International Gift Etiquette - United Arab Emirates



General Guidelines

  • Gifts constitute a greater problem in the UAE than in most other countries because virtually everything can be purchased there less expensively than anywhere else in the world. A further complication is the mixture of nationalities. One would not give the same present to a Dubaian [who appreciates traditional perfume] as to an Egyptian [who does not] and for one unable to differentiate between dialects of Arabic this poses difficulties. There are, however, a few general rules.
  • Any gift must be the best affordable. A carpet must, for example, be handmade even though most locals buy machine made carpets for themselves. Never, however, buy gold jewellery or silk garments for men, as both are deemed effeminate in Islam. Platinum is most acceptable but, as it can be confused with white gold, silver is safer, provided that it is properly hallmarked by a government authority [as opposed to merely bearing a maker's mark]. As a gesture of respect, the recipient is likely to open and minutely examine the gift in the presence of the giver as well as any others who happen to be present. Nothing is worse than having him search in vain for a hallmark or, worse yet, turn a carpet over to find a loose weave or indistinct design on the reverse.
  • Traditional perfume is the gift most appreciated by Arabians. Just as in Europe a man displays his status by his tailoring, so in Arabia he does so by his scent. The most generally preferred male scent [perfume should be given to women only by other women or close relatives] is oud, which is a distillation of aloes wood, but be careful. The best quality costs well over £1,000 an ounce and the naïve buyer can easily be deceived by synthetics which cheat him of his money and cause him to forfeit the esteem of the one to whom the scent is given. The same is true of incense, costing per kilogram roughly the same as an ounce of its extract. Before giving any scent, use it first and consider giving it only to those who express admiration for your taste.

*Parker, Nicholas Fytzraymond.  United Arab Emirates Business Etiquette - Gift Giving.  Executive Planet.  16 Aug. 2004      <>.

Above:  The flag of United Arab Emirates









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