Influence in Abu Dhabi is not confined to the Bani Fatima alone, as the Mohammed bin Khalifa branch of the Al Nahyan family continues to forge a strong political reputation for itself. A number of high profile individuals hail from this bloc, including cabinet members, managing directors, and ambassadors, which makes them an alternative source of authority and prestige. Today’s insight considers this bloc and looks at where they are most influential.

Impact Points

  • It is a well-established fact that the ‘Bani Fatima’ group of brothers monopolise the capital’s political affairs. Mohammed bin Zayed (“MbZ”) currently leads the pack, with his mother Fatima producing the six most influential power players in contemporary Abu Dhabi. Together they oversee the Defence, Security, and Foreign policy but have amassed considerable commercial influence as well.
  • More recently, Shadow Governance Intel’s MENA desk has also drawn attention to the two ‘Bani Muza’ princes; Saif is an extremely autonomous figure as Minister of Interior and Hamed enjoys considerable prestige at Managing Director at Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (“ADIA”) and Head of the Crown Prince Court.
  • Parallel to this, a more distant branch of the House of Nahyan can be seen to hold political clout, namely the descendants of Mohammed, or ‘Bani Mohammed’. Although less obvious, this bloc enjoys access to political prestige, and could feasibly form a government of their own.

Assessing power in Abu Dhabi is not possible without having a strong grasp of the Al Nahyan family tree. Given that the space for political participation in the United Arab Emirates is so narrow, authority is best understood from an intrafamilial perspective i.e. identifying which members of this very large blood kinship group hold genuine authority.

Differentiating between these power groups will help point investors, defence contractors, philanthropists, and state officials in the direction they need to go for meaningful engagement.