Abu Dhabi is the federal capital of the United Arab Emirates and the largest of the seven emirates. It lies on the borders with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Sultanate of Oman and the Arabian Gulf, comprising 200 islands and a 700 kilometres coastline.
Named the "Middle East's Leading Meetings and Conference Destination" at the World Travel Awards, Abu Dhabi is a true destination of distinction with a rich culture and endless business opportunities and its main venue is ADNEC.
Making Business in Abu Dhabi
Going from Bedu tribe to a sophisticated metropole in less than half a century surely gives a different angle on business. These are some important facts you should keep in mind if you want to make business in Abu Dhabi:
- Abu Dhabi and the UAE are very open and tolerant but it’s still a more conservative culture than it may seem; therefore, dressing modestly, avoiding certain conversation topics, not expressing judgments based on your own culture and being tolerant is very important.
- For greeting, Emiratis prefer long handshakes (for male-to-male and female-to-female). Male visitors should not take the initiative to shake hands with an Emirati woman; she will make it clear if she expects a handshake. Likewise, some Arab men may not wish to shake hands with women.
- Important: be sure to only use the right hand as Muslims reserve the left hand for bodily hygiene and consider it unclean.
- After handshaking, it’s customary to enquire after the other person’s health and other matters, and you should expect similar enquiries to be directed at you. Don’t enquire after female members of an Arab’s family, restrict your questions to those regarding the family in general or the sons.
- While in a meeting, you should avoid showing the soles of your shoes, as it is considered highly offensive.
- Weekends are Friday/Saturday, with Friday being a worship and family day.
- Meetings can be chaotic, so always be prepared to exercise patience. Cell phone calls and text messages are often taken during meetings and people may enter the meeting room unannounced and discuss their own agenda.
The basics for those exhibiting in Abu Dhabi:
- The voltage used is 220V. Plug adaptors are available for purchase, but they can be very expensive. If possible, bring your own.
- Smoking is not allowed in the exhibition halls.
- In the exhibitions, women should dress conservatively and avoid revealing clothing. Head scarves are not necessary. All tattoos and piercings should be covered.
- There are no labor unions involved in Abu Dhabi exhibit halls.
- Labor is generally charged by the job rather than the hour.
- Electricity is usually ordered through the show's venue.
- Avoid building exhibits inspired by Arab art/architecture. It can be considered insulting.
- Due to social conventions in Abu Dhabi, do not take photos of women unless they allow you to do so.
Tips for getting around Abu Dhabi
Needless to say, many Arab customs are very different from those in the west. Here’s a list of some social customs and behaviours you must adapt to while in the region:
- Tipping is not expected, but is commonly practised in the emirate. Gratuities to staff at hotels and restaurants are at your discretion. Many fine dining and high-end restaurants may add a service charge (usually around 10%) and a tourism levy of 6% to your bill. These charges are often included in the menu prices.
- Normal tourist photography is allowed, however it is considered offensive to photograph Muslim women. It is also courteous to request permission before photographing men.
- Kissing in public is illegal and can result in deportation. Dancing in public is also illegal in the UAE.
- Swearing and making rude gestures are considered obscene acts and offenders can be jailed or deported.
- Non-Muslim residents can get a liquor licence to drink alcohol at home. These licences are valid only in the Emirate that issued the licence. It is forbidden to drink alcohol in public.
- All sex outside marriage is illegal, irrespective of any relationship you may have with your partner in your home country. If the UAE authorities become aware that you’re conducting a sexual relationship outside marriage (as recognised by them), you run the risk of prosecution, imprisonment and/or a fine and deportation.
- During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Muslims and non-Muslims can’t eat, drink or smoke in public during daylight hours. Besides, roads and bazaars are almost abandoned during this period, with no refreshments whatsoever available on the streets. However, after sunset, expect to find incredible delicacies! Family and friends gather in homes to rejoice, and a wide variety of savory dishes and desserts are prepared. Restaurants are quite busy as well and often have special dishes for the occasion.
Safety in Abu Dhabi
Safety wise… The UAE is one of the safest places in the world. In fact, it has been designated the world’s safest holiday destination by the international travel industry on two occasions. However, you should be careful about driving in the UAE. The country has one of the highest traffic fatality rates in the world, and traffic accidents are the country's leading cause of death, so anyone braving the UAE's roads should drive very cautiously.