
Sheikh Khalifa was known to practice a number of hobbies, including fishing and falconry (hunting). He supported a number of environmental projects, including breeding and liberation programs for falcons and houbara bustards in the Arabian Peninsula and Central Asia.
He has also been appointed a Minister of Environment in the first government that was formed during his tenure. Sheikh Khalifa was a sports fan, and his other hobbies include literature and history.
Under Sheikh Khalifa’s tenure, the country witnessed a wide development renaissance. In 2005, he directed the development of a comprehensive infrastructure, and the allocation of 16 billion dirhams ($ 4.3 billion) to develop infrastructure and service facilities in the northern emirates to advance economic and social progress in these areas.
Until 2013, the Emirates had seen the completion of more than 24 ports, the construction of Sheikh Khalifa Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah, the building of thousands of homes, in addition to several highways, intersections, and tunnels.
His era of empowerment began in 2006, with the establishment of the Federal National Council, which is an advisory council comprising 40 members, including women.
Foreign policy under the tenure of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed saw balance in relations with the countries of the region and the world. The UAE also worked to raise dealings with countries to the levels of comprehensive partnership, and to strengthen relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab countries. His era was also marked by the historic agreement between the UAE and Israel to establish direct and full bilateral relations.
At the end of January 2014, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed fell ill as a result of a stroke.