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02 November, 2004

An exemplary life

The sad but expected news arrives: Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan President of the UAE and one of the most outstanding leaders in the history of the world, has died.

It is very difficult for someone born in an already advanced, Western culture to fully appreciate the achievements of Sheikh Zayed. This was a man who grew up in a bedouin desert tribe, had very little formal education, and spent the first fifty years of his life in a quiet country of farmers, fishers and camel traders.

At a time when most people start to contemplate retirement, the second phase of Sheikh Zayed's life began. Oil was discovered, the United Arab Emirates was formed, and the country was suddenly transformed from a Gulf backwater into a significant regional and even world power.

Much of Sheikh Zayed's influence in the Middle East has been carried out behind the scenes, with the careful diplomacy required in such a sensitive and volatile region. It is a badly-kept secret that he funded the first Gulf war from his personal fortune, when Kuwait was unable to pay.

A new era begins tomorrow, with thirty days of public mourning.



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