Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. The term though is also used to describe the Emirates largest city, Dubai City.  Strangely for a country situated deep in the heart of oil country, the nation does not actually have significant oil reserves as this resource makes up only a very small percentage of the economy.

However, Dubai does have a style and sophistication all of its own and has developed at lightening fast pace over the last 20 years or so.  The country is well known for a number of innovative issues, and while human rights problems have been highlighted in years gone by, this area of society has improved.

Dubai has a very strong relationship with the likes of Great Britain, with whom the country had a protection agreement in the late 1880s.  This agreement was later withdrawn and the country set about building its own culture, economy and way of life.  Dubai is most definitely one of the major successes of the Middle East region, encompassing both traditional local customs and laws, while embracing a European way of life at the same time.

The visa situation in Dubai is a little complicated with countries such as the UK, France, Germany, etc all welcomed without tourist visas.  There are however many other countries such as Israel, where entry is either prohibited or near impossible. Permanent residency visa are also easier for European nationals to obtain, and while the process includes a medical, and vast quantities of paperwork, the majority will be successful.

It is paramount that Expats wanting to live in Dubai check their personal situation before traveling there as a tourist or possible foreign national.

Contents: Culture in Dubai |  Employment in Dubai | Property in Dubai | Dubai Key Facts

Culture in Dubai

As of 2009, the population in the United Arab Emirates totaled 4.8 million where only less than a quarter are citizens while the others are foreigners. With the small population of Emirati in the country, many remain to live in the countryside, which has served to preserve the old customs and beliefs in the present age. As there is a large population of foreigners in the country, from expatriates from Western countries and blue-collar workers from South Asia and Southeast Asia, the culture in Dubai has been an eclectic mix of many cultural influences that creates a truly unique local culture.

There is also a large underground workforce, many of them undocumented aliens that work within the country. There are also twice as many males than there are females in the country, as reported in the latest figures from Wikipedia as of 2009.

Employment in Dubai

Dubai has for some time been the trade route from West to East and still remains that way for many businesses. The country has attracted many Western based companies to set up offices for direct trade in the region, and the very favourable tax regime assists both employers and employees.

The past few years have brought major changes to the employment market in Dubai. The first is the policy of Emiratisation that has been put in place by the country’s leadership since 2007. This policy requires the proactive employment of locals in the public and private sector to reduce the dependence on foreign labor. There is also a policy of creating quotas for the number of foreign workers employed in industries in UAE. This has caused major upheaval in the labor market and as shared in the Dubai Expat Forum last June 29.2009:

“Everything has been affected by the economic downturn. Excuse me if I sound a bit abrupt but I'm having a bit of a bad Dubai day, but here I go:

No one should come here without a job, especially in this climate and if you have a family. The UAE is quite unique. You really can't live here unless you have a job. You can't get residency unless you have a job. Without residency you can't rent an apartment, send your kids to school, obtain a UAE driver's licence, have access to health care etc, etc, etc.

Most people I know were either head hunted from another country or applied for and got a job from another country. There are also those who own their own business here. With all the redundancies that have been happening, there are many people here with Middle East experience that are looking for a job so they don't have to leave. My advice to you is to either come without your family and job hunt or job hunt from the US. You don't say how old your children are but if they are school age, bringing them here without residency really isn't going to work as far as schooling goes (unless you are prepared to home school). Another positive about obtaining a job before bringing your family is that any company that hires you may (should) pay your relocation costs.”

The recruitment of foreign nationals virtually ground to a halt. Thus, despite the many new developments being undertaken in the region, employment is hard to come by. This has been exacerbated by the current worldwide financial recession that has caused many construction projects and development projects to close shop. The current push of the government is to increase the tourism trade industry and while not the cheapest area for a vacation, the service is immaculate, the sights are breath taking and everything seems to be within touching distance.”

The Expat market has taken advantage of the requirement for skilled professionals, and many are fast tracked into the country under employment sponsorship packages, used to bring in required labor at short notice.  Finance, legal, manufacturing, the service sector and property seem be the main areas of economic activity

Property in Dubai

Dubai has some of the most expensive properties in the world and while prices have risen constantly for some time, there does not appear to be any sign of them slowing down.  In 2007, the main reasons for the growth in property prices are immigration, economic growth and the lack of surrounding land to develop. This also has been made more expensive by the current global economic crisis, the current trends in 2009 indicate that the prices will stabilize some time in the near future.

The ruling authorities introduced a foreign property ownership law in 2002, which repealed some of the historic bars on foreign ownership.  This has been severely curtailed by the current crisis. A discussion on the Dubai Expat Forum dated 9th August 2009 has members analyzing some of the recent numbers:

"Dubai has been hit very hard by the GFC but the worst seems to be over now. Just some of the numbers that have been around in the press recently:

”Property down 50% since September
Property to go down another 20-40% by year end
Property to go up 10-20% by year end(same paper different day)
Rents down similar to above
Dubai population to Drop 17%”

The beautiful landscapes of this ancient land are now dominated by some of the largest buildings in the world, which seem to push back the realms of engineering further and further. The latest project of reclaiming land from the sea is only one of the many breath taking sights to be seen in Dubai.”


Dubai has endured economic ups and downs in the past few years but it has remained as one of the most vibrant economies in the Gulf Coast countries. It is still attracting many immigrant workers and expatriates despite the policies instituted by the government. The current migration has only served to further enhance the multi-cultural society of Dubai, marrying both traditional culture and modern western influences in its day to day existence.

Though in the current conditions, foreign nationals gaining employment and residence will prove to be difficult. The employment situation will ultimately improve as the economy gains headway and more western companies look to the area for business opportunities. The country is a tax haven and the accommodating culture makes Dubai a welcome area for both investment opportunities and tourism. This ancient country with a burgeoning economy is yours for the taking if you are brave enough to take the plunge.

More facts about Dubai :-

Capital : Dubai City

Official Language : Arabic, although English is also wide spread

Government : Sheikh

Size : 4,114 km2

Population : 1.5 million

Currency : Dirham

International Dialling Code : +971

Economy : 38th largest in the world

Religion : Islam