Osama bin Laden, the man who masterminded the deadly Sept. 11 attack, a pariah to the Western world and celebrated by many in the Arab world is dead and buried in sea but his ignominious legacy lives on.
The man who redefined the word jihad and unleashed a specter of suicide bombings targeting the Western world was born in affluence. The Guardian reported that bin Laden's billionaire father Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden belonged to the deeply conservative Hadramawt region of south-east Yemen. He left for the Saudi city of Jeddah in 1930 to seek his fortune and struck gold in construction industry. Through his connections with the Saudi ruling family, he landed in highly profitable contracts like the highway from Medina to Jeddah and the reconstruction of Islam's holiest mosque in Mecca.
Osama bin Laden was the 17th of the 52 children. He was the son of his father's 10th wife, an educated young lady from Syria who shunned the veil in favor of designer clothes. Guardian reported that she was known as the 'slave wife' of Mohammed bin Laden.
A French engineer who worked with Mohammed bin Laden in the 60s said that the construction mogul 'changed wives like you or I change cars'. It is reported that he would send his private pilot to pick up exceptionally beautiful bride from the Middle East, some as young as 15 years old.
Osama bin Laden's father died in a plane crash when he was 11 years old. Al Jazeera reported that Osama bin Laden's first marriage took place when he was 17 years old. He married his mother's niece 14-year-old Najwa Ghanem in 1974. He is reported to have 23 children from 5 wives.
He enrolled to study economics and management in the King Abdukaziz University, Jeddah but later graduated as a civil engineer, say reports. He has put his civil engineering degree to maximum use in Afghanistan in the 1980s to build roads, bunkers and encampments for Afghan Jihadi fighters.
Guardian reported that during his days in Sudan, Laden started a tannery, farmed and built a road as a goodwill gesture. During his stay in Sudan his favorite pastime was horse riding.
Brian Fyfield-Shayler, who taught English at the elite Western styled al-Thagh school in Jedda during 1968 and 1969 described bin Laden, then 13, as a shy, retiring and courteous' boy who was unfailingly polite.
A picture from a family outing in Falun, Switzerland in 1971 shows bin Laden in blue flares and green top leaning on a Cadillac, a far cry from his current image of a gaunt and bearded form in salwar-kameez.
It is reported that bin Laden first visited Faklun, Switzerland when he was 14, accompanied by his brother Salem. They drove from Copenhagen in a Rolls Royce flown in from Saudi Arabia.
Christina Akerblad, the owner of the hotel where the Ladens stayed, said she saw the kind of wealth displayed in their room and said: 'at the weekends we saw they used the extra bed in their rooms to lay out their clothes. They had lots of white silk shirts packaged in cellophane. I think they had a new one for every day. I never saw the dirty ones. They also had a big bag for their jeweler. They had emeralds and rubies and diamond rings and tie pins.'
While the exact amount of fortune that bin Laden inherited is not known, it was estimated to be anywhere around $250 million.
The journey from the lap of affluence to the million dollar compounded property in Abbottabad where bin Laden was killed has been a long-one and will forever be remembered for a changed Islamic landscape.