WHEN we were young, our parents and grandparents used to implore us by using the phrase – “Pardon, O Sheikh”. To our young understanding, addressing someone with the word “Sheikh” meant that a person is polite, righteous, obedient to his elders, and respectful to his siblings.
In this regard, I comfortably relate to the late Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad, who embodied and represented the title ‘Sheikh’ to the fullest.
We went to the same school – Sabah Primary School – which is located on Ahmed Al-Jaber Street (formerly known as Dasman), as he used to live in Dasman Palace. Half of the Sheikhs’ children and those living under their care studied in Sabah Primary School because of its proximity to Dasman Palace, and the other half studied in the Eastern School in Al-Mutaba neighborhood.
After we completed our primary level education, we went to different high schools. We ended up meeting again in the chairs and terraces of the College of Sharia and Law in Adailiya area in the late 60s of the 20th century.
The late sheikh used to tell me stories about artifacts and antiquities that he bought from the various places he visited in the world. He collected them for his museum in his house, which is located by the sea in Fintas area where he lived with his wife Sheikha Hussa Sabah Al-Salem.
I remember once I visited him along with our late friend and classmate Essam Bader Sheikh Yousef bin Essa, at his house. He showed us some of his rare collections of artifacts. One of our unforgettable moments is sitting at the edge of the swimming pool in his house.
It was the first time I saw his son Sheikh Abdullah Nasser Al-Sabah as an infant carried by a Filipina nanny around the swimming pool because he was crying. It was also the first time for me to see a nanny from the Philippines, as the nannies and housemaids usually came from Egypt and India.
After a while, Sheikh Nasser and his wife Sheikha Hussa established a cultural organization called “Dar Al-Athar Al-Islammiyah”. He requested me to be the organization’s legal advisor under the directorship of Umm Abdullah.
Reacting to one of my articles published in Al-Watan newspaper and then Al-Qabas newspaper, Sheikh Nasser called me to his house in Al-Bida’a area, which later became Salwa House – the residence of his late father.
Our conversations revolved around the widespread corruption in Kuwait at the time (which would be embarrassing when compared to the level of corruption we are currently enduring) and his intention to bring about reform if he is given some authority.
He was appointed as an advisor to His Highness the Prime Minister and Crown Prince at the time – the late Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah.
Sheikh Nasser used to invite me to exchange views in his office at Saif Palace. At one point he mentioned the idea of the Silk Road, and of Kuwait becoming a financial and cultural hub.
A committee was formed to facilitate these wonderful ideas and aspirations. The committee consisted of members such as major businesspersons, the late Nasser Al-Kharafi, myself, and several people who should pardon me for not remembering their names.
However, after all the preparations to materialize this dream, the entire plan got torpedoed by fundamentalists. Our rational governments allowed them to frustrate every move towards the materialization of this glamorous aspiration.
He was then appointed as the Minister of the Amiri Diwan during his father’s early reign, then as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. He held corruption and corrupt people by the horn irrespective of their status and influence.
With that unprecedented tough stance against corruption and corrupt individuals – a stance never seen before in his family, Sheikh Nasser’s life ended, and he deservingly earned the title of “Sheikh of Sheikhs”.
May Almighty Allah overwhelm his soul with mercy and grant him the bliss of Paradise. May He grant patience and solace to the bereaved.
By Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli
Former Minister of Oil