Long before Souq and Yahoo's Maktoob were founded, a number of pioneers in the business industry kicked off in the Middle East, marking a major change in the way the business industry operates. These companies have maintained operations and continuous growth for years and years. Of course, there's a whole lot of success stories that cannot be placed in a list, but here's 18 of the oldest companies in the Middle East and North Africa.
1. House of Alireza, 1845
Founded in 1845 by Zainal Alireza, it is one of Saudi Arabia's oldest commercial enterprise. It initially started as a food and textile importer but later expanded to include real estate and the acquisition of agencies of the shopping lines that carried these commodiies.
2. Binzagr, 1881
Founded in Saudi Arabia, Binzahr is among the largest and leading disributors in the country specializing in the distribution and logistics of a wide range of consumer products, from food and drinks to personal and beauty care to home care and even automotive tires.
3. Bonjus, 1962
One of the leading beverage and ice cream producers in Lebanon, you'd probably recognize its infamous three-sided pyramid juice box.
4. Aramex, 1982
After discussions with his business partner, Bill Kingston, Jordanian Fadi Ghandour co-founded Arab American Express, the first courier business in the Middle East. When the company first started out, it began operations in Amman, Jordan. Two years later, the company's name was shortened to Aramex.
5. Juhayna, 1983
Founded by Safwan Thabet, Juhayna is Egypt's leading dairy and juice producer, specializing in the production, processing and packagaing of milk, yogurt, juice and juice concentrates.
6. Bhatia Brothers, 1957
Founded by one of the first merchant families to bridge and expand business relations between India and the Gulf, the group initially handled agencies of well-known manufacturers of automobile parts, accessories and auxiliaries. Nowadays, with their headquarters in Dubai, their focus ranges from distribution to construction, to manufacturing. They also have a presence across different parts of the world including Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, India, Iraq, Yemen, Nigeria and the UK.
7. National Bank of Egypt, 1898
National Bank of Egypt (NBE) is the oldest and largest bank in Egypt. It has 338 branches within the country.
8. Middle East Airlines, 1945
Having launched its first service in Beirut to the neighboring cities of Syria, Cyprus, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, MEA is now a global airline. This was made possible after its merger with Air Liban.
9. Etisalat, 1976
When Emirates Telecommunication Corporation was first founded, it was a joint-stock company between International Aeradio Limuted and local partners. A major indicator of the company's network growth and development was the tremendous increase in the number of exchange lines from 36,000 in 1976 to 737,000 in 1998. Currently, Etisalat operates in 15 countries across Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In 2012, Etisalat was named the most powerful company in the UAE by Forbes Middle East.
10. Gulf Air, 1950
In the late 1940s, a British pilot and entrepreneur, Freddie Bosworth began an air taxi service to Doha and Dhahran from Bahrain. He later expanded services and registered Gulf Aviation Company Limited as a private shareholding company, making its current operating company, Gulf Air, one of the oldest carriers in the Middle East.
11. El Rashidi El Mizan, 1889
El Rashidi El Mizan was established in Cairo as a small family business and has turned into the leading confectioner producer in the MENA region.
12. Azadea, 1978
Today's Azadea Group grew out of a single clothing store called Subway that was opened at the heart of Beirut by Wassim Daher. A few years after it opened, they won their first international franchise, MaxMara. With over 12,000 employees, Azadea now boasts more than 600 stores in more than a dozen countries.
13. Emirates, 1985
Backed by Dubai's royal family, Emirates was required to operate independent of government subsidies, apart from the $10 million in start-up capital. Emirates is the world's largest international carrier in terms of passenger-kilometers flown and the seventh largest airline in the world in terms of revenue.
14. Americana Group, 1964
Founded in Kuwait, Americana Group has grown into one of the largest corporations in the MENA region. Americana Group's main lines of business include operating food and beverage outlets, as well as manufacturing food products.
15. Royal Jordanian, 1963
The flag carrier airline of Jordan, Royal Jordanian operates scheduled international services over four continents from its main base at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman. The airline was established after a royal decree by the late King Hussein, where it was initially called Alia, after his eldest child.
16. Arab Bank, 1930
Arab Bank is one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East and was founded in Palestine. After the British Mandate Authority withdrew from Palestine in 1948, the Bank lost its branches in Jafa and Haifa. The company is now headquartered in Amman, where it's officially a public shareholding company.
17. Zain, 1983
This mobile telecommunications company founded in Kuwait as Mobile Telecommunications Company was later rebranded to Zain in 2007. Currently, the company has a presence in eight countries across the MENA region with 45.6 million active customers as of September of 2015.
18. Agility, 1979
Agility started as a state-owned Kuwaiti company as Public Warehousing Co. In 2006, the company unified its services under the new name of Agility with the brand slogan “A New Logistics Leader.”