DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates’ long-ailing ruler, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, died Friday, the government announced in a brief statement. He was 73.
Khalifa, the president of the UAE, oversaw much of the country’s blistering economic growth and his name was immortalized on the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, after bailing out debt-crippled Dubai during its financial crisis over a decade ago.
The UAE’s Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced a 40-day period of mourning and a three-day suspension of work across the government and private sector, including flags to be flown at half-staff. An outpouring of messages of condolences poured in from around the region and world, foremost the leaders of Arab countries supported by Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Khalifa had long ceased having involvement in the day-to-day affairs of ruling the country after suffering a stroke and undergoing emergency surgery in 2014, a decade after becoming president.
His half-brother, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, was seen as the country’s powerful de-factor ruler and the decision-maker of major foreign policy decisions, such as joining a Saudi-led war in Yemen and spearheading an embargo on neighboring Qatar in recent years.