Al Nahayyan Family

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Ruling family of Abu Dhabi emirate and the dominant family of the United Arab Emirates.

The history of Abu Dhabi, the largest emirate in the United Arab Emirates, is closely intertwined with that of the ruling Al Nahayyan family. The family originally presided over the tribes around the Liwa Oasis, but under Shakhbut ibn Dhiyab Al Nahayyan it ruled from a fort on Abu Dhabi Island beginning in the 1770s. The family's influence expanded to the al-Ayn Oasis under Shakhbut's grandson, Zayid ibn Khalifah. He also established friendly relations with the al-Maktum family of Dubai, the Qawasim in Sharjah, and the Al Bu Saʿid sultans of Muscat. The family presided over a period of economic growth fueled by the pearl trade, and its political influence became solidified as a result of its relations with British officials, who established a protectorate over the region.

Zayid's sons ruled until 1928, and his grandson, Shakhbut ibn Sultan, succeeded them and was in power when oil was discovered in 1958. Shakhbut's brother, Zayid ibn Sultan Al Nahayyan, became ruler in 1966 and was instrumental in establishing the United Arab Emirates in 1971.

see also abu dhabi.


Kechichian, Joseph A., ed. A Century in Thirty Years: Shaykh Zayed and the United Arab Emirates. Washington, DC: Middle East Policy Council, 2000.

Lienhardt, Peter. The Shaikhdoms of Eastern Arabia. New York; Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave, 2001.

Metz, Helen Chapin, ed. Persian Gulf States: Country Studies, 3d edition. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1994.

M. Morsy Abdullah

Updated by Anthony B. Toth