Essential Etiquette: UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a global business centre, with the business travel market to the UAE expected to double in value by 2021! If you haven’t already travelled to the UAE, chances are you’ll probably find yourself there within the next few years.

So in true Access-fashion, we’ve gathered some essential cultural do’s and don’ts and answered those burning questions to help you avoid looking like a typical tourist and to make your business relationships run like clockwork!

Key Facts

Working days

Private sector Sunday – Thursday from 9am-5pm.

Public sector Sunday – Thursday 7:30am-3pm.

The official weekend in the UAE is on a Friday and Saturday, as Friday is considered to be the holy day.

Please note: During Ramadan, working hours are shortened by two to three hours, with most of the work done in the early hours of the morning or much later in the evening after the day’s fast is broken (at sunset).

Meet and Greet

Personal relationships are key to doing business in the UAE. So, face to face meetings are much preferred, as phone or emails are seen as impersonal.


You must acknowledge and greet the most senior person in the room first – doing so is a sign of respect in the Muslim culture. Never shake hands with the opposite gender unless they extend their hand first.

Business Cards

During the initial greeting, both parties exchange business cards, it’s best to give and receive cards with your right hand. It is always a respectful gesture to carry business cards in both languages, this will make an excellent first impression!

Food and Drink

Table Etiquette

Lefties beware! Do not eat with your left hand, this is considered unclean.


Observant Muslims don’t consume alcohol, nor smoke. In the UAE, alcohol is served in most hotels but it may not be served in local restaurants. If alcohol is not offered, do not ask for it.


Do not ask for pork or pork products. Muslim tradition frowns on consuming port and observant Muslims consume Halal food, which involves a particular preparation of meat.

Business FYI

Dress code

Dress smart and sophisticated. Dubai residents are impeccably dressed and take great pride in their appearance and the way they come across. Regardless of the weather, it’s important to note that you should never wear revealing attire.

Men: A tailored shirt, trouser and tie combo. For any formal occasion wear a full suit.

Women: Trousers tend to be the go-to, but if you want to wear a skirt, make sure the hem is below the knee. Women travelling in the UAE are not expected to cover their heads or wear traditional Muslim dress. When visiting a mosque, women will be asked to respect Muslim tradition and wear an abaya and cover their heads. 

Arrive on time

Good manners and courtesy are prized attributes when doing business in the UAE, so always ensure you arrive on time for a meeting. Make sure to allow for extra traffic time on Dubai’s busy thoroughfares!

Cultural Schedule

During the Holy Month of Ramadan, business hours are significantly reduced. It’s therefore, best to conduct all major business affairs outside of this time.