The past year was unkind to billionaires all over the world, including the Middle East, where Arab billionaires saw their net worth drop by 23.8% from a year ago. Still, FORBES MIDDLE EAST added five new billionaires, including Hussain Sajwani from the U.A.E., Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani of Qatar and Oman’s Suhail Bahwan. Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia remains the wealthiest Arab in the world, even though his net worth fell by more than 20% from a year ago.At 7, Lebanon has the most billionaires, making it also one the countries with the highest number of billionaires per capita in the world. Saudi billionaires are the richest with a combined net worth of $34.6 billion. The second richest are from the U.A.E. with a combined net worth of $19.7 billion.Families remain pillars of Arab economies, providing jobs and stability. Saudi Arabia again tops the rich list, with 12 of the 15 richest families. Nine out of the 15 families made a fortune owning licensing rights to foreign brands, mostly American.Forbes Middle East traces the trajectory of the Alajlan family, from small shop owners, selling menswear in a Riyadh souk, to exclusive licensees of Versace, Ferrari, Kenzo and other luxury brands for shemaghs, the traditional Arab headdress.Richest Arab billionairePrince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud (Saudi Arabia)– No. 1, net worth $17.3 billionThe Prince owns stakes in private and public companies in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East through Kingdom Holding Co.Youngest Arab billionaireFahd Hariri (Lebanon) – No. 32, net worth $1.2 billionFahd Hariri is the youngest son of slain Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. While he currently lives in Paris, he develops residential buildings in Beirut.New Arab billionaires
- Suhail Bahwan (Oman)– Ranked #7, net worth $3.4 billion
Bahwan started out as a small trader before diversifying into several industries.
Olayan (Saudi Arabia) – Ranked #1, net worth $8 billion
The 69-year-old Olayan Group remains one of the largest family-owned holdings in the Middle East. It has partnerships with Kimberly Clark, Coca-Cola and General Foods, among other companies, and is a major investor in stock markets.
Alshaya (Kuwait) – Ranked #2, net worth $5.billion
Founded in 1890, M.H. Alshaya Co. operates more than 2,800 stores across the Middle East, Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic, including Starbucks, H&M and The Body Shop.
Al-Kharafi (Kuwait) – Ranked #2, net worth $5.billion
Founded by the late Mohammed Abdulmohsin Al-Kharafi, the Kharafi Group is one of the Middle East’s biggest conglomerates and a major investor in the Kuwaiti stock market.
Abudawood (Saudi Arabia) – Ranked #4, net worth $4 billion
The late Ismail Ali Abudawood founded a small wholesale business in 1935 in Jeddah. Two decades later, the Abudawood Group became the exclusive agent for Procter & Gamble.
Alajlan (Saudi Arabia) – Ranked #5, net worth $2.6 billion
Ajlan Alajlan opened a small shop in Riyadh in 1978. He and his brothers now own five garment factories in China, and sell clothing in more than 6,000 stores throughout the Gulf.
Al Jaber (U.A.E.) – Ranked #6, net worth $2.5 billion
Founded in 1970, to date the Al Jaber Group has laid 7,000 kilometers of roads in the Emirates, and is the largest private sector employer in the country with more than 60,000 workers.
Khalid Bugshan & Family (Saudi Arabia) – Ranked #7, net worth $2 billion
Holding Abdullah Said Bugshan Co., founded in 1923, was split between Khalid and his two cousins, Ahmed and Abdullah in 1998. Khalid Bugshan is CEO of Saudi Bugshan Group.
Alhokair (Saudi Arabia) – Ranked #8, net worth $1.8 billion
Fawaz Alhokair Group is Saudi Arabia’s most valuable retail company with 11 shopping centers across the country, and rights to global brands including Zara, Gap, Nine West and Topshop.
Ahmed Salem Bugshan & Family (Saudi Arabia) – Ranked #8, net worth $1.8 billion
Ahmed Salem Bugshan is chairman of one of three offshoots of Abdullah Said Bugshan Co. The group owns half of the Pepsi bottling and distribution operation in Saudi Arabia.
Sharbatly (Saudi Arabia) – Ranked #10, net worth $1.7 billion
Founded in the 1930s, the Al Nahla Group is a conglomerate with interests in automobiles, food and real estate. It owns 40 million square meters of land in Saudi Arabia.
Alrashed (Saudi Arabia) – Ranked #11, net worth $1.6 billion
Rashed AlRashed founded AlRashed Group in 1950, selling building materials during Saudi Arabia’s construction boom. He later diversified into real estate, automotive parts and food.
Al-Dabbagh (Saudi Arabia) – Ranked #12, net worth $1.5 billion
Abdullah Al-Dabbagh founded the Al Dabbagh Group in 1962. Amr Al-Dabbagh, who was chairman of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, now heads the family holding.
Jameel (Saudi Arabia) – Ranked #12, net worth $1.5 billion
In 1955, Abdul Latif Jameel won exclusive rights to distribute Toyota in Saudi Arabia. He passed away in 1993, and son Mohammed became chairman and president of Abdul Latif Jameel Co.
Al-Agil (Saudi Arabia) – Ranked #14, net worth $1.3 billion
Brothers Mohammed, Abdulkarim, Abdulsalam, Abdullah and Nasser opened Jarir Bookstore after graduating. Jarir went public in 2003, now selling smartphones, office supplies and laptops.
Al Subeaei (Saudi Arabia) – Ranked #15, net worth $1 billion
Mohammed and his brother Abdullah founded the Alsubeaei Company in 1933. In 2010, the second generation divided the assets and Mohammed’s family formed MASIC.
Net worths are estimates as of February 12, 2016 for individual billionaires (unless otherwise stated) and March 8, 2016 for the families, where several relatives own shares in the same holding, but division of ownership is not known. The cut-off is $1 billion. Although he’s a native of India, FORBES ranks P.N.C. Menon as an Omani national, as he is a citizen of that country.