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Dubai is a city in the United Arab Emirates, claiming the title of both the largest city and the city with largest population in the country. It is also the capital of the Emirate that is shares its name with. 

Dubai has become a major business and transport hub for the world, seeing both passengers and cargo pass through in large quantities every year. It is host to a number of free trade zones, including one for gold, and has major infrastructure that facilitates a whole host of industries to do business in Dubai, including IT, oil, banking and media.  


Tourism is a major part of Dubai’s economy, and is a key part of the government’s strategy to ensure foreign cash continues to enter the United Arab Emirates. It is currently ranked the 7th most visited city in the world and attracts these visitors through a mix of shopping, modern attractions, and historical sites.  

Exporting to Dubai 

The United Arab Emirates is the largest Middle Eastern export destination for UK businesses, and is the UK’s 13th largest overall export market. The UK saw exports of £9.8 billion go to the United Arab Emirates in 2016.  

Despite this, there are a number of challenges that British businesses face when trying to do business in, or with, Dubai. These include: 

  • Strong competition from other European and American economies, as well as from Asia, where high growth is creating a lot of opportunities 
  • Company ownership restrictions, requiring a minimum 51% ownership by a national of the United Arab Emirates 
  • The use of Arabic in documentation, despite English being recognised as the language of business in the country

Tips for Succeeding in Dubai 

Dress Code 

Dress code for doing business in Dubai is a lot more traditional than has become the norm in Western countries, with suits and ties expected in most business meetings.  


Etiquette is different around the world; some places are more relaxed, whilst Dubai remains very formal. Treat people you are introduced to with the utmost respect, and if you’re unsure of who someone else is, it is best to play it safe. Always shake hands with your right hand, but never shake hands with someone of the opposite sex, except for when they extend their hand first. 

Like in some Asian cultures, it is considered impolite to start talking about business right away. Instead, it is the done thing to discuss family, health and even how the other person’s day is going before getting down to brass tacks.  

Success in Dubai 

Whilst it can be very daunting, particularly with all of the challenges and rules that you need to take into consideration, Dubai has seen countless foreigners achieve great successes. These include: 

  • Sim Whatley – Founder of, a classified ads website for the Middle East  
  • Jabbar Internet Group – The founders of the largest e-commerce platform in the Middle East 
  • Brian Weal – Co-founder of Swan Group, a real estate investment company