The Saudi prince is the founder of Kingdom Holding, which has stakes in real estate, hotels, and equities.Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
- The Middle East, a region that encompasses many countries, including Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, is known for its oil-derived wealth.
- Business Insider rounded up the richest people in the Middle East based on Forbes' world billionaires ranking and the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
- The wealth of many Middle Eastern individuals — particularly heads of state — is unknown, partially because nationals of many countries hide their wealth in tax havens, per Elena Ianchovichina, a World Bank economist.
- The richest person in the Middle East — that we know of — is Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, a Saudi Arabian prince who's worth an estimated $14.3 billion.
The Middle East is a region known for its oil-derived wealth.
Some of the region's richest people are familiar figures: Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who's known for his lavish spending, and his involvement in human rights controversies, may come to mind.
Over the years, the 34-year-old has dropped $500 million on a yacht, $300 million on a French chateau, and $450 million on a Leonardo da Vinci painting. He controls part of the royal family's fortune that's estimated at up to $1.4 trillion and includes Saudi Aramco, the most valuable company in the world.
Despite his apparently vast wealth, the prince is nowhere to be found on Forbes' billionaires ranking — because nobody knows just how rich he is. In 2018, Forbes removed all of the Saudi billionaires that had previously made its 2017 list due to a lack of clarity about the extent of their wealth. There are no Saudis on Forbes' 2020 billionaires list, but Bloomberg includes three Saudis on its Billionaires Index.
World Bank economist Elena Ianchovichina, who was formerly the lead economist for the Middle East and North Africa region, said in 2015 that such rankings don't tell the whole story of wealth in the Middle East.
"In many cases, it appears the amount of wealth accumulated by heads of state in the region is not trivial ..." Ianchovichina said. "When we include the wealth of heads of state we find that wealth concentration increases in a number of countries, although in some of the wealthiest countries like Qatar and even Kuwait, this particular adjustment doesn't make much difference."
She added that nationals of many countries hide their wealth in tax havens and pointed to a 2017 study which found that autocracies rich in resources like oil — like many Middle Eastern countries — have a much larger share of hidden wealth than other countries.
With these limitations in mind, Business Insider rounded up the wealthiest people in the Middle East based on both Forbes' rankings and Bloomberg's Billionaires Index.
We used Cambridge Dictionary's definition for the region, which encompasses 16 countries: Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Yemen, Jordan, Oman, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Egypt.
Here are the wealthiest people in the Middle East — that we know of.