Also known as Zayed the Great, Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan was the founder of the United Arab Emirates. Born in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, he spent his childhood with the Bedouin of the state. Once his cousin Sheikh Saeed bin Tahnun’s reign ended in 1855, Zayed was made the ruler. He went onto rule for 54 years, before he died in 1909.

During his rule, Zayed shepherded Abu Dhabi through various conflicts with the Emirate of Sharjah. During an armed clash with Sharjah’s forces in 1868, he advanced ahead of the fighters to challenge the ruler of Sharjah. Zayed injured his opponent named Khalid and he succumbed to the injuries, bringing an end to the conflict. He also led Abu Dhabi in a war against Qatar in the 1880s, securing the western border of Abu Dhabi. He, along with Omani forces drove off Saudi troops from the Buraimi area in 1870. As a result, the forts defending Buraimi Oasis were left in permanent control of Abu Dhabi.

Zayed signed a treaty with the United Kingdom in 1892, ceding control of Abu Dhabi’s international commercial relations to the British. He soon became the most powerful of the Trucial Sheikhs, replacing the hegemony of Sharjah. He had many sons with Khalifa being the eldest one. He also had a brother called Dhiyab, who had three sons, Sultan, Mohammed, and Ahmed.

Real Name Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan
Birth Place UAE
Predecessor Saeed bin Tahnun Al Nahyan
Reign 1855–1909
Successor Tahnoun bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan
Died May 19, 1909 (aged 73–74)
House Al Nahyan
Father Khalifa bin Shakbut Al Nahyan
Born 1835
Spouse Maitha Almansoori