The men mentioned below are universally known as some of the most powerful individuals in the Arab world.
Ever wondered what Arab leaders looked like as children? This post is for you!
1. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004)
Sheikh Zayed was born in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, in 1918 and was raised as a desert nomad. He was the youngest of the four sons of Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the emir who ruled Abu Dhabi from 1922 to 1926.
The beloved leader, known to his people as Baba Zayed, served as the first president of the UAE from 1971 to 2004 and ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1966 to 2004. He is widely renowned for raising the living standard and modernizing his country as well as making it one of the most prosperous countries in the region.
2. Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970)
Before becoming a president, Nasser was recognized for leading the Free Officers in staging an almost bloodless coup d’état to overthrow the monarchy on July 23, 1952. Furthermore, young Nasser took part in many anti-British street demonstrations. In one of them, he received a blow on the forehead that left a lifelong scar.
After graduating from secondary school, he went to a law college for several months after which he joined the Royal Egyptian Military Academy, graduating as a second lieutenant.
3. Yasser Arafat (1929-2004)
Yasser Arafat was born to a Palestinian family in Cairo, Egypt in 1929. His father hailed from Gaza city and his mother was from Jerusalem. During the Arab–Israeli war in 1948, Arafat left university and, along with other youths, he volunteered to join Arab forces fighting against Israeli troops.
In 1950, Arafat graduated with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Cairo. Arafat was the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) from 1996 until his death in 2004.
He was also a founding member of Fatah and served as the chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) for more than three decades. In 1993 he led the PLO to a peace agreement with the Israeli government after which he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace along with his Israeli counterparts.
4. Saddam Hussein (1937-2006)
Saddam Hussein Al-Tikriti was born to a poor family in the Iraqi town of Al-Awja, near Tikrit. He served as the President of Iraq from July 16, 1979, until April 9, 2003.
Young Saddam joined the Ba'ath Party in 1957 and played a key role in the 1968 coup that brought the Ba'ath party to power in Iraq.
As an Iraqi president, he was notorious for engaging his country in two wars with both Iran and Kuwait, and for brutally suppressing uprisings of religious minorities and Kurds.
5. Sultan Qaboos bin Said
Sultan Qaboos bin Said was born in Salalah, Oman, in 1940. He was the only son of the then-ruler of the country, Sultan Said bin Taimur.
Qaboos, a member of Oman’s Al Bu Said dynasty, was educated in Salalah and Pune, India. At the age of 16, he was sent to England to pursue his higher education.
In 1970 Qaboos became the new ruler of Oman after he overthrew his father and exiled him to London. He paved the way for an ambitious social and economic reform. Sultan Qaboos is also widely respected for ending Oman’s isolation by joining the Arab League and the United Nations.
6. Rafiq Al Hariri (1944-2005)
Rafiq Al Hariri was born in 1944 to a poor family in the southern port of Sidon. In his later years, Hariri, the influential Lebanese businessman and politician, served as the as prime minister of Lebanon twice; from 1992 to 1998; and from 2000 until his resignation in 2004.
His reign was instrumental in rebuilding the country after its civil war. His assassination in 2005 fomented political tensions between Lebanon and Syria.
7. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Sheikh Mohammed was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 1949, being the third of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum's four sons.
Sheikh Mohammed was appointed as Minister of Defense in December 1971. He also served as the Crown Prince of Dubai from 1995 until he became the new Ruler of Dubai as well as the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE in 2006. The popular leader is also known for his poetry and interest in the equestrian sport.
8. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi
The current president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1954. The Egyptian military officer became the country's de facto leader in July 2013, after the country’s armed forces overthrew Mohammed Morsi following mass protests against his rule.
Adly Mansour was appointed as the interim president until Sisi was formally elected as president in May 2014.
9. King Abdullah II of Jordan
10. Bashar Al Assad
Bashar Al Assad was born in 1965 in Damascus, Syria. He was the third child of Ḥafiz Al Assad, a Syrian air force military officer and member of the Ba'ath Party. In 2000, Bashar Al-Assad succeeded his father and became the President of Syria at the age of 34.
Contrary to the early hopes that his presidency would mark an era of major political and economic reform and revival, Bashar largely followed the steps of his father’s authoritarian style of governance.
In 2011, Assad faced a major uprising in Syria that evolved into a brutal civil war that has yet to come to an end.