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United Arab Emirates: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in United Arab Emirates

Emirati businessmen are urbane enough to understand and tolerate the mores of their overseas counterparts; nevertheless, a few courtesies can help oil the wheels of business. Smart conservative clothing, which covers the upper arm and lower leg, is expected, despite the often soaring heat.

Arabic is the official business language, but English is widely used. Meetings often start late; this is an accepted part of local custom, this should not be commented on. Visitors should note that when greeting Arab women they should not offer their hand unless the woman extends hers first.

Friday is considered a day of prayer and rest, so meetings should not be scheduled and calls to Arab people should be avoided on this day.

Sometimes business meals will be served at venues that do not serve alcohol. Asking for alcohol may cause embarrassment and even insult. Visitors are strongly advised not to initiate discussions on politics, sex or religion. If drawn into any of these topics of conversation, try to avoid personalising your comments.

Office Hours

The official working week is 0900-1700 Sunday to Thursday, though many government offices have limited hours – most are open between Saturday-Wednesday 0800-1300 and 1500/1600-1800/1900, Thurs 0730-1200. Many offices are closed every afternoon during the month of Ramadan.


Oil and gas are the main industries, and underpin the country's considerable prosperity. Outside the oil and gas sector, which includes refining and the production of oil-derived chemicals, most economic activity is government sponsored, and designed to reduce dependence on oil. The UAE is rapidly establishing itself as a major conference and incentive destination, with major venues such as the Dubai World Trade Centre, Abu Dhabi's ADNEC Exhibition Centre and the Al Ain Convention Centre catering for large events and exhibitions.


US$407.52 billion (2017).

Main exports

Crude oil, natural gas, gold, diamonds.

Main imports

Machinery and transport equipment, jewellery, chemicals and food.

Main trading partners

China, Germany, India, Japan, Korea and USA.

Keeping in Touch in United Arab Emirates


Main area codes: Abu Dhabi 2; Ajman, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain 6; Al-Ain 3; Dubai 4; Fujairah 9; Jebel Ali 4; and Ras al-Khaimah 7. There is a good local telephone network. Telephone calls within each state are free.

Mobile Phone

Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone operators. Coverage is excellent. Tourists can purchase pre-paid mobile SIM cards.


There are numerous internet and Wi-Fi cafés in the UAE but VoIP telephone systems, such as Skype, are officially blocked. Websites deemed culturally or religiously insensitive are also blocked.


Newswires such as Reuters and major news stations like CNN International have residency in the UAE, along with numerous English television and radio stations. English-language magazines are available including Time Out Dubai, Time Out Abu Dhabi, Time Out Sharjah, What’s On, Grazia, Cosmopolitan and Esquire. However, media content is controlled and the government will censor certain political, religious, and sexual content. Foreign publications may also be censored before distribution with the notorious black marker.

In the press there is a broad range of English-language state-owned and privately owned newspapers including The National (, Gulf News (, Emirates Today ( and Khaleej Times ( Free-to-air English channels include Dubai One, MBC 4, MBC Action, MBC 2. The cable network is named OSN (Orbit Showtime Network) and airs popular US, UK and Australian programmes. English radio stations include commercial stations Radio 1 and Radio 2. The main news, talk and sport station is Dubai Eye 103.8, and the latest addition to the airways is Rock Radio 90.7.


Airmail letters and parcels take about five days to reach Europe. In order to receive mail you usually need a PO Box number, as there is no door-to-door postal system.

Post Office hours

Vary from Sun-Thurs 0730-1500 and 0730-2100, depending on the branch.

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