Managing in the United Arab Emirates

Finding the Balance Between Old and New

UAE Flag

Find out how to manage effectively in the UAE.

© iStockphoto/EduardoLuzzatti

The sun has just risen, turning the desert sky a brilliant red. As you open the window, you hear the beautiful, atmospheric Muslim call to prayer begin. It's so arresting that you can't help but listen.

Another day is dawning in the United Arab Emirates, or UAE.

The UAE is a country that many Westerners find exotic, alluring, and perplexing, all at the same time. Religious practices play a major role in business and relationships; and navigating the balance between old and new is essential for success in this ancient – yet up-and-coming – culture.

In this article, we'll look at the strategies and etiquette that you need to know to manage a team successfully in the UAE.


The UAE is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. As such it's essential that you keep an open mind, stay flexible, and treat everyone as an individual. You can use this article as a general guide, but customize your approach to account for the wide differences in culture, attitudes, and beliefs that you'll encounter.

Language and Culture

The UAE is located on the Persian Gulf, bordering Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. It's a federation of seven emirates, each ruled by an emir (a general or prince). A national president rules all seven emirates.

The seven emirates are: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Each differs in its attitudes and dress. Some are quite liberal, while others are very conservative.

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