Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates, died Friday at the age of 73 after a long struggle with sickness, initiating a period of mourning and a turnover of power inside the oil-rich Gulf state.
Sheikh Khalifa, who presided over the UAE’s meteoric rise but was seldom seen in public, is expected to be succeeded by his half-brother, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, who is already widely regarded as the country’s de facto ruler.
The world’s tallest structure, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, was renamed when Sheikh Khalifa bailed out the debt-ridden emirate when the global financial crisis erupted in 2009.
The official WAM news agency tweeted,
“The Ministry of Presidential Affairs has lamented the passing of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to the UAE people, Arab and Islamic countries, and the globe.”
The government declared 40 days of mourning, with flags flying at half-mast beginning Friday and public and private sector activity stopped for the first three days.
Funeral prayers were scheduled for later in the day on Friday.