When Burj Dubai was renamed to honour UAE's tallest leader Sheikh Khalifa
The United Arab Emirates' long-ailing President and the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, died today at 73 after battling illness for several years. The president of the oil-rich Gulf state, who was rarely seen in public, will likely be replaced by his half-brother, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, already being seen as the UAE's de facto ruler, handling the day-to-day affairs of the state.
Sheikh Khalifa, as the President of the UAE, has presided over major restructurings of both the federal government and the government of Abu Dhabi. The UAE saw accelerated development under him, ensuring a decent living for the people of the country, according to a report in the Khaleej Times.
He steered the development of the oil and gas sector and the downstream industries that have contributed to the country's economic diversification. He undertook extensive tours throughout the UAE to study the needs of the northern Emirates, during which he gave instructions to construct a number of projects related to housing, education and social services.
One project that has truly immortalized this tall leader is the Burj Khalifa. Initially named Burj Dubai, the nomenclature of the world's tallest and perhaps the most famous building was changed to Burj Khalifa after the President bailed out debt-crippled Dubai during its financial crisis over a decade ago.
Sheikh Khalifa came to Dubai's rescue when it was hit by the global financial crisis in 2009, and extended a multi-billion-dollar lifeline to the debt-ridden emirate.
In a show of gratitude, Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, announced the world's tallest tower - the Burj Khalifa - would be named after the president.
40 days of mourning has been announced starting today, with flags flying at half-mast. Work has been suspended in the public and private sectors for the first three days.
Sheikh Khalifa took over as the second president of the UAE in November 2004, succeeding his father as the 16th ruler of Abu Dhabi- the richest of the federation's seven emirates.
Since 2014, when Sheikh Khalifa suffered a stroke and underwent surgery, his role has been largely ceremonial. His public appearances soon became few and far.
The UAE, a former British protectorate founded in 1971, has gone from being a desert outpost to a booming state in its short history, fuelled by its oil wealth and Dubai's meteoric rise as a trading and financial centre.
The bearded Sheikh Khalifa, who had no formal higher education, led the UAE as Dubai emerged as a tourism and trade hub and Abu Dhabi pumped oil as a key OPEC player.
Sheikh Khalifa held several positions and became the Deputy Commander of the UAE Armed Forces in 1976. In November 2004, Sheikh Khalifa succeeded his father Sheikh Zayed as the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the President of the UAE. The country, home to some 10 million people, also joined military campaigns in Libya and Yemen and broke the ranks with much of the Arab world to establish ties with Israel in 2020.