Sheikh Khalifa bin Shakhbut Al Nahyan Biography

A famous Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Shakhbut Al Nahyan was in power from 1833 to 1845. His accession led to the secession of the Al Bu Falasah. It ultimately ended up with the establishment of the Maktoum dynasty in Dubai.

Real Name Sheikh Khalifa bin Shakhbut Al Nahyan
Birth Place UAE
Nick Name Anji
Reign 1833–1845
Predecessor Tahnun bin Shakhbut Al Nahyan
Successor Saeed bin Tahnun Al Nahyan
Died 1845
House Al Nahyan


Khalifa came to power in April, 1833 with his brother Sultan, as both conspired and killed their brother Tahnun. He was the main man, as Sultan took a subordinate position. Khalifa bin Shakhbut moved to declare Abu Dhabi in allegiance to the Wahhabi Amir. A plot to remove him threatened his rule, as his cousin conspired to take his place. However, he acted quickly to execute three of the ringleaders. Public anger and Sultan’s intervention prevented him from giving the same sentence to two prominent merchants. He settled for having one beaten, his property confiscated and exiled to Lingeh.


During the pearling season of that year, Khalifa’s action led to the secession of most of the Al Bu Falasah section of the Bani Yas. It was done in a bid to ensure establishment in the town of Dubai. At that time, it was under Sheikh Mohammed bin Hazza bin Zaal. With Maktoum bin Butti bin Suhail and Obeid bin Said bin Rashid leading the caravan, some 800 members of the Al Bu Falasah took over the town. It was a result of Mohammed bin Zaal’s complicity, as there were some 250 houses at Shindagha and the Al Fahidi Fort.  The migration was quite a tedious task and took a lot of time, around May to November).

After this, Sultan bin Saqr of Sharjah headed a force to Abu Dhabi, in an attempt to blockade the town. The secession of the Qubaisat section followed the suit, who settled in Khawr al Udayd. They took up a career in piracy before Khalifa with help from Britishers attacked the settlement in 1837 and sacked it. The army filled the wells, besides destroying buildings and killing around 50 people. Some of the tribe fled to Dubai, but those who returned to Abu Dhabi were treated harshly by Khalifa. Eventually, the secessionists returned under a general amnesty.


Khalifa engaged in breach of the Bedouin laws of hospitality, before being murdered by his hosts in July 1845. After accepting an invitation to a feast on the beach at Abu Dhabi, a man by the name of Isa bin Khalid killed him at the conclusion of the feat, with most of the inhabitants of the town away pearling or tending the date plantations.

A short and bloody fight for the succession followed his death, with many claimants battling it out for the top position. Two influential leaders of the Bani Yas, Mohammed bin Humaid and Rashid bin Fadhil nominated a son of the former leader Tahnun bin Shakhbut Al Nahyan, Saeed bin Tahnun to put an end to the fight.