The official weekend is on Thursdays and Fridays. Some multinationals close on Fridays and Saturdays, to overlap with companies doing business outside of the Arab world.
However, most of the smaller private companies only close on Friday, although Thursday may be a half day.
Government offices open at 7.30 a.m. and close at 2.30 p.m. Private offices tend to keep longer hours, many coming back to work in the evening after an extended mid-day break whilst others are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m
During Ramadan most work is accomplished in the early hours of the morning or much later in the evening after the day’s fast is broken (at sunset).
The UAE is a highly cosmopolitan well-educated society, familiar with the methods and means of doing business worldwide, however there are a few points which people new to the Arabian business environment should keep in mind.
Here, more than anywhere else, business is conducted on the basis of personal relationships and mutual trust. It is vitally important to build on these.
Although it is changing rapidly and large firms are structured as in the rest of the world, companies are often a family affair, with the ultimate decision-maker being the head of the family. Even if this is not the case, it is essential to clearly identify the decision-maker. However, your initial meetings will probably be at a lower level. These are also very important as a means of building mutual trust. Print your business card in English and Arabic and make sure that all brochures and presentation material are full-colour and well produced.
Good manners and courtesy are prized attributes. Nevertheless, although you should always arrive on time for a meeting, punctuality is not considered a virtue and you may be kept waiting before or during your meeting. Do not be impatient. Take the time to chat and drink the coffee, tea or soft drink that is always on offer and establish the relationships that will stand you in good stead. Do not be put off if your meeting is interrupted by other guests or telephone conversations.
The upfront, hard-hitting approach is generally not welcome. Be aware that what may seem like evasiveness on the part of your host is usually an unwillingness to say no to your face.
Nevertheless, once a deal, is made, orally or otherwise, an Arab businessman’s word is his bond and you are also expected to perform accordingly, even if the agreement is a verbal one.
This can be disconcerting if you come from a business environment where verbal agreements are not binding.
Hospitality is a way of life in the Arab world and business is frequently conducted over lunch or dinner – more than likely in a hotel or restaurant. It is also considered polite to return the invitation.