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Sabah al-Ahmad: The Sheikh of Simplicity and Spontaneity

Sabah al-Ahmad: The Sheikh of Simplicity and Spontaneity

Tuesday, 29 September, 2020 - 15:00
Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah. (AFP)

Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah will be remembered by the Kuwait people for a long time for being one of the most spontaneous and humble emirs. These traits allowed him to leave a life away from extravagance despite his prestigious political and diplomatic career.

Spontaneity was part of his character and it was this trait that endeared him to the people. They saw in his spontaneity and simplicity a fraternal figure who is close to the people and who sees them as equals away from the barriers of rule, wealth and power.

They witnessed the spontaneity during his unofficial visits that were marked by their lack of official protocol, whether in attending gatherings, wakes or banquet halls. One image that has been imprinted in Kuwaiti memory is his sudden appearance at a wake to offer his condolences over the death of a civilian. They will long remember his spontaneity in visiting cafes and other popular locations without fanfare.

Often, the Emir would break protocol during an official event to approach a figure for a chat or take a commemorative photo. His statements that always reflected his good intentions always wished for understanding to prevail among parties. His spontaneity gave the parties optimism.

His love of simplicity steered him away from extravagance and excess. He was one of the world’s richest people, but chose to vacation in Somalia away from luxurious extravagant international resorts. During one televised interview, he explained that he chose Somalia “because it was the only country that lacked complexities. You could go there dressed in whatever way you want, even if you were from the Gulf, and no one would care.”

When security deteriorated in Somalia, he turned to Oman where he spent his annual holidays at a small village near Salalah where he would spend his time enjoying his favorite hobby, fishing.

Sheikh Sabah used to say that his philosophy in life was based on living away from excess and by maintaining good health.

“I always follow this mantra and advise any person to resist being lured by money. None of this will bring them anything. The only thing that counts are their good intentions and to be simple with themselves and others,” he once said.

Sheikh Sabah was born in al-Jahra northwest of the Kuwaiti capital on June 16, 1929. He spent his childhood in al-Jahra, which at the time was an agricultural village. His mother was Munira Othman Hamad Al-Ayyar.

When he turned four, he moved to live in the Al-Seif palace in Kuwait City. He was raised there with his brother Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad.

He married Sheikha Fatuwah bint Salman, his father’s cousin, in the 1940s. His wife passed away shortly before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. He never remarried. They had one daughter, Salwa, who passed away in 2002 from breast cancer, and son Ahmed, who died when he was young in 1969. He is survived by two sons, Sheikh Nasser and Hamad.

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