It is estimated that in the Middle East, over 900,000 people profess Buddhism as their religion. Buddhist adherents make up just over 0.3% of the Middle East total population. Many of these Buddhists are workers who have migrated from Asia to the Middle East since the late 1990s, many of them come from countries that have large Buddhist populations, such as China, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. A small number of engineers, company directors, and managers from Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea have also moved to the Middle East.


Theravada Buddhism is the predominant religion of workers from Thailand and Sri Lanka. Mahayana Buddhism is the predominant religion of workers from East Asia and Vietnam, although Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto are also represented among these people. In Dubai (the United Arab Emirates)[1] and Qatar,[2] the workers from Sri Lanka were allowed to celebrate Vesak (the most important holiday in Buddhism) in those Islamic countries.

Saudi Arabia

Main article: Buddhism in Saudi Arabia

This section needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (May 2015)

It is estimated that more than 12 million foreign residents are living and working in Saudi Arabia.[3]

In addition to 400,000 Sri Lankans, there are a few thousand Buddhist workers from East Asia, the majority of whom are Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai. A number of Tibetan-Nepalese immigrants may also be among the foreign population of Saudi Arabia.

Thus approximately 1.5% of Saudi Arabia's population – or around 400,000 people – are Buddhist, likely giving Saudi Arabia the largest Buddhist community in either the Middle East or the Arab World[4]

Population by country

Buddhist percentages in the Middle East

   Saudi Arabia (45.9%)
   United Arab Emirates (24.6%)
   Kuwait (11.1%)
   Turkey (7.9%)
   Qatar (5%)
   Oman (3.6%)
   Bahrain (0.8%)
   Israel (0.7%)
   Lebanon (0.4%)
Buddhism by country in the Middle East
Country Population (2007E) % of Buddhists Buddhist total
 United Arab Emirates 4,444,011 5%[5][6] 222,201
 Qatar 907,229 5%[7][8] 45,361
 Kuwait 2,505,559 4%[9] 100,222
 Saudi Arabia 27,601,038 1.5%[10] 414,016
 Bahrain 753,000 2.5%[11] 30,000
 Oman 3,204,897 1.20%[12][13] 32,049
 Israel 6,426,679 0.1%[14] 6,426
 Lebanon 3,925,502 0.1%[15] 3,926
 Turkey 71,158,647 0.1%[16] 71,159
Total 285,194,911 0.32% 925,360

See also


  1. ^ "Lankans in Dubai to celebrate 'Vesak'", Emirates 24/7, 2011-05-05, retrieved 2013-07-22
  2. ^ "Sri Lankans celebrate Vesak in Qatar", THE PENINSULA, 2009-05-09, retrieved 2013-07-22
  3. ^ 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom: Saudi Arabia. Office of International Religious Freedom. 2019. pp. 2–3.
  4. ^ U.S. Department of State. International Religious Freedom Report: Saudi Arabia. Accessed 20 Nov 2008.
  5. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: United Arab Emirates".
  6. ^ "Country Profiles". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007.
  7. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Qatar".
  8. ^ "CIA World FactBook: Qatar".
  9. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Kuwait".
  10. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Saudi Arabia".
  11. ^ "Global Religious Landscape: Buddhists". Pew Research Center. December 18, 2012.
  12. ^ "Religious Freedom Nation Profile: Oman". Archived from the original on 2007-11-06.
  13. ^ "Religious Freedom Nation Profile: Oman". Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  14. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Israel".
  15. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report: Lebanon".
  16. ^ "Religious Freedom Nation Profile: Turkey". Archived from the original on 2007-12-04.