Follow TV Tropes


Arab Oil Sheikh

Go To

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's photography section, claiming they have, for example, cars made of solid silver, or coated in diamonds. (Back when Texans were the ones considered super rich, one example was the Texan who gave away his Cadillac and bought another one once the ashtrays were full. Yeah, and he smoked too, it was that far back.)

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, in which case the "Arab sheikh" plays a similar role to the "Nigerian prince" in a 419 Scam.

They also turn up a lot in romance novels, where they are dark, brooding, passionate and rule everything they survey in their desert kingdom with the same tenacity they show towards the heroine. Sheikh romance actually gave us the term "bodice ripper" due to the common kidnap-rape-love plots that featured where the Arab can get away with being beyond normal constraints in how he treats the heroine due to his exoticism. He'll still have the education of Lord Byron 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. If his home country isn't a real one, it's Qurac.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • One of these, named Sultan Pepper, appeared in Gasoline Alley, buying an invention that would theoretically improve gas mileage.
  • An Oil Sheik once tried to buy the entire island of Drambeg and have it shipped to the Arabian Gulf piece by piece in Angus Og. Despite his vast wealth he still had problems affording ferry ticket prices in the Outer Hebrides though.

  • The Sheik is a film from 1921 (based on the 1919 novel) with Rudolph 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, Il 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 Göta 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.
  • 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.
  • A very unusual example is featured in the Pakistani film International Guerillas where a pair of Arab businessmen are in league with the Big Bad who is conspiring to destroy Islam. The character in question was inspired on the writer Salman Rushdie who wrote an very controversial novel that outraged Muslims worldwide, including Arabs from the Gulf states which makes them side with Rushdie really odd. But then again, they are something of an acceptable target even among Muslims themselves due to being perceived as "Western puppets".
  • The Killer Elie a fairly impoverished sheik has vast amounts of oil discovered on his lands. His son has no desire to live the traditional lifestyle.

  • Charles Stross' The 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.
  • The 1919 novel The Sheik is the Ur-Example for the Romance Novel version.
    • Even today, Mills and Boon (Harlequin in the United States) pump out at least one Sheik romance a month.
  • Sheik Abu-Tahir in the first Modesty Blaise novel is the leader of a small Arabic tribe who recently hit oil and the big time in that order. Definitely a Funny Foreigner. He mixes elements of the wealthy lifestyle with elements of the traditional life of his tribe; for instance, when he comes to England to negotiate an oil deal with the British government, he and his retinue take a suite at the Ritz and then set up a traditional encampment inside it, complete with tents and goats.

    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 Osama 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 30 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 6 opener of Hustle, the grifters con an oil sheikh out of £250,000 by having Emma pretend to be Kylie Minogue.
    • Another British show, The Real Hustle, used this to get US$80,000 of jewellery from a Las Vegas jeweller. The grifters 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 AU$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 Sheikh 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, Fran visits a Sheikh at his palace in his home country. He, of course, falls in love with her, and tries to persuade 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. Subverted, in that he wasn't actually interested in marriage, but hiring Fran as a nanny for his son and future children. He did seem taken with her, leading her to the wrong conclusion.
  • Several iterations of the opening credits of Have I Got News for You had a Sheikh floating on an oil gusher in Water-Geyser Volley style. In his last appearance, he was shown accompanied by U.S. soldiers; the moment the oil ran out, the soldiers abandoned him in favour of a humble goatherd who had just struck oil.
  • Les Guignols de l'Info has Prince al-Thani of Qatar, who shows up whenever football clubs are mentioned. He's always accompanied by the club's manager, who acts as his Completely Unnecessary Translator (the Strictly Formula segments go like this: the prince whispers something, the manager translates in semi-correct French, the anchor asks if the prince speaks French, the manager responds that yes, but not to him). One episode showed him walking around Paris and treating it like a game of Monopoly, the difference being that he could afford to buy every street.
  • On Homeland, Carrie's contact Lynne Reed is a High-Class Call Girl for an Arab prince who is suspected to be funding terrorist activity. In addition to sleeping with the prince, she also recruits women for his Paid Harem.
  • An Arab oil sheik showed up in an episode of Las Vegas. He sort-of defied the stereotype in terms of looks since he was younger and more handsome than the usual standard and just wore a regular custom suit instead of a keffiyeh, but he was openly polygynous and already had three wives. He proposes to Delinda, but is 'mysteriously' poisoned and then set on fire before he can give her the ring. It turns out that his previous wives all despised him.
  • Whodunnit? (UK): The Victim of the Week in "Instant Coffee" is the ruler of a tiny, oil-rich Arab kingdom on the Persian Gulf who is in London to negotiate an oil contract with a British firm. He, his son, and his brother are all dressed in Arabian robes and keffiyeh.

  • "The Sheik of Araby" is a hit song from 1921 (inspired by the movie mentioned above in Film).
    • Covered by The Beatles for their Decca Records audition. Included on The Beatles Anthology 1.
  • The front cover of Frank Zappa's 1979 album Sheik Yerbouti.
  • The 2009 Busta Rhymes song “Arab Money” describes living an opulent lifestyle similar to that of an Arab oil tycoon.
  • The Clash's "Rock The Casbah" mentions a sheik cruising in his Cadillac in the opening lines. The music video also shows one, who's hitchhiking until he meets a Jewish limo driver and the two of them hang out around Austin, Texas together before going to a Clsh concert.

    Tabletop Games 


    Video Games 
  • Ali Shaheed from Alpha Protocol, who finances and leads a terrorist cell. When you confront him, you are given the option of killing him, apprehending him or making a deal to spare him so that he can help you gather information on the real villains.
  • 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 in the Empire Pork Building, with a desert theme.
  • Maken X and its 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 is the son of one, a nice guy from the start, and shows an infatuation with American popular culture.
  • Flame Man in Mega Man 6 is designed to look like one.
  • Tangentially: The Arab civilization in Civilization V gets two bonuses: extra gold from Trade Routes, and double oil production.
  • Sheikh Salim represents the Middle East in Tropico 4. Salim has many wives and many camels; he will often promise his second-best camel as a gift for meeting certain requests. Should that camel die, he will instead give El Presidente the change his wives fished out of the couch (US$30,000).
  • Beyond: Two Souls: One of Jodie's early missions with the CIA involves spying on several classified documents belonging to an arab sheikh. It's even possible for Aiden to mind control the sheikh himself.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: