Saudi panhandler dies a millionaire
Rags to richesRags to riches

Saudi panhandler dies a millionaire

100-year-old Eisha, who has no descendants, owned 4 buildings in Jeddah, expensive jewelry and a cache of coins

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

An illustrative photo of three Saudi women (screen capture, YouTube)
An illustrative photo of three Saudi women (screen capture, YouTube)

When a 100-year-old Saudi woman, who sat on the streets of Jeddah for over 50 years accepting handouts, died in her bathroom suddenly, the locals were upset to hear of the passing of the city’s beloved beggar — and astonished to discover the unassuming woman had amassed an estate valued at $1 million, the Saudi Gazette reported on Sunday.

The woman, known as Eisha, has no living heirs to claim her real estate assets — some four buildings in the district — as well as pricey jewels and hordes of coins. Eisha worked with her sister and mother until their deaths, and together the three formed a panhandling ring and managed to accumulate their considerable wealth.

“They used to get a lot of sympathy and assistance from philanthropists throughout the year, especially during Eid,” Ahmed al-Saeedi, a childhood friend of the deceased who cared for her in her later years, said. “Eisha continued to beg after the deaths of her mother and sister. She was just an old, blind woman who did not have any relatives in this world.”

Saeedi was one of the only people to know of Eisha’s hidden riches, and often encouraged her to quit.

“I asked her to give up this profession as she possessed a huge amount of wealth but she always refused and said she was preparing for hard times,” he said.

Eisha’s apartment buildings were — and continue to be — occupied by her friends, mostly poor residents of the city. Following her death, the district chief refused to evict the tenants, on grounds that a final ruling on Eisha’s assets has not yet been reached.

“The old woman hosted several families in her buildings before her death. They lived and grew up with her. After her death, none of the families have left the buildings. Even though I’m the umdah of the district, I have no right to evict them from the buildings. The whole case is before the pertinent authorities that will issue a final decision on it,” he said.

The local authorities have yet to determine how and to whom Eisha’s estate will be divided.

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