Top tips for exporting to Dubai


Although Dubai is considered relatively liberal by regional standards, it is vital that foreign visitors respect religious and social customs as well as legal requirements.

The Islamic dress code is not enforced although many Emirati men wear a kandura (ankle-length white shirt) and most Emirati women wear an abaya (black over-garment). Differences are tolerated but being respectful is crucial.  With 85% of inhabitants being from overseas, business tends to be conducted in English, although Arabic may be spoken in the public sector.

Patience is a virtue in this small monarchy when dealing with commercial organisations and especially when it comes to government contracts. Strong business relationships (known as the Wasta system) are also crucial. In this environment it is essential to protect your reputation at all costs. In this part of the world news tends to travel fast.

Mixing business with pleasure is a well-established practice and meetings can go on until the early hours. Establishing solid relationships with customers in Dubai is vital since one deal tends to lead to another. It is prudent to check in advance that planned meetings are still going to take place -  if for some reason the meeting has been cancelled you can only blame yourself for not checking.  

Face to face meetings are important when doing business, and are viewed as much more respectful and personal than phone calls and emails.

The working week is Sunday to Thursday from 9am until 5pm for the private sector and Saturday to Wednesday from 8am to 2.30pm for the public sector.

Remember that during the holy month of Ramadan your Muslim friends are not allowed to eat or drink anything during daylight hours.

Temperatures can reach 50°C during summer months.

Useful links

British Embassy Dubai

British Centres for Business                                   

Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry          

Dubai International Finance Centre


Telephone David Attia on 0845 0347200 or email for advice.

Exporting to the Arab World? Apply online for your Certificates of Origin here.

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