The long-time ruler of the United Arab Emirates died last Friday after a long period of illness. Although in recent times Sheikh Khalifa has taken a step back from direct rulership as he suffered a stroke back in 2014, his rulership has nonetheless been an important part of his nation’s history.
The UAE has not always been the well-developed modernized and urban nation that it had once been. In 2004 when Sheikh Khalifa was elected as the second president replacing his father, the country had just begun to fully focus on developing and maintaining close ties with the west, especially America and France. The country itself had not become as developed until Sheikh Khalifa had turned the country into what it is now by rapidly developing its economic, cultural, and educational growth.
During the financial crisis that had rocked the country in the 2000s it was Sheikh Khalifa who had bailed out Dubai and laid the groundwork for the country and city to spring back to life. The leadership he created helped to add new international art and cultural centers to the country opening up Dubai as a place for those around the world to visit as well as enrich the local population. To further secure the future of the nation his policies moved the economy slowly away from being solely dependent on oil into a more diversified and stable economy that hopefully will last as the nation mourns his loss. His commitment to turn Dubai into a modern city has immortalized his name into the world’s tallest building found in Dubai, the Burj Khalifa pictured above.
Although he has not ruled directly for some time now, the legacy of Sheikh Khalifa has not been lost on the world, and especially now in the UAE. After his passing his half-brother has been elected to the position. This absolutely does not come as a surprise as Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has basically been the de facto president since 2014 as Sheik Khalifa’s stroke more or less pushed him out of public life. Although the nation has been an authoritarian state since its inception, it has slowly but surely been opening up to the world in new ways. In 2016 Pope Francis visited Sheikh Mohamed in the first papal visit to Arabia according the Vatican News. The future of the UAE will remain in his hands until the next election cycle takes place to see how the new president has done for himself and his country.