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Osama bin Laden’s Son Paints Landscapes of the Wild West

Osama bin Laden’s son is a painter and a fan of Western films.

Credit: AP Archive / YouTube
The 39-year-old son of Osama bin Laden is a painter and Western film fan. Some of his paintings are of American landscapes, while others are reminiscent of his childhood growing up in Saudi Arabia.

In a rare interview with Vice, Omar bin Laden shared his artwork and disclosed memories of his upbringing. Omar told Vice that he watches Hollywood westerns when he feels depressed, like Unforgiven, that film where Clint Eastwood’s character revisits his violent past.

Besides watching Westerns, Omar paints landscapes. Many are of America, including a moonlit ‘Arizona Desert’, a ship among the ‘West Sea’, vast dunes, and animal bones that lay beneath a lifeless tree – a painting titled ‘American Dream’. 

Omar is the fourth-eldest son of Osama bin laden, and according to Vice, is the ‘heir apparent of al Qaeda’. Similar in looks to his father, Omar has a strong nose and dark eyes. Yet his artistic inclination comes from his mother’s side. Omar told Vice:

“My mum loves painting, and so does one of my sisters. My uncle was also a very good artist. So the need to draw and paint runs in my blood.”

Omar’s paintings convey a simplistic quality with flat brush strokes and bright colours. As well as the Americana paintings, Omar paints scenes from his childhood growing up in Saudi Arabia. One canvas depicts the mountains of Tora Bora, where his father hid in the aftermath of 9/11. The peaks are harshly outlined, and the mountains coloured a garish red.

Omar admitted to Vice that he was never very close with his father. He was taken to al Qaeda training camps near Tora Bora at age 15 and then thrust onto the Afghan Civil War frontline a year later. During this time, he experienced a violent onslaught of bullets that did not distinguish friend from foe. Eventually Omar turned his back on his father.

Abandoning the al Qaeda mission at age 18, Omar had realised the senselessness of war and moved to Syria with his mother. When the two planes crashed into the World Trade Center, Omar was 20 and living in Saudi Arabia again.

Two decades later, Omar, now aged 39, has continually condemned the September 11 attacks. He told The Associated Press in 2008 that he aims to be an ‘ambassador for peace’ and that he is not a terrorist like his father.

To escape his past suffering, which includes post-traumatic stress syndrome, Omar paints. He told Vice:

“I want the world to learn that I have grown; that I am comfortable within myself for the first time in my life; that the past is the past, and one must learn to live with what has gone by.”

“One must forgive if not forget, so that one may be at peace with one’s emotions.”

Omar now lives in Normandy, France, with his wife, Zaina Mohamed Al-Sabah. Omar’s wife suggested he start painting after Europe was plunged into a state-wide lockdown, and they had more time for hobbies. He told Vice:

“I hope painting will open the light in my life again.”

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