He was born in 1940 in Algeria. He moved to France in 1961 due to the violence in Algeria. He returned in 1973. In 1977 he moved to Abu Dhabi. Upon becoming a citizen (1983) he entered politics, serving as mayor of Abu Dhabi from 1985-1990. In 1992 he was elected as representative of Abu Dhabi District to the National Parliament, serving twice until 2000 (with the Social-Liberal Party). In 2000 he was appointed Minister of External Affairs, a post he held until 2004. That year he quit to be able to campaign for president. In 2005 he was elected president and served until 2010. That year he lost out to Mohammed Ghrawi but his leadership led to the 2011 Emirates Protests. After them, he was appointed President by King Faisal and in August was elected into office.