Bin Laden in the New Yorker

Excellent backgrounder on bin Laden from the Jan ’00 New Yorker.

Bin Laden’s father was a Yemeni who had immigrated to the kingdom and had made a fortune by building a construction company into a financial empire. Osama’s mother, a Syrian beauty, was his father’s fourth, and final, official wife (the other three were Saudis), and she was considered by the conservative bin Laden family to be far ahead of her time. (For instance, she refused to wear a burka over her Chanel suits when she travelled abroad.) Osama was her only son. Tutors and nannies, bearers and butlers formed a large part of his life. He and his half brothersÛand, to a lesser extent, his thirty half sistersÛwere playmates of the children of the kingdom’s most prominent families, including various royal princes and princesses. Nonetheless, his childhood has been described as an often lonely one. “It must have been very difficult for him,” one family friend told me. “In a country that is obsessed with parentage, with who your great-grandfather was, Osama was almost a double outsider. His paternal roots are in Yemen, and, within the family, his mother was a double outsider as wellÛshe was neither Saudi nor Yemeni but Syrian.”