Umar was born in Mecca to the Banu Adi clan, which was responsible for arbitration among the tribes. His father was Khattab ibn Nufayl and his mother was Hantama bint Hisham, from the tribe of Banu Makhzum. He is said to have belonged to a middle-class family. In his youth he used to tend to his father's camels in the plains near Mecca. His merchant father was famed for his intelligence among his tribe. Umar himself said: "My father, Al-Khattab was a ruthless man. He used to make me work hard; if I didn't work he used to beat me and he used to work me to exhaustion.
Despite literacy being uncommon in pre-Islamic Arabia, Umar learned to read and write in his youth. Though not a poet himself, he developed a love for poetry and literature. According to the tradition of Quraish, while still in his teenage years, Umar learned martial arts, horse riding and wrestling. He was tall, physically powerful and a renowned wrestler. He was also a gifted orator who succeeded his father as an arbitrator among the tribes.
Umar became a merchant and made several journeys to Rome and Persia, where he is said to have met various scholars and analyzed Roman and Persian societies. As a merchant he was unsuccessful. Like others around him, Umar was fond of drinking in his pre-Islamic days.
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