The founding sheikhs

The key figures on the long road to the formation of the federation.

Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan (born 1918; died November 2, 2004) Known as the Father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed was the ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE for more than 30 years from its founding. He was the youngest son of Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, who was the Ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1922 to 1926. He was named after his grandfather, Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, also known as "Zayed the First", who ruled the emirate from 1855 to 1909. On August 6, 1966, he succeeded his brother Sheikh Shakhbut as Ruler of Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Zayed was first appointed to the Presidency of the UAE by the Supreme Council in 1971 and remained in office until his death. Before becoming the Ruler, he was the Ruler's Representative of the Eastern Region from 1946.


Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum (born 1912; died October 7, 1990) Sheikh Rashid was the Vice President of the UAE from its founding, and Ruler of Dubai for 32 years. He is known as the Father of modern Dubai, transforming a small trading port into a major international shipping centre. The discovery of oil in the 1960s made it possible to expand port facilities and construct an international airport. His understanding that Dubai needed an economy that would thrive beyond the the emirate's limited oil reserves is expressed in his saying: "My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel."


Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al Qasimi (born 1931; died January 24, 1972) Sheikh Khalid ruled Sharjah from 1965 to 1972, after the exile of Sheikh Saqr bin Sultan, Khalid's cousin and brother-in-law, from power. He founded the General Security and Police Force in 1967 and was an early participant in the first talks to create the federation. In 1972, Sheikh Khalid was killed in a coup attempt by the previous Ruler. He was succeeded by his brother, Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the current Ruler.


Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi (born 1902 or 1904; died September 6, 1981) Sheikh Rashid was Ruler of Ajman for 54 years beginning in 1928. Under his leadership, Ajman became the first emirate to issue its own passports. In 1958, Sheikh Rashid formalised an education system in the emirate, which had until that time relied on volunteer teachers and traditional methods; he established the Ajman Police Department in 1967. Among his other initiatives were a science institute, civil and Islamic jurisprudence, free health care, and creation of an electric grid and network of water pipelines.


Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Sharqi (born c. 1908; died 1974) Sheikh Mohammed ruled Fujairah from about 1937 to September 17, 1974. Long an advocate, like his father, of the separate identity of Fujairah, which was finally acknowledged by Britain in 1952. The first primary school opened in 1961, with 90 students. A deal to create an airport was signed with the British in 1965; the first dispensary opened in 1969. Sheikh Mohammed is credited with formalising the Sharia court system. In 1969, road construction began and the emirate's first library began lending books.

Umm al Qaiwain

Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Mualla (born 1908; died 1981) Sheikh Ahmed assumed his position after the killing of his cousin, Sheikh Hamad bin Ibrahim Al Mualla, in 1928. It is generally believed that he was 18 at the time he became Ruler. During his rule, the emirate enjoyed great stability despite its limited means and resources. He established the first school and hospital in Umm al Qaiwain, had the emirate's first roads paved, as well as building a police and public security department. Because of illness, he was unable to participate in the ceremonies of December 2, 1971, but granted authority to Sheikh Rashid bin Ahmed, the Crown Prince and his son, who appears in official photographs of the day, including the one on the right.

Ras al Khaimah

(joined in February 1972)

Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi (born April 9, 1918; died October 27, 2010) Sheikh Saqr became Ruler on July 17, 1948, replacing his uncle and father-in-law, Sheikh Sultan bin Salem Al Qasimi, in a coup. During Sheikh Saqr's reign, schools grew in number. He opened the emirate's first girls school in 1956. Sheikh Saqr delayed Ras al Khaimah's admission to the United Arab Emirates on December 2 over a number of issues. After assurances were given that the new Federal Government would maintain a claim to the islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs, seized by Iran on November 30, 1971, Ras al Khaimah joined the federation on February 11, 1972.

Some of the other players

Ahmed al Suwaidi Sheikh Zayed's chief adviser, he became the first Foreign Minister.

Adnan Pachachi Iraq's ambassador to the UN moved to Abu Dhabi in 1968, where he advised Sheikh Zayed. He became the UAE's first ambassador to the UN.

Mohammed Habroush al Suwaidi Another key adviser to Sheikh Zayed; currently an adviser to Sheikh Khalifa.

Dr Mana Saeed al Otaiba Another key adviser to Sheikh Zayed, he became Minister of Petroleum and is now an adviser to Sheikh Khalifa.

Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Son of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum and first Prime Minister of the UAE. Died January 2006.

Mahdi al Tajir A wealthy Dubai businessman who was Sheikh Rashid's key adviser in negotiations. A former UAE ambassador to the UK.

Adi Bitar A Palestinian lawyer and judge who wrote the constitution of the UAE. Died 1973.

Sir Geoffrey Arthur The British political resident in the Gulf (1970 to 1971) handled negotiations between the UK and the future UAE and a Treaty of Friendship. Died 1984.

James Treadwell A political agent who worked closely with Sheikh Zayed on talks for the federation and was the first British ambassador to the UAE. Died April 2010.

Julian Walker A political agent in Dubai in 1971 who resolved many boundary issues of the future UAE. He now lives in London.

Sir William Luce Britain's special envoy to the Gulf negotiated with Iran over Abu Musa, the Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Bahrain. Died 1977.