Charles M. Saah, 71, the founder and operator of the Iron Gate Inn Restaurant here and a former adviser on crusine to Saudi Arabia's King Saud, died Thursday at Sibley Memorial Hospital after a heart attack.

Mr. Saah, who was born in Ramallah, Palestine, came to this country at the age of 17 to operate a concession at the 1926 Philadelphia World's Fair.

He moved to Washington the following year and began operating a small lingerie shop. In the 1930s, he helped found the Jean Matou lingerie shop in Bethesda. He later opened a Jean Matou store at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and M Street. With his brother, Fred, he operated the shops until the early 1970s. The clientele of the Connecticut Avenue store included former first ladies Bess Truman and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Mr. Saah began his career as a restaurateur in the early 1950s when he established the old Desert Inn Restaurant near St. Matthew's Cathedral here. In the 1960s, when the Desert Inn was scheduled to be torn down, he opened the Iron Gate a few blocks away.

Considered an authority on Arabic delicacies, Mr. Saah traveled to Boston in late 1961 to take over the preparation of food for King Saud at the Sheraton-Plaza Hotel there. He subsequently traveled around the world with the king for more than two years, preparing his meals and acting as a consultant to the royal household in matters of cooking.

A former Washington resident, Mr. Saah had divided his time in recent years between Beirut and the Falls Church home of a daughter, Carol S. Hayes.

His marriage to the former Gloria Subt ended in divorce.

Besides his brother Fred, of Washington, and Mrs. Hayes, Mr. Saah's survivors include his mother, Farida M., of Bethesda; two other daughters, Genevieve Gharib of Fairfax and Karen S. Dorbayan of Warrenton, Va; two sons, John C., of Washington, and Charles R., of Potomac; three other brothers, Paul, Joseph and Issa, all of Bethesda; two sisters, Julia Masarweh of San Francisco and Mary Saah of Washington; and six grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to Children's Hospital National Medical Center.