It’s hard to believe that the UAE was once nothing but rolling sand dunes. 47 years onward after its establishment, the UAE has become a shining country filled with soaring skyscrapers and architectural marvels. And the country owes its thanks to the remarkable ruling families of the UAE! The royal families of the UAE that serve as the country’s rulers have built this brilliant place from the ground up, and are admired for their grace and dignity, hard work and charity. They also rank amongst the world’s richest royal families – and some even have a massive fan following on Instagram! That’s why, today, Bayut presents a quick guide to the royal families of the UAE. Find out who rules which Emirate, their humble beginnings and their most famous achievements!
Who Rules The United Arab Emirates?
The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, which are ruled by six royal families. In 1971, the UAE was formed by bringing together six emirates with Ras Al Khaimah joining the union in 1972.
The president and the head of the state are selected from amongst the rulers of each emirate. The seven Emirs form the Federal Supreme Council that is the highest legislative and executive authority in the UAE. Each of the royal families of the UAE emerged from a different origin but the royal families of Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the direct descendants of the same tribe while Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah are also ruled by the branches of the same family. Dive in to find out more about these royal families and their origins!
- Ruling Family: Al Nahyan
- Descendants of: Bani Yas Tribe (House of Al Falahi)
- Current Ruler: His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
- Crown Prince: His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan
The capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is ruled by the proud and noble Al Nahyan Family. This royal family descends from a branch of the Bani Yas tribe, known as House of Al Falahi. The Bani Yas tribe was a powerful familial tribe located in ancient Arabia. They hailed from Liwa Oasis and moved to the city in 1793, where they settled in the Qasr Al Hosn, one of the oldest buildings in the UAE. It is now also a museum which is open for visitors. HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the current president of the UAE since 2004. The family has the privilege of providing the country with its current and former president as well. The Al Nahyan family has an estimated worth of a whopping $150 billion, making them the fourth richest royal family in the world.
The President of the UAE:
It is safe to say that the current President of the UAE is hands down the most influential royal of Abu Dhabi. HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has been named the 53rd most powerful man in the world by Forbes. His family is counted as one of the richest royal families in the world but his own personal net worth is a whopping $15 billion. HH Sheikh Khalifa also has the world’s tallest building named after him.
The Crown Prince:
The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi isn’t far behind in popularity, as well. He is the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and also the Chairman of the Executive Council of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. He is the brains behind the UAE’s activist foreign policy. Apart from his intellectual success, the Prince is also famous for holding one of the world’s most expensive wedding costing around $100 million. The Prince also plays an active role in preserving the environment especially rendering efforts for the protection of precious flora and fauna of the country. His Highness is known for his passion for animals as well as coming up with alternative energy projects for protecting the environment.
- Family Name: Al Maktoum
- Descendants: Bani Yas (House of Al Falasi)
- Current Ruler: His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum
- Crown Prince: His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Did you know that the Abu Dhabi and Dubai royal families are related? Just like the Abu Dhabi royals, Dubai’s ruling family are also descendants of the Bani Yas tribe, only from another branch. The Bani Yas tribe branched out in 1833, with 800 members of the Al Maktoum family settling in what is now known as the Dubai Creek. They are credited for putting Dubai on the map, initially as a coastal city popular for fishing and sea trade.
The current ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed, took over after his brother’s death in 2006. He’s also responsible for Dubai’s success on a global level, for which he holds a special place in the hearts of his people. If you aren’t following HH Sheikh Mohammad on social media, you’re definitely missing out! Well-known for being active on his social media accounts, HH Sheikh Mohammed has a following of 3.8M on Instagram, where he regularly shares Dubai’s achievements and occasionally, a glimpse of his beautiful family.
HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum and HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein:
The perfect royal couple, HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum and HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein are often in the public spotlight. Both are also trailblazers in their own fields, as HH Sheikh Mohammad is a revered leader and HRH Princess Haya has achieved global recognition as a UN Peace Ambassador and a social activist.
Among the HH Sheikh Mohammed’s children, the Crown Prince of Dubai definitely steals the spotlight. The Crown Prince of Dubai, HH Sheikh Hamdan is also fondly known as Fazza amongst the UAE’s residents, which is the handle he uses for his Instagram account. The 36-year-old Crown Prince is best known for his love of extreme sports, animals and travelling, along with his charitable efforts. Also a poet, HH Sheikh Hamdan is truly someone to admire! HH Sheikh Hamdan’s social profiles don’t just revolve around his adventures and interests, he also works to promote Dubai and the UAE!
- Family Name: Al Qasimi
- Descendants: Claimed to be the descendants of Prophet Mohammad (SAW)
- Current Ruler of Sharjah: His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi
- Crown Prince of Sharjah: His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Bin Sultan al-Qasimi
The Al Qasimi dynasty came into power in the 18th century when they emerged from Ras Al Khaimah and Qishm (southern shore of the Arabian Gulf) as a maritime power. Sharjah used to be one of the wealthiest towns in the region and was also an important port on the lower Arabian Gulf. It’s why the town was subjected to many attacks for gaining control of the spice trade in the east coast. The arrival of British in the region changed the game however there were falling outs between the ruling family and the British. Finally, in 1820, peace treaties were signed and Sharjah has never looked back since then. The city now holds a staggering position in the region because of its strong trade, oil and tourism industry.
The Emir of Sharjah: H.H Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi
His Highness grew up having a deeply-rooted love for his nation. He also developed a strong passion for seeking knowledge and education. His love for learning led him to teach English Language and Mathematics at Sharjah Industrial School for two years. Apart from just being a forefront leader, His Highness is also an acclaimed historian and a published writer. His most acclaimed book is the “Myth of Arab Piracy in the Gulf” while he has published several more titles as well. The Emir of Sharjah has left no stone unturned in playing a significant role in promoting the emirate’s culture and economy.
Ras Al Khaimah
- Family Name: Al Qasimi
- Descendants: Claimed to be the descendants of Prophet Mohammad (SAW)
- Current Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah: His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi
- Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah: His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi
The origins of Ras Al Khaimah’s royal family mirrors that of Sharjah since both emirates are ruled by the same family! The Emir of Ras Al Khaimah, HH Sheikh Saud, received his Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of Michigan. He was appointed as the ruler of the emirate in 2010 after the death of his father. His son, HH Sheikh Mohammad is the Crown Prince and the Deputy Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah.
- Family Name: Al Nuaimi
- Descendants: Al Bu Kharaiban Section
- Current Ruler: His Highness Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi
- Crown Prince: His Highness Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi
Ajman may be the UAE’s smallest emirate, but it bears a great cultural and historical importance. The royal family of Al Nuaimi descends from an Arab tribe whose connections extend to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The family came into power under HH Sheikh Rashid Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, who made Ajman his seat of power. His rule in Ajman was endorsed by Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah.
Emir of Ajman:
Sheikh Humaid is the tenth ruler of Ajman and also the member of the UAE Supreme Council of the Union. The Sheikh laid the foundation of progress for this small emirate which evolved from a tiny fishing town into a modern-day metropolis. He received his initial education in Dubai while he went on to Cairo for further studies. Under his able leadership, Ajman has progressed significantly especially in sectors like economy and education.
His keen eye on Ajman’s educational system further led him to establish the renowned Ajman University of Science and Technology. The university represents one of the region’s most important educational achievements. Apart from strengthening national resources, the Emir is an ample supporter of women’s rights and even went on to establish Umm Al Moumineen Women’s Association, the first supportive centre for women’s movement in the region.
- Family Name: Al Sharqi
- Descendants: Sharqiyin tribe
- Current Ruler: His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammad Al Sharqi
- Crown Prince: His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Hamad bin Mohammad Al Sharqi
Fujairah has a rich Islamic history deeply embedded in its roots. Home to one of the oldest mosques in the UAE, this emirate enjoys a very strategic location on the map. The land’s rich culture and history as far as five centuries credited by the remains of ancient towers, castles, forts and mosques. The land is ruled by the Al Sharqi family who originated from a dominant tribe along the East Coast. While the Al Sharqi family is seen less in the public spotlight, their achievements are still to be admired. Since the rule of HH Sheikh Hammad, Fujairah has flourished into a popular tourist destination! It’s also seen great progress in the field of health and education.
Ruler of Fujairah:
HH Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammad Al Sharqi is known for expertly handling the responsibility of representing the UAE at diplomatic and international events. Like many royals of the UAE, HH Sheikh Hamad completed a portion of his education abroad, at a military academy in the UK. The Ruler of Fujairah is known for his eloquent speaking power and his fluency in both English and Arabic. This has led to the Fujairah’s ruler representing the President of the UAE on many dignified international conferences and seminars.
Umm Al Quwain
- Family Name: Al Mualla
- Descendants: Al Ali Tribe
- Current Ruler: His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mu’alla
- Crown Prince: His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saud bin Rashid Al Mu’alla
The founding family was the head of the Al Ali Tribe with 6,750 people up till the 19th century. The tribe originated from Nejd and the first head was HH Sheikh Rashid bin Majid Al Mualla. The tribe later scattered to Umm Al Quwain, parts of Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Falaj Al Mualla. HH Sheikh Rashid was also responsible for building the famous Umm Al Quwain Fort.
The Emir of Umm Al Quwain:
The current Emir received his degree from Cairo University in Economics. He worked closely with his father and succeeded him as the new Emir in 2009. Previously, HH Sheikh Saud served as the foreign minister for the UAE in 1973 and also as the Commander of the Umm Al Quwain Emiri Guard in 1977. He had the rank of colonel while in 1979 he was the head of Umm Al Quwain Royal Court. He proved his abilities by assisting his father in the matters of the emirates including overseeing many investment projects and establishing different local enterprises and government entities. It may come as a surprise that the Emir is not only an enthusiastic sea-angler but also an avid fan of the traditional sport of camel racing.
The history of every land is a reminder of its progress and struggle to reach where it is now. The UAE has a vast and diversified historical background which represents the magnificent union of different ruling families who have taken the country to new heights. If you were intrigued and fascinated by the rich history of the UAE’s royal families then you will surely be interested in discovering the best historical places to visit in Dubai while historical sites in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain will surely teleport you back in time.
Cover Image Credits: This image was taken from the Official UAE Cabinet Website