Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed brings lifetime of service to presidency

The new UAE President has lived a life dedicated to military service and public duty

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The life of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, who has been elected as UAE President, has been one of public service and dedication to his country.

A soldier and long-serving leader, Sheikh Mohamed, who is also Ruler of Abu Dhabi, was born in Al Ain in 1961.

He is the third son of UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

At this time of Sheikh Mohamed's birth, Sheikh Zayed was Ruler's Representative in the Eastern Region.

It was an important time for Abu Dhabi. The emirate had discovered oil three years earlier and huge developments were taking place.

Sheikh Zayed was also leading talks to form a new country. When Abu Dhabi became part of the UAE in December 1971, Sheikh Mohamed had already turned 10.

Sheikh Zayed became the new country's first President and his son found himself increasingly in the public eye.

Despite the path that was developing for the future leader, photographs from this time also show him enjoying the simple pleasures of childhood such as playing on a swing or sitting proudly on his horse.

The late Sheikh Zayed with Sheikh Mohamed at the open day at Al Kindi Primary School in Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Mohamed's teacher, Mohamed Al Tamimi is standing behind him. Photo: National Archives

In the late 1960s, he had enrolled at the Al Kindi Primary School where a famous photograph shows him sitting at a desk with his books. His public life started early. In April 1971, Sheikh Mohamed was given the responsibility of presenting the opening of the school’s first exhibition.

Watched by his teacher, Mohamed Al Tamimi, Sheikh Mohamed can be seen being greeted by the guest of honour that day, the President of the UAE — but also a proud father.

By 1979, Sheikh Mohamed had graduated from the prestigious Sandhurst Military Academy in the UK. He was greeted on his return to Abu Dhabi by Sheikh Zayed and the moment was captured in a famous photograph by Al Ittihad newspaper.

A life of public service beckoned and that same year, now an officer in the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohamed accompanied Sheikh Zayed to Saudi Arabia for the country’s annual military manoeuvres.

Sheikh Mohamed also inspected the UAE Armed Forces in Kuwait and participated in its peacekeeping mission to Kosovo, a milestone moment for the military.

When Sheikh Zayed died in 2004, Sheikh Khalifa became President and Sheikh Mohamed became Crown Prince and Deputy Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Since then, his dedication to the development of the UAE and the happiness of all Emiratis and residents has continued.

He has also become a familiar figure on the world stage, welcoming US president George W Bush to Abu Dhabi in 2008 and, as recently as last year, meeting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the UK.

Sheikh Mohamed with then US president George W Bush, in Sweihan, in 2008. Photo: National Archives

Sheikh Mohamed also provided vital and reassuring support during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I'd like you to keep this in mind, this time shall pass," said Sheikh Mohamed in 2020, as the world grappled with the pandemic and uncertainty gripped the world. "But it requires some patience."

By the end of last year, Sheikh Mohamed could deliver a message of hope as he declared that the UAE had “overcome the Covid-19 crisis” and called on people to return to normality.

Sheikh Mohamed also said watching videos of residents singing the UAE national anthem to praise the front-line heroes for their fight against Covid-19 had moved him to tears.

Proof, as ever, that Sheikh Mohamed remains a man of the people.

The late Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed attend the final of the Arabian Camel Festival at Al Wathba Racetrack on April 26, 1991. Photo: National Archives
Updated: May 14, 2022, 9:58 AM