Sheikh Saad Al Abdullah Al Salem Al Sabah, who was born in 1930, belonged to the Al-Salem branch of the Al-Sabah family and was eldest son of Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, who ruled Kuwait from 1950 to 1965. His mother was of East African origin. He attended the Mubarakiya school in Kuwait and Hendon Police College in north London.
Sheikh Saad served as the president of the police and public service department from 1961 to 1962, minister of interior from 1962 to 1978, and minister of defense from 1965 to 1978. On 31 January 1978, he became Crown Prince and held the post until 2006. From February 1978 to July 2003, he also served as Prime Minister of Kuwait, after which that role was given to Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. He briefly held the position of military governor of Kuwait in 1991–92.
First Gulf War
Sheikh Saad was involved in liberating Kuwait from Saddam’s regime. He refused to deal with any of Iraq’s ministers or the head of the PLO, Yasir Arafat.
He played a major role in getting Sheikh Jaber out of Kuwait and into Saudi Arabia when Iraq invaded. While in exile to Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War (1990–91), he gave a famous public speech, mistakenly referring to Alaa Hussein Ali, the Kuwaiti quisling, as Aladdin. This mistake was marked by jokes, prompting one of the newspapers in Kuwait to publish a famous headline on its front page, translating to “Where is Aladdin?”, which referred to the sudden disappearance of Alaa Hussein Ali following Kuwait’s liberation.
Emir of Kuwait
Sheikh Saad had suffered from colon disease, which led to speculation that he would refuse the Emirship. A declaration in November 2005 refuted such speculation, and Sheikh Saad took office as Emir on 15 January 2006 when Sheikh Jaber’s death. However, Sheikh Saad attended Jaber’s funeral in a wheelchair, and his continued health problems caused some to question his ability to rule. Some members of the Kuwaiti parliament expressed concern that Sheikh Saad would not be able to deliver the two-line oath of office, scheduled for 24 January 2006.
On 23 January 2006, Sheikh Saad agreed to abdicate following a discussion within the ruling family, after only nine days on the throne. Although a new Emir had not yet been announced, it was evident that the position would be assumed by Sheikh Saad’s second cousin and the late Sheikh Jaber’s half-brother Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.
On 24 January 2006, the Kuwaiti parliament voted Saad out of office, moments before an official letter of abdication was received. The Kuwait Cabinet nominated the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to take over as Emir as expected.
Married to his cousin, Sheikha Latifa Fahad Al-Sabah, Sheikh Saad had five daughters, Maryam, Hessa, Jamayel, Sheikha, Fadya and one son, Fahad. One of his daughters, Sheika, controlled international marketing at Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC). Until late August 1998, she was the executive assistant managing director for international marketing at the body. Another daughter, Hessa, was elected as vice-president of the Arab-Italian chamber of commerce in October 2012. She is also the head of the Arab women’s business council and representative of Kuwait in the Chamber’s general assembly session.
Sheikh Saad died on 13 May 2008, aged 78, at Shaab Palace in Kuwait City from a heart attack.