His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Bin Sultan al Nahyan

[1948 -]

Birth and Upbringing

H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan was born in 1948 at al-Muwaiji Fort in al-Ain. He is the eldest son of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan.

H.H. Sheikh Khalifa memorized the Holy Quran at an early age and received his elementary education at the al-Nahyaniya school that had been established by his father in al-Ain.  His early years in al-Ain gave H.H. Sheikh Khalifa the opportunity to maintain close ties with the people and their needs that gave him a greater understanding and insight enabling him later, following the oil boom, to help to improve their standard of living.

1948-2004: Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi

H.H. Sheikh Khalifa spent much of his early life accompanying his father and witnessing his father's political career and achievements.  On September 18, 1966, he received his first official positions as the Ruler's Representative in the Eastern Region and as the Chairman of the Courts. The positions would prove to be very significant in his life as it provided him with an opportunity to interact with the people on a daily basis that, in turn, aided him in identifying their needs, hopes and ambitions.

On February 1, 1969, he was appointed as the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and he was also appointed the Head of the Department of Defense by Royal Decree.  While in the latter position, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa assumed leadership of the Abu Dhabi Defense Force and played an integral part in its development and transformation from a small guard force into a modern force that subsequently, in 1971, formed the nucleus of the United Arab Emirate’s Armed Forces.

H.H. Sheikh Khalifa became the Prime Minister of the first Abu Dhabi Emirate Cabinet on July 1, 1971 in addition to chairing the Defense and Finance Ministries for the Council.

H.H. Sheikh Khalifa was the Chairman of the Supreme Petroleum Council of Abu Dhabi during the 1980s. The development of petrochemical and industrial facilities in the United Arab Emirates, especially in al-Ruwais, formed part of a long-term programme aimed at diversifying the country's economy.

H.H. Sheikh Khalifa also assumed the positions of Chairman of the Board of Directors of Arab Monetary Fund and of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. He served as the representative of the UAE for the Arab Organization for Industralisation formed to supervise the development of the Arab defense industry and was behind the creation of the Department of Social Services and Commercial Buildings formed in 1981 to assist Abu Dhabi citizens. 

With the establishment of the UAE as a sovereign state on December 2, 1971, the duties of H.H. Sheikh Khalifa evolved and, in addition to his positions within Abu Dhabi Emirate, he received his first federal post as Vice-Chairman of the Federal Cabinet.  It was a position of great importance to a Country that needed immediate development of its political system in the face of regional challenges and economic and social developments hindered by a lack of human resources.  However, his enthusiasm for the job did not diminish with the immensity of this new role or with the enormous responsibilities it carried.  H.H. Sheikh Khalifa stated, when the local cabinet of Abu Dhabi Emirate was abolished in order to establish an Executive Council on February 20, 1974, that “the will of building brings him a lasting joy, and incites him to give more."

The distribution of tasks between local and federal levels also reflected on the role of H.H. Sheikh Khalifa in the life of the UAE. Since Abu Dhabi was the largest of the seven emirates, both in size and in resources, it assumed responsibility for the establishment, and management, of many federal bodies including the nation’s budget.  This, in turn, added substantial responsibilities on top of his roles in overseeing the local affairs of Abu Dhabi Emirate.  He briefly left his position as Chairman of the Federal Cabinet in 1974 but later resumed in the Cabinet in 1976 as the Deputy Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United Arab Emirates following the historic resolution by the UAE Supreme Council to merge the Armed Forces under one command and one flag.

The accomplishments that were achieved in developing the federal armed forces represented an important page in the history of the UAE. The stability of UAE foreign policy and its determination to build ties on an Arab, Regional and International level made the UAE a country without enemies that led to the evolution of the federal armed forces away from traditional military roles. H.H. Sheikh Khalifa focused on creating a military institute where a multitude of specializations could be fostered and several military colleges were opened during the next ten years. These institutes have produced many leaders whose achievements in the Country cover both military and civilians roles.

The shaping of H.H. Sheikh Khalifa's leadership, charisma, behavior and thoughts was due largely to the time spent with his father, Sheikh Zayed, who schooled him in leadership, politics and ideology.

The people of the UAE admire him for his noble qualities of generosity, kindness, ethics and vision as well as for shouldering enormous responsibilities from an early age.

From 2004: President of the UAE

After the passing of Sheikh Zayed on November 2, 2004, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa succeeded him as Ruler of Abu Dhabi Emirate.  Shortly thereafter, the Federal Supreme Council elected him President of the UAE for a term of five years following which, in 2009, he was re-elected.

As President, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa has always stressed the importance of consultation as a political basis for the Country to ensure justice and security and to encourage all Emirati citizens to actively participate in the running of the Nation.  A key objective of any successful government has to be the development of leadership skills for the new generation. Consequently, under H.H. Sheikh Khalifa's Presidency, education, culture, health, and family issues of Emirati citizens are a top priority. Simultaneously, the government has committed to strengthening the private sector, enhancing industry and to encouraging tourism and investment.


H.H. Sheikh Khalifa is a reader of literature, history and poetry and his majlis frequently plays host to leading intellectuals and poets. He takes a keen interest in sports and often follows sporting events.  He has also made contributions to sporting teams and clubs and to Emirati teams participating in various tournaments. H.H. Sheikh Khalifa has a passion for falconry that was nurtured by his father, who was an internationally renowned expert in the sport.  Another of his leisure time interests is fishing that is indicative of his peaceful and reflective nature.


Department of Social Services and Commercial Buildings (1981) known as the ‘Khalifa Committee’. 

Khalifa Housing Fund (1979): This fund was established to finance the construction of residential and commercial buildings with low administrative fees for citizens.  It was  instrumental in creating the urban boom in Abu Dhabi. 

Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development

Khalifa Award for Education

Khalifa Excellence Award

H.H. Sheikh Khalifa's initiatives to establish developmental projects in all the emirates.

Milestones in the life of H.H. Sheikh Khalifa

September 18, 1966: Assumed the post of the Ruler's Representative in the Eastern Region and as Chairman of the Courts.

February 1, 1969: Appointed the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

February, 1969: Appointed Head of the Department of Defense with the establishment of Abu Dhabi Defense Force that later formed the nucleus of the UAE Armed Forces.

July 1, 1971: Presided over the first Council of Ministers of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

After the establishment of the UAE on December 2, 1971 and the formation of the Federal Cabinet, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister.

February 20, 1974: Presided over the Executive Council of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi

May 7, 1976: Appointed Deputy Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United Arab Emirates following a resolution  by the Supreme Council.

November 3rd, 2004: Elected President of the United Arab Emirates – a position he retains to this day.


H.H. Sheikh Khalifa's sponsorship of education and his concerns for teachers and learners alike.

H.H. Sheikh Khalifa's allocation of annual awards such as the Khalifa Award for Education.

The establishment of the Zayed Institute for Research and Technology.

Quotes on the Federation

“The Federation preserves our identity and enhances our capabilities.  It is a strong shield for protecting the security and stability of the Arabian Gulf Region.”

“The Federation is a means for loyalty and belonging and an expression of national identity, as well as an unlimited sense of giving and sacrifice, and a real living.”

“The Federation is an investment in national manpower, an undertaking for renaissance and sustainable plan of action.”

“The Federation is a source of power to support our fellow nations and friends in the Arab and Islamic world.”

“We shall spare no efforts to realize the hopes and ambitions of our people, and we call upon everyone to work hard to develop our country