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A man who owns a lot of oil, horses and big buildings. And a lot of debt.

They're from Arabia and they're accumulators.

The Arab oil sheikh is a rich Arab man with big investments in oil. He is typically seen in Arab dress, complete with keffiyeh, sometimes wearing dark aviator sunglasses when traveling abroad, or in a fine western suit and the keffiyeh and sunglasses. He will sometimes attempt to purchase the services of local prostitutes.

Often referred as the source of various pictures of excess luxury in Snopes.com's photography section, claiming they have, for example, cars made of solid silver, or coated in diamonds.

This character type is often brought in to teach a character An Aesop about putting his friends before monetary gain. This often involves the Sheikh innocently offering said character a large reward for a task that involves stepping on the character's friends in order to succeed.

A common outcome is that the character fulfills the requirement while managing to help his friends as well, but he then turns down the reward because he's learned that money isn't the only thing in the world.

In the present climate, they might be involved in financing terrorism. Sometimes The Con will involve someone using this trope and posing as a rich Arab to help explain a source of abundant but eccentric money for the mark.

They also turn up a lot in Romance Novels along with older depictions of the Arab Sheikh where they are dark, brooding, passionate and ruling everything he surveys in his desert kingdom with the same tenacity as he takes the woman. Sheikh romance actually gave us the term "bodice ripper" due to the common kidnap-rape-love plots where the Arab can get away with being beyond normal constraints in how he treats the heroine due to his exoticness. He'll still have the education of Lord Nelson though and the manners of a prince which is kind of the point: these books want someone who lives in the closest thing to a modern lavish royal court and acts like the Black Death hasn't gone out of fashion. He will also turn up as a villain trying to buy or kidnap the female lead for his harem.

An indispensable addition to any (generally evil) Cosmopolitan Council. In more comedic works, he is almost inevitably a Funny Foreigner.

Examples of Arab Oil Sheikh include:

Anime And Manga

Comic Books

  • In a bizarre comic book example, a sheik apparently named Fasaud was transformed into an electromagnetic energy being and promptly began trying to take over the world. The Fantastic Four stopped him.
  • In Land of Black Gold, Sheik Bab El Ehr is trying to depose Emir Ben Kalish Ezab so that Skoil Petroleum can take over Arabex's oil concessions.
  • Fat Freddy of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers dresses up as one to get his friends out of jail. He doesn't look Middle Eastern at all, nor does he speak any Arabic, but he lets money do the talking.


  • The Sheik is a film from 1921 with Rudolf Valentino in the title role.
  • The Sheik from The Cannonball Run movies.
  • In the Norwegian cult classic puppet-movie, Pinchcliffe Grand Prix, visiting Oil Sheikh Ben Redic Phyfasan (a name which in the original Norwegian would rougly translate akin to something like "Sheik Ben Radish Gawd Damn Eet") ends up sponsoring both the construction of the protagonist's Cool Car, El Tempo Gigante, and the titular Grand Prix. What, exactly, an Arab Oil Sheikh was doing in a tiny Norwegian village on the far edge of nowhere, is never really explored.
    • He even speaks Broken Norwegian, so maybe he takes a special interest in Norway.
    • The exact same plot (Arab oil sheik sponsoring race) shows up in the Swedish movie G?Kanal. Except it's a boat race. And he ends up not paying because his brother launches a coup as he is gone. In the end the Norwegian navy saves the day.
  • The end of Secondhand Lions.
    • Remember, that good-looking young rich fellow was the sheik's grandson. The sheik himself is shown in flashbacks of Hub and Garth's adventures and fits this trope to a T.
    • In the alternate ending, the sheik of the flashbacks makes an appearance himself (obviously VERY old) at Hub and Garth's joint funeral in the cornfield.
  • The US government attempts to trade Goldie Hawn to one in exchange for being allowed to construct a military base in his nation in Protocol.
  • Condorman disguised himself as one.
  • The Blues Brothers don't dress up, but it is implied.
  • One of these fellows ultimately purchased Bryan Mills' daughter in Taken. He doesn't have much time for buyer's remorse to set in after Bryan comes looking to kick ass.
  • Ben Kingsley plays a reclusive Arab sheik who abducts a New York woman in Harem.
  • One of the subplots of Syriana focuses on the conflict between two sons who are the scions of a Gulf ruling family: a well-meaning Internal Reformist and his playboy younger brother.


  • Charles Stross's Merchant Princes series continually compares the titular family of worldwalkers to Arab oil sheiks: they're members of a medieval society who've used a natural resource (in their case, the ability to travel between universes) to become wealthy in the modern world.
  • Iconic as the stereotypical love interest in pulp romantic fiction. Even today, Mills And Boon (Harlequin in the US) pump out at least one Sheik romance a month.
    • Sheikh omnibuses are easily found.

Live Action TV

  • Hotel Babylon, where a group are seen as enjoying the services of one of the prostitutes that the hotel will get for clients who ask.
  • An Arab billionaire tried to buy British Airways in one episode of Absolute Power, although he was dressed in more of the way of a traditional businessman. He needed a PR team because he was related to Bin Laden.
  • One appeared on Alice, offering to marry the sassiest waitress—she was impressed by the over-sized real diamond ring, but was unwilling to be his fourth wife.
  • A subversion or aversion- in one episode of Minder, the character to be guarded is a wealthy Arab politician who is a rather noble good guy who doesn't show any of the stereotypical love of excess associated with the character. Amusingly, one character in the episode is hired as a temporary butler and believes the stereotype and thus thinks that hiring a white prostitute for his boss is the first thing he should do.
  • In an episode of America's Next Top Model, a contestant admitted that before the show she had once gone to what she thought was a modelling casting, but turned out to be a dinner with rich middle eastern men trying to solicit young girls to take home as wives.
  • On Thirty Rock, Floyd is up for a big promotion at General Electric. He and Liz Lemon are looking at what must be a multi-million dollar apartment with a river view. Before Floyd works up the courage to commit to it, an Arab Oil Sheikh enters and agrees to buy it on the spot so that his son can store motorcycles in it.
  • The Muppet Show. One episode has a subplot of Arabs drilling for oil in the guest star dressing room.
  • In the Omid Djalili show a recurring sketch has a parody of this trope, with a sheikh who keeps striking oil everywhere. Including in a golf course sand bunker and somehow in the middle of a park bench
  • One comes to John Beresford Tipton's rescue in SCTV's parody of The Millionaire.
  • A stock character in several episodes of Mission Impossible.
  • The Small Wonder episode "Vicki Goodwrench" features one, played by an Israeli actor.
  • In the season six opener of Hustle the grifters con an oil sheikh out of £250,000 by having Emma pretend to be KylieMinogue.
    • Another British show, The Real Hustle, used this to get US$80,000 of jewellery from a Las Vegas jeweller. They gave it back.
    • They used it to steal two cars as well.
  • Leverage had Hardison do something closely akin to this in "The First David Job".
  • In the second episode of Round the Twist, Mr Gribble tries to sell Nell's land (which is a day or two away from foreclosure) to a group of Arab sheiks, with the promise of the Twists' lighthouse to follow. When Mr Gribble bad-mouths the sculptures Tony makes, saying "You wouldn't give it to your mother-in-law", one of the sheiks corrects him "mothers-in-law". Later, the sheik sees the sculptures and buys a statue on impulse, seemingly producing $500 from nowhere (when Mr Gribble expresses disbelief, the sheik smiles and says "Give me a hand, Mr Grobble", patting him on the back).
  • The music video for The Clash's "Rock the Casbah" (which got a lot of play on MTV in the early 1980s) has some fun with this trope as a man who appears to be an Arab Oil Shiekh ends up hanging around with a man who looks like an Orthodox Jew, and the video ends with the two attending a concert The Clash were putting on.
  • One attempts to buy Doreau in an episode of Sledge Hammer.
  • In one episode of Are You Being Served, an Arab Oil Sheikh visits the store and attempts to buy a pair of trousers in exchange for a goat...When the goat is refused by the sales assistants, the sheik then tries to trade a beautiful woman.
  • In Highway to Heaven, Mark Gordon (played by Victor French), temporarily pretends to be one of these to fool corrupt businessmen to help Johnathan Smith and Mark Gordon's equally corrupt, but good-natured friends.
  • In an episode of The Nanny, the titular character visits a Sheikh at his palace in his home country. He of course falls in love with her, and tries to convince her to stay as his wife. The decision Fran has to make isn't exactly made easier by the fact that the Sheikh looks a lot like Mr. Sheffield.


  • "The Sheik of Araby" is a hit song from 1921.
    • Covered by The Beatles for their Decca Records audition. Included on The Beatles Anthology 1.

Newspaper Comics

  • One of these recently appeared in Gasoline Alley, named Sultan Pepper, buying an invention that would theoretically improve gas mileage.

Video Games

  • Ali Shaheed from Alpha Protocol.
  • The Hashishin from Gothic III fit this trope well, although they don't deal with oil, but rather artifacts from excavating ancient ruins.
  • Fassad aka Yokuba aka Locria in Mother 3. (Well, he looks like one, in any case.)
    • Doesn't help the fact that the first time you see him, he's in the desert. It also doesn't help with the fact that his shell is located in the Empire Pork Building, with a desert theme.
  • Maken X and the remake Maken Shao had one. He was one of the villains, and was short and fat, with his stomach stuffed with grotesque mutant tentacles. Did we mention these games were by the same people as Shin Megami Tensei?
    • On a similar note, a sheik shows up if you initiate a certain line of rumors in Persona 2 and gives you a side-quest dealing with filling out dungeon maps.
  • In Hitman: Blood Money, one of Agent 47's targets, Mohammad Bin Faisal Al-Khalifa, could be described as an Arab Oil Sheikh. He actually runs a pharmaceutical company, but he's still filthy rich, influential, and dresses in the appropriate manner for such a Trope. For good measure, he owns the Arabian-themed casino where the mission takes place. One of the customers confuses him for one of the wait staff.
  • Yusuf in Grand Theft Auto IV. Though Yusuf is a nice guy from the start.
  • Mega Man 6's Flame Man is designed to look like one.
  • Hakan from Street Fighter IV, though not the same kind of oil.
    • Hakan is Turkish, not Arab

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. He's the guy in the picture.
    • Clever enough to realize that his oil deposits won't last forever, and has been using his money for last two decades to make his country into Middle-East's leading tourist spot.
  • British tabloid The News of the World reporter known as the "Fake Sheikh".
  • Despite what is commonly believed the Bin Laden family did not get rich off of oil, but construction projects...many of which were commissioned by princes who had made their money from oil.
  • ABSCAM was a famous sting operation in the The Seventies where FBI agents posing as rich Arabs offered bribes to US politicians.
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