Bin Sultan Bin Al-Nahyan, Shakhbut (United Arab Emirates)

Reference work entry


Sheikh Shakhbut was the ruler of Abu Dhabi within the then British-controlled Trucial Coast from 1928–66. At the end of his long reign he lost the support of other members of the al-Nahyan family and was replaced by his more progressive younger brother, Sheikh Zayed.

Early Life

Born in 1905, the eldest son of Sheikh Sultan, Shakhbut was selected by a family conclave as ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1928. At that time Abu Dhabi’s fragile economy had been undermined by the collapse of the pearl market and the world economic depression. Shortly after the Second World War, the search for oil began in earnest as Sheikh Shakhbut granted exploration concessions. By 1958 the first oilfields were being exploited. The first oil was exported in 1962.

Career Peak

Throughout his reign Sheikh Shakhbut maintained friendly relations with the British. He resisted territorial incursions in a prolonged border dispute with Saudi Arabia over the oil-rich Buraimi oasis. The dispute was settled in 1974. Despite the emirate’s new oil-based wealth, the Sheikh was reluctant to invest the earnings in development and infrastructure projects for the benefit of the state. On 6 Aug. 1966 he was replaced by his brother and went temporarily into exile. He died in Abu Dhabi in Feb. 1989.

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