Adnan Khashoggi — the man behind the legend
Adnan Khashoggi, his mother and father were all very intimately connected to the Yassin family. My mother and her younger sister Samiha, Khashoggi’s mother, originally came from Syria to live in Madinah in the early 1900s. Samiha was one of the most beautiful women we ever knew, and she is still remembered as full of life and overflowing with love.
Under the care and love of Samiha and my mother, the Khashoggi and Yassin families were almost as one, whether in Taif or in Makkah, at school in Alexandria or in the US. We shared our childhoods and adulthoods. Khashoggi was unique, and also a best friend to my brother Anas, who was a year older. They worked together and started a business in Saudi Arabia in the early 1950s. The Yassins and Khashoggis were forever inseparable. The Khashoggis’ home was always open to us, as ours was always open to them.
In my eulogy to this great man, my dear friend, who gave such flavor to our lives through his love of life, I particularly remember his incredible ability to turn hope into reality. He invested in kindness, and in exchange received the kindness of strangers who did not even know who he was.
I recollect a story told by our good friend Ahmed Abdel Wahab, a close confidante of the Faisal family and one of the most noble men in Saudi history. He was praying at the mosque of Madinah, near the grave of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and noticed a man he did not recognize praying and praising someone in a very emotional state.
He asked this man: “Why are you crying?” The man said he was praying for a man who came to his slum and, when seeing how everyone lived in poverty, distributed money and built homes for the poor. He added that he did not know who the man was, but his name was Adnan and his generosity had healed the wounds of the poor.
This is the Adnan Khashoggi we all know, quite different from the construct created by the international media, interested only in covering his businesses, his vast wealth, and the parties and celebrities that turned up wherever he went. Yes it was a lot of fun being with him, but there is a very important side to him that many people ignore.
He never advertised his contributions, particularly to poor people. But now that he has passed, we must bear testament to the charity and kindness he spread to all people, rich or poor.
Hassan bin Youssef Yassin
When he bought his vast estate in Kenya, for example, 2,000 Kenyans remained living on the land. He built schools for them, generously took care of them and became a symbol of kindness, investing not just in land but in people.
In New York, he was known for his incredible residence at Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue, and for a life of glittering luxury. As he walked down the city’s streets one day, a poor man came up to him and asked for help, as many poor do in large cities. Khashoggi put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a $100 bill and gave it to him. The poor man said: “I don’t know you, but nobody gives so charitably to a destitute man unless he is Adnan Khashoggi.”
His human contributions, particularly to poor people, took place between the lines reporters were writing about the lavishness of his success, and they were immense. He never advertised it, but now that he has passed, we must bear testament to the charity and kindness he spread to all people, rich or poor. Everyone was enriched in some way by his kindness in giving. To quote Rudyard Kipling from his poem “If”:
“If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss.”
Kipling would have been very proud to see in real life that there was someone who turned his poetry into reality, living through ups and downs with the greatest dignity and resilience.
Many things can be said about Khashoggi, but I would like to emphasize how devoted he was to his loving family, starting with his daughter Nabila, his sons Mohammed, Khalid, Hussein, Omar, Ali and Kamal, and Samiha. They are witnessing not the end of the life of someone who made a true difference, but the beginning of a great legacy that we must all build upon.
I would like to borrow some of the words used by Earl Spencer in his eulogy to his older sister Diana, for they uniquely express the kind of person Khashoggi was: “We give thanks for the life of a man we are so proud to call our brother, the unique, the complex, the extraordinary and irreplaceable Khashoggi whose beauty, both internal and external, will never be extinguished from our minds.”
Rest in peace. You gave all you had, you made so many lives happy, and you never gave in to defeat. We love you. May Allah guide you from this moment on, taking you from this Earth to a better place in Heaven.
• Hassan bin Youssef Yassin worked closely with Saudi petroleum ministers Abdullah Tariki and Ahmed Zaki Yamani from 1959 to 1967. He headed the Saudi Information Ofﬁce in Washington from 1972 to 1981, and served with the Arab League observer delegation to the UN from 1981 to 1983.