The tiny Gulf emirate of Dubai has announced the sudden death of its Emir, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum. He also served as prime minister and vice president of the United Arab Emirates, UAE.
Dubai has declared 40 days of mourning following the death of the enormously popular 62-year-old emir.
Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum died suddenly on a private visit to Australia. His body was being flown home so his funeral could be held by early Thursday.
Dubai television suspended its regular programming and broadcast a photograph of the late Emir as a Muslim cleric read verses from the Koran.
The TV announcer read a government statement announcing the Sheikh's death.
He said, "His deeds in service of his country and his people are too numerous to be counted. His life was full of giving and devotion. His role in building his nation and enhancing the unity of the Emirates will remain engraved in the memory of the nation and its citizens."
In addition to the 40-day mourning period, government offices will be shut down for a week, and festivities scheduled to open a major annual shopping festival have been canceled.
Dubai is one of the seven emirates making up the United Arab Emirates federation.
Sheik Maktoum had ruled Dubai since the death of his father in 1990. He is considered the driving force behind the tiny emirate's development boom and transformation into one of the economic hubs of the Gulf region.
But he also preferred to maintain a low profile, leaving much of the day-to-day management of Dubai to his younger brothers.
One of those brothers, the crown prince, automatically succeeded him as ruler of Dubai. The new emir is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, a prominent businessman and horse racing enthusiast who serves as defense minister of the United Arab Emirates.
The president of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, will appoint Sheikh Maktoum's replacement as prime minister and vice president of the federation. The vice presidency is traditionally held by the ruler of Dubai.