Chapter One

Chapter One: Early Life

Born on 27 April 1948 in al-Sha’ab Palace in Kuwait, Nasser was the eldest son of Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah who later became, in 2006, the 15th Amir of Kuwait. 

Nasser with his father, Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Sabah
Nasser with his father, Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Sabah

When he was young, Nasser was inspired by his parents on paths that would continue throughout his life. His mother, Sheikha Futouh Salman Al-Sabah, was an elegant woman with a love of and appreciation for beauty.

Sheikh Nasser Mother
A young Sheikh Nasser with his mother
Nasser’s mother Futouh, with his sister Salwa and brother Ahmad
Nasser’s mother Futouh, with his sister Salwa and brother Ahmad

From her he learned to look at things from an aesthetic perspective.  From his father, the late Amir Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah (Amir from 2006 to 2020), he learned the importance of having a purpose and attaining desired goals.

And from being the eldest child with a sister Salwa and two brothers, Hamad and Ahmad (who died as a child), he learned to be responsible and caring. 

An equestrian at a young age; Nasser with his sister Salwa and brother Ahmad
Sheikh Nasser Brothers
Nasser with his brother Hamad

Nasser’s memories of life in Sha’ab Palace with Amir Abdallah Salem

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Nasser enjoyed an eclectic education. In the mid-1960s his father sent him to an Anglican boarding school in Jerusalem, St George’s School. Notable students from the school include Dimitri Baramki, Ziad Rafiq Beydoun, Emil Ghuri, Ismail Khalidi, Manoug Manougian, Mufid Nashashibi, Sari Nusseibeh, Stav Prodromou, Edward Said, and Ibrahim Touqan.

It’s also here, in the old city of Jerusalem, that he discovered his affinity, and ultimately his passion, for art of the Islamic world.

Sheikh Nasser Education
Per Encyclopedia Palestinnica, the picture on the left shows Sheikh Nasser and his classmate Salem Darwish al-Miqdadi while students at St George’s School. The picture on the right is a picture of Nasser, with an inscription on the back (centre image) written to another friend, Mustafa Khalil al-Ansari.
Sheikha Nasser School Photo
The class of students sent to England for a summer programme in 1963.

He later joined Kuwait University and studied law. The academics were challenging and Nasser began developing the skills required to succeed. After two years he left college to join the family’s business, where he jumped, head first, into the deep end.

A stop at Konya on one of their many visits to historic sites.
Nasser and Hussa taking a detailed look at the southern façade of the Mashatta Palace on display in the Islamic art museum in Berlin.

It was about this time, in June 1969 precisely, that a third influence became a fixed part of his life: Hussa Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah. Of course, marriage is always life-changing and that certainly was true for Nasser. More than his friends and colleagues, she challenged him. She asked questions, many questions, about art from the Islamic world, business ideas and plans, and events of the day.

She also offered her own take on current affairs, history and cultural issues.  The give and take of their discussions motivated each to improve and expand their thinking and learning.

Travelling to historic sites, visiting museums and art galleries around the world and reading, especially about art and history, was already a compulsion. With Hussa, there was a new application for what he learned – sharing it with her.

Nasser at a Kuwait University conference on the life of the late Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Salem al-Sabah at Kuwait University. 18 October 2017
Nasser at a Kuwait University conference on the life of the late Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Salem al-Sabah at Kuwait University. 18 October 2017

As his knowledge and experience grew, so did his family. With three daughters (Dana, Bibi, Futouh) (with the girls) and three sons (Abdallah, Sabah, Fahad), Nasser found himself filling a new role: paterfamilias, a role he clearly enjoyed. 

He was a loving father who took pleasure in spending quality time with his children and a coaching them to become what they are, as people and professionals.

All the kids
With the kids
All the girls
Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al Sabah Family
Sheikh Nasser with his family

Chapter One: Early Life Photo Archive